2015 October – December

Saturday, October 3rd 2015

Hey Phi, another massive missive to my beautiful daughter. It’s your birthday month, October 15th 2002. How about that? In less than two short weeks you will become a teenager. Thirteen. Wow! 13!!! I can hardly believe it… it’s like I need to step outside myself and look at your birth date in your Australian passport… can it be true? Where did all those years go? I wonder how life at school at thirteen goes for you. How do you feel? What’s the hierarchy of the sempai – kohai system within the track & field club to which you belong? What’s the latest “to-do” thing at thirteen? Phi, I so wish I could just sit down and listen to you… just listen.

Here’s a little something you might like to listen to:

Dad & Phi

Dad & Phi…

So, more words, more thoughts, more visions of my life with Ophelia Hirakawa-Morice. My journal to you continues, weekly, bi-weekly, when I make the time. I should write every day because I think of you every day. Every morning I sit in the bus at 6.30am Monday to Friday & I think of you. I can’t help but think “what if?” I think of you when I open my wallet and see your photo. I pause when I see you on our wall in our home. When I read a book, watch a movie or just experience life, there are connections to you everywhere. I imagine you turning thirteen when I see my G4 girls chatting away happily in the classroom. Though you’re far away with oceans separating us, you’re really never far from my heart & mind. You might say, you’re forever with me, and you forever will be.

Some of what I write has just been/will be fluff. I’ve tried to capture fragments of my life and describe them to you so that you may glimpse life through your Dad’s eyes. Some entries are better than others, not so rushed, revised & edited with some care. Other letters may seem detached & read as lists of things Dad has been up to; sorry about those. Some letters may be somewhat deep & meaningful and other entries lighthearted with much less thought. These are letters for you Ophelia. Your letters. Letters to you from your Dad. Me – Gerard Daniel Morice.

So, here we are in Hong Kong awaiting your arrival… soon we hope! It’s been a lovely Autumn Break; a whole week off school to explore the food, the sites and our local neighborhood. It’s still very warm here; it hasn’t dropped below 30 degrees Celsius all summer, and the heat is still going strong. There is no sign (yet) of those lovely Autumn days that seem to come quite suddenly in Tokyo this time of year. The leaves haven’t changed, and we’re still using the A/C, even if it does hover around 28-29 degrees Celsius.

CIMG3187In more good news for you & me kiddo, we went shopping for your birthday present. Isn’t she wonderful? The joy she brings your Dad when she does unexpected good deeds for you (and me – we’re a package Kiddo) is unimaginable. She found you a beautiful bracelet and to go with it, a smashing cat key-ring holder. I’ll take a photo to show you and say a prayer that it reaches your birthday hands.

In some sad news, last week we discovered that both Tim Lawson & Hadyn Hewitt are sick, sick, sick. Really unwell. Scary unhealthy. You’ve met them both many times back in Australia. In years to come you’ll notice that Hayd & Tim feature in most of Dad’s photos from our youth till now. There’s plenty of rock photos from national parks in Australia, but also some pretty incredible outdoor sites around the world we’ve shared. The boys are special; friends for life. Friends who know. Friends who understand. I went to school with both lads and we’ve been famous mates ever since.CIMG3186

I first met Hayd in G3 at Saint Francis de Sales Primary School. Then Hayd & Dad went on to Aquinas College (year 7 – 12) where we met Tim in year 7. So many adventures together, so many laughs, so many smiles. In May of this year, Hayd joined us in Egypt. He brought his dad and brother with him. Hadyn’s brother is Dad’s namesake – Ged. I’ve known Ged for decades now but hadn’t seen him in years, so it was lovely to catch up. Actually, Ged was your mum & my accountant when we resided in Australia… interesting connection, hey? Together, the Hewitt lads charmed my C. And in March, Tim ventured to Egypt with Milton (from Tokyo) for a few more laughs. We went to Jordan together and Tim made another great mate, in Toro (Toro is still looking forward to meeting you!); Timmy’s quite a canine lover.

Anyway, it wasn’t until this weekend that the fact that they’re both most unwell really hit me. Hadyn has prostate cancer and has opted to have his prostate removed, and Tim’s white blood cells are pretty much poisoning him (cancer). Tim will have chemotherapy and doses of those rotten drugs that bring on vomiting, hair loss, weight loss & a number of other adverse side effects. Incredibly, both my mates go into hospital Tuesday for their respective operations. Separate hospitals, but still quite the coincidence.

I wish we could be in Oz, not so much to cheer ‘em up, just to be with them both to show them how much we care. We’re so far away in so many ways… just like you & me Buddy. Take care of yourself… and your friends.

Love Dad… XoXo…

WICKED QUOTES

“Being lost in Australia gives you a lovely sense of security.” – Bruce Chatwin, The Songlines

Saturday, October 10th 2015

Morning Phi. How’s trix in the lead up to your thirteenth birthday? Five sleeps to go!

It’s 10.35am. We’re at Toro’s jail on the Kowloon side of the harbor – well to be more precise, his quarantine centre. Toro will be released three weeks’ today! Happy days! We’ll celebrate with a get-out-of-jail PARTY! He’s been patiently biding his time for over three months now – ever since we left Egypt. Quarantine regulations are very strict here; much like Australia.

I’m sitting in a white plastic chair surrounded by concrete and grey tiles. We’re monopolizing exercise area 03 and exercise are 02 as there is nobody else here to play with their quarantined dog. The site is opposite the former HK airport, so there’s constant noise as they do whatever they’re doing to transform the new building site. Today the thermometer outside cage 10 reads 31 degrees Celsius, but the App on my phone says a top of only 28 degrees. It feels like the App is closer to the mark. There’s rusted barbed wire atop each of the walls and each cage is padlocked to keep us out, and the dogs in. All in all, it’s a pretty morose setting, but Toro is so happy to see us day in, day out that one kind of shuts out the stainless steel grids, the gates & doors we must lock behind us until we’re able to pet our Toro.

It’s not until now, sitting here with you, my C, and our puppy trying to describe this scene before me that I realize it’s quite the drab, ugly, oppressive setting. I guess with my mates Hayd & Tim on my mind, it kind of compounds my depressive thoughts.

Still, Toro is a happy-chappy and he’ll be released soon enough. His positivity is infectious! Also it’s been a great week at school; look what we made with our hands this week! It was great to see the kids again and to continue building community with a class art project. It’s been a busy week starting a new unit on energy & programming in Science, and Dad is just starting to get on top of new units in Reading & Writing Workshop.

On Wednesday we had a bit of a scare; we received several phone calls from the quarantine centre informing us that Toro had blood in his feces. They were worried, but curiously didn’t do much about the situation. Fortunately our Aussie-Hong Kong-ese mate Tobie took both C & Toro to the vet for a checkup. All fine.

Also on Wednesday I sat down and wrote a birthday card to you. Thirteen years young. Pure, good, stoic & beautiful… that’s you my gorgeous daughter. When I put pen to paper, it somehow feels more meaningful than typing away missives to you, but it’s also harder to pen my jumbled thoughts. When I finished your card, I took a photo of your gift. We set out the bracelet beside the key-ring holder. Your gift sat there alone on our red & white tablecloth awaiting your hands. I took a snap of the card I had written and a tear slipped from my eye. Just imagine your own eyes reading Dad’s scribble… XoXo… It’s never easy being so far from you, especially around your b’day, Xmas, Easter, your cousins’ birthdays… I would never wish it upon another human being. It’s cruel, preventable and just plain wrong. So often, all I can think about is why… why… why?

Friday faculty had a few drinks after school. Dad is having a month off alcohol, so instead of sipping cold beer, I sipped green tea and felt pretty damn good about it! It was quite odd in that I felt quite empowered not drinking and curiously I didn’t miss it. I think I’m sleeping better too.

We haven’t heard from Tim recently, but we know things aren’t going well. Nandee is great mates with Tim’s mum, Pat, and through the week they have a coffee & a chat. Tim doesn’t want visitors, which is understandable… I kind of get it. I try & put myself in his shoes, but truth is, I’m not too sure how I would react. When I can’t put a brave face on any more, I can’t cope with people being kind to me & inquiring about your welfare… I just can’t do it. I don’t know how you are, where you are, what you’re thinking, and Tim doesn’t know what’s ahead, nor is there groundbreaking news on his condition daily… So I understand him wanting to avoid all the questions.

Fortunately Hayd seems as though he’s on the mend. It can’t be easy though; prostate cancer is wickedly wicked, but his sense of optimism & humor is coming to the front. He sent me some pretty graphic images of his pre and post-op… YUCK. He says it feels like he’s just finished 1000 sit-ups and then someone went to town punching his gut. OUCH!

Tokoro de, we have cable TV. You’d probably love it. I seem to hate it (most of the time) and have become more and more frustrated flicking through channels. I think in total there are 125+ channels. We even have a few NatGeo channels, Discovery, and the sort, but I find it so infotainment-esque that it turns me off. Most of what screens stems from the States and much of the documentary type stuff that I once typically enjoyed is now borderline reality TV stuff, with Hollywood voiceovers that torment me. Sometimes I turn the sound down and just watch.

We have the Australian Network, the channel you and I once enjoyed Play School and Humphrey on (perhaps it still screens), but now that footy season is finished, they don’t have anything besides the news… how I wish for SBS Australia. Just one channel would surpass the sum of these 100+ channels in terms of quality, depth, and insight.

Luv & licks,

Ged & C… and Toro (one-one, woof-woof!)

ACE QUOTE

“We do not follow maps to buried treasure and X never, ever marks the spot.” – Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark

Thursday, October 15th 2015

Happy birthday Phi. Thirteen years ago on this very day you came into this world in a small hospital in Mishima.

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I love you Bella, Dad.

Wednesday, October 21st 2015

Hey Bella, how are you? Today is Dad & C’s third wedding anniversary; it’s also a public holiday in Hong Kong! Hooray!!! So last night we went to a French bar / restaurant to celebrate. Even though Dad is supposed to be having a month off alcohol, I cheated last night. I ended up having a glass of wine and two beers. We went into Mid Levels, Central. It’s a really cool area with loads of cafes, bars, and restaurants. For dinner I chose the pork sausages, and C had the duck. It was okay, but in a way we were a little disappointed. In Hong Kong it’s so easy to find ace dim sum at fantastic prices, but unlike Japan, they don’t seem to do fusion or anything European very well. Even so, it was lovely to be out with my dear C, especially as Dad could stay up past his bedtime (9pm) and not have to worry about being up at 5.40am!!! Happy holiday!

Then today we had our first trip out to Lamma Island. Actually we had another amazing coincidence as when we were standing in line for the ferry at Central, I called Sophie & Maurice to say hello, and it turned out they were in the same queue just 50m back! Sugoi desu ne!

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We made our Read-o-hedron in geometry

So we jumped on the ferry together and off we went. When we arrived we went our separate ways as Janet, a friend from the quarantine centre had invited us for lunch. We had a delightful lunch with her four dogs, a French couple, an American couple, and a few of Janet’s Hong Kong-ese & Chinese coworkers.

Time for bed Phi Chan… Dad’s a little exhausted.

XoXo…

WICKED QUOTE

“If you want to propose marriage to your girlfriend and you live in England and she is in Sicily, do the decent thing and walk down there. Travelling by car or aeroplane wouldn’t be right at such a moment.” – Werner Herzog, A Guide for the Perplexed

Monday, November 2nd 2015

Hey Possum, fancy playing with our dog Toro? At long last, after four months in quarantine, Toru was released from jail Saturday. He arrived home around 10am. Delivered to the door. He was happy to see us, but very unsure of himself and what was going on around him. Saturday we just took it easy with him, giving him loads of cuddles, spending a pretty quiet day close to home. We took him for a couple of walks, but he was very timid in his new surroundings.

Sunday was a wonderful day as we took him out to Lamma Island. It was great fun, just the three of us. The ferry took us to a different location to the first trip. We then hiked overland to a dog-friendly beach. Toro loved it. His first trip to the beach! He reminded me of you frolicking in the shallows.

Love Dad… XoXo…

P.S. Any time you want to go to the beach, let us know, I’ll be there.

WICKED WISDOM

“Even from the simplest, the most realistic point of view, the countries which we long for occupy, at any given moment, a far larger place in our actual life than the country in which we happen to be.” – Marcel Proust, Swann’s Way

Sunday, November 8th 2015

How’s my marathon daughter? Training hard? Dad’s been running home from school once or twice a week. I didn’t think it was possible because it seemed to far, but I’ve discovered a trail that leads over the mountains that shortens the door-to-door route by several km. All in all, it’s probably not even 10km. On the trail I’ve seen an awesome bright green snake and had the scare of my life as I came across a pack of wild pigs or dogs. I couldn’t tell what they were as it was getting really dark. But oh, how they bashed and crashed their way through the jungle undergrowth. When I run I often think of you. I do some of my best thinking when I run… I wonder if when we meet I will be able to keep up with you… what’s your best time for 10km?

BTW, there’s girl in my class who reminds me so much of you. Olivia is a new student, originally from Shanghai where her mother taught Chinese at the Shanghai American School. But most recently they have come from the Singapore American School. She’s tall, a quiet achiever, and she has a smile for everyone. She also has your taste in clothes and colours. Needless to say she has become quite a favorite of mine. Being quiet and shy I worry about her, but last week I asked each student to write down the name of two boys and two girls who they think they can collaborate alongside at a table setting. Olivia’s name came up on top despite the fact I sometimes see her alone in the playground or in the cafeteria. But I have to admire her pluck and resilience. I wonder if she loses sleep each night worrying about who she will sit next to in the cafeteria the next day, or who will ask her to join their group during recess play. I worry about you too and that stoic demeanor you made famous.

I love you Phi… XOxo

GRAND SAYING

“When you’re travelling, you are what you are right there and then. People don’t have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road.” – William Least Heat-Moon, Blue Highways

Monday, November 9th 2015

G’day Phi, how’s life in Iruma Shi? Did you run the 800m, jump the long jump, sprint the 400m, hurdle 100m, throw the javelin over the weekend?

Today I had my appraisal meeting with the primary principal. She’s a good sort with wonderful vision and the knack of making me feel most comfortable in her presence. I also ran home from school, and tonight it’s the fourth episode of the sixth season of The Walking Dead. I quite like this morbid comedy. C claims to detest it, but each Monday evening she’s there beside me watching the central characters avoid more & more zombies.

What do you think of Mr. Monopoly? Stan & Dad dressed up as Monopoly pieces for Halloween. Stan is a great man. He’s Dad’s Canadian colleague. Stan has two daughters, so it wasn’t long before I told him about you. I hope you & Stan meet some day soon.

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Sunday we met a new teacher, Sarah & her partner Trey in Admiralty and watched the new 007 Bong movie, Specter. We all arrived together and spent two weeks at the same hotel, so we often met them at breakfast. Mr. J. Bond saved the world in just two & a half hours… just Dad’s cup of tea. Do you think Dad should audition for the next Bond movie if Daniel Craig stands down??? Perhaps I could audition in my Mr. Monopoly kit! After the movie we went to a place that specializes in hamburgers – they even import all their beef from Australia. 135HK$ for a burger and fries, mind you, the fries are fried in duck oil & DELICIOUS. But at around $25US each (no drink), we won’t be going back for quite some time.

Last Saturday we had a celebration for Toro – his get-out-of-jail party! Tobie & Jin joined us, and Janet came from Lamma Island for a fun night. During the day we did some shopping, and then cooked most of the afternoon. I made sausage rolls (wish you were there to help – my sausage rolls are almost as good as your Pa’s SRs), some chili con carne that I placed in mushrooms and grilled with cheese, and C did her JP karage, a fruit salad, a side salad, and together we put together our own homemade pizza. Loads of food, some good laughs and only one thing missing… you.

Friday night we celebrated the end of conferences, again with Sarah & Trey. It would have been grand if you could have joined us. You could have worn that dress I saw for you in France… it had your name written on it… let me find a photo of it to show you. Anyway, C had discovered a bar/restaurant on the 34th floor of the nearby Excelsior Hotel. We went along for happy hour, a few drinks and some tapas. The beautiful night view of the bay was something very special… I can just picture your smile. For dinner we took our buddies to Genki Sushi. What’s your favorite sashimi? Dad is pretty easy to please, salmon & tuna please. Hotate is pretty tasty too.

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Who’s Dad’s best helper?

Love Dad… XoXo…

MIGHTY INSPIRATIONAL… DON’T YOU THINK PHI

“Is he not sacred, even to the gods, the wandering man who comes in weariness?” – Homer, The Iliad

Sunday, November 15th 2015

Hey Phi, what’s the world coming to? On the news we’re probably both watching the horrific attacks in Paris (this weekend). What will our leaders do? More “us & them” rhetoric that will create even greater divides?

Dad telephoned Maur today. Maur Ford is Nandee’s cousin. She’s a laugh-a-minute, one of a kind, a blue riband miracle woman. Maur is dying of cancer. The doctors say she has but weeks to live. So much as been taken from her; her hair, her health, almost her voice, but she soldiers on regardless. On “death” she says she’s not very good at this dying business. “It’s only my first time at it,” she went on to say. Maur met you several times too. She’s the one who took all those great photos of you, Allie & Luca down by the Yarra River; cousins with their dads, cousins with baby-chino moustaches. Maur is also the person who provided the idea & inspiration behind all of these letters to you. In actual fact she gave me a beautiful notebook to start my thoughts to you. She also said she will visit your mother once she dies. Nothing malicious, just to ask her some questions, and perhaps blow some papers off her desk… we’re going to miss Maur in more ways than one. Though I write to you, I know that wherever Maur may be, she’ll be reading along too. I hope you feel her presence & support too.

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Couple of tradie cracks fixing the cracks…

So, what else is news? Here’s a test for how well you’re reading Dad’s letters: how did Dad & Chinami meet? Answer below. Here’s a hint: Thursday night Dad & C had the good fortune of being invited to a wine tasting put on by an HKIS teacher and his partner who is in the wine business. Unfortunately C wasn’t feeling too good, so she stayed on the couch and Dad went off alone. It was a good night all the same as there were a few familiar faces from the upper primary school.

It was a good week of running. What about you? Getting stronger, faster and more flexible? Monday & Thursday Dad ran the trails home from school. The quickest route takes me straight down to Happy Valley. When I say down, in parts it does go straight down which is playing havoc with Dad’s knees and toes. Already I have one black toe, so recently I have been running further, running around the valley, nursing my knees & toes as I do. I also had a run to South Beach with Jay on Friday.

Gotta run Phi. Go with care… XoXo…

Answer: Dad & C met at a wine tasting.

WICKED QUOTE

“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveller only who is foreign.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

Sunday, November 22nd 2015

Howdy Cowdy, how’s your running going??? You working on being a sprinter, a middle distance runner, a jumper or a long distance runner? I hope your coach(s) has vision and isn’t conservative about you and your young peers trying a bit of every discipline. Who knows, you might be a high jumper, or a hurdler, or you may have the power & coordination to throw the javelin 20 meters plus. Oh Bella, I wish we could visit the track together tomorrow…

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Check out our class masterpiece. Individually we’re unique, but as a whole we’re a masterpiece!

This morning Dad ran in and around Victoria Park. I haven’t run there for a while as I’ve been running home from school twice a week recently, so it was kind of nice to get back there and do a bit of Dad’s version of cross-fit. I managed to squeeze in 30 chin-ups, 100 sit-ups and 50 push-ups. By then I was beat, so I walked home instead of jogging the final part. It’s much milder now. Perhaps it’ll reach 27 degrees Celsius this afternoon, but the humidity has mostly gone, so it feels so much more comfortable, especially for running.

After a shower and one of C’s lovely pancakes, together we cleaned the windows, inside and out. You should see the view now! BTW, we’re on the 11th floor and we have a view of Kowloon Bay. By night it’s spectacular, especially when they have fireworks. Tonight it’s going to look grand! I think we’ll have to light the candles and have a glass of wine together. Would you like a small glass of vino too? Why not! You’re a teenager now! Just don’t tell your mother!

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Your favorite Pa

With the windows sparkling, it was time for a ham & cheese toasted sandwich, followed by a nice cup of coffee. And right now, well, we’re just about to head off to AEON here in Causeway Bay. We’re members, and today we can get 10% off sushi. Fancy some sushi for lunch? I’ll finish this correspondence off later… jya ne!

Back again Phi. Dad went shopping (more of that in a minute), had a lovely nana-nap, and now it’s time to sit down and fill you in on my week.

Firstly, Dad’s mate, “Funny Tim” as you used to refer to him, has at last started to feel better, although he’s staying non-communicative. Bloody middle-aged men! Most of us don’t seem to be able to voice our emotions, or to be able to reach out for help. Nandee and Hadyn keep me up to date. Nandee is great mates with Pat, Tim’s mum, and of course Hadyn, Tim and Dad all went to high school together and have been best mates ever since.

Evidently Maur, Nandee’s cousin had a better day yesterday too. So that’s great news, because I must admit, I thought I had said my last goodbye to Maur just last weekend over the phone.

Anyway, just an hour ago, C says, “C’mon, we’re going shopping!” With nothing better to do, I tagged along. Our first stop was a bag shop she had researched. It’s called Che-Che New York, and their symbol is three hearts that don’t look dissimilar to a fallen cherry blossom. So, we’re in the store, and it’s very flash & fancy, but rather cute and stocks products that might more often appeal to younger women. Now, I didn’t say anything… I don’t want to get into trouble! So, I’m just minding my own business, and C asks, “What do you think of this one?” I kind of pinched my lips together, and wondered if it was a trick question. She raised her eyebrows, awaiting a response. So, I told her I thought it was kind of too cute for a beautiful, sophisticated woman like herself. Well, she just laughed. Then my GORGEOUS C told me the bag was for you, for Christmas… Oh, how I love her… and you!CIMG3191

So, then I became really interested, and together we chose a really cool Che-Che NY cream/beige bag with a white & pink poodle on it. The poodle has a pink bow around its neck that’s a real bow, and there’s another larger beige bow by the carry straps with gold freckles. It’s very cool. I think you’re going to love it! This particular gift we’ll send to Milton in Tokyo, and ask him to forward it to you in Tokorozawa… hope you like it… XoXo…

Friday was adventure day over at the main campus. It wasn’t nearly as good as CAC’s Kids’ Day. The best part was hiking back to the UP campus from the main campus. The kids had a picnic lunch, so we stopped by some picnic tables then continued on around a reservoir. I was mighty impressed by my students’ banter, song & games. Sometimes that’s all they need, a trail, some wilderness, a small backpack & a drink bottle; no complaining, no X-boxes, i-phone 6s…

Your Xmas card Bella...

Your Xmas card Bella…

That night we joined Trey & Sarah for some noodles in Wanchai. Then we had a beer back at their flat. Saturday Dad teamed up with Jay, Johnny and LaRoy for HKIS’s version of the Amazing Race. Talk about Honky Honkers; Dad’s team were the HK Globetrotters. It was a fun day exploring HK at speed, but after 6 hours I was ready for the couch.

Monday night Dad ran home from school. Midway home C called to see if we could spend part of the evening with the French community after what had happened in Paris over the weekend. So Dad picked up the pace, raced home for a quick shower and then into Central for a minutes silence on the lawn. There were perhaps a 1000 people there, maybe more. We held candles & prayed together. Let us hope and not forget…

Love you Phi… Dad… XoXo…

WICKED QUOTE

“Culture shock is often felt sharply at the borders between countries, but sometimes it doesn’t hit fully until you’ve been in a place for a long time.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson, The Mind’s Eye

Wednesday, November 25th 2015

G’day Phi, how’s life at Kamiyamaguchi Middle School? It’s 6.45pm, Dad’s just out of the shower after running home from Repulse Bay (school) and C has some news for me. News, news, news: First, we tracked you down to Kamiyamaguchi MS.

For some time now, we’ve thought that you have moved schools, and today, our hunch came to fruition. Evidently you were mentioned in an article on track & field in your school’s newsletter. I don’t know how she does it, or how many hours it takes to find news of you, but somehow she manages to find you. Dad’s heart leaped hoping it was something to do with distance running. It turns out your name was down for the long jump. How about that! Awesome! Those long legs of yours are now helping you project yourself through the air! Oh, how I wish I could be with you right now. The past couple of years coaching alongside Coach Hatem Morsel I learned a trick or two about coaching long jump. Coach Hatem, you might recall was at the Sydney Olympics in his pet event, none other than your event, the long jump. The man jumped an incredible 8.31 metres on the European athletics circuit! How about that? Can you jump half that distance?

So Bella, how’s your new school? It’s so close to Baba & Jiji’s house. You must be first year MS, or what we term year 7 in Australia. How’s your homeroom teacher, what’s your favorite subject, who do you choose to sit next to at lunch, who’s the cutest boy in the class, what’s your least favorite subject, how many days a week do you train for track, what’s the coach like, how do you get to school, are you still attending juku??? On and on, so many questions, so many things to wonder about… what’s your Dad to do? He knows so little about your life right now… so very little. But, one thing is for sure, he’s very happy you’re doing track & field… see you in the 2020 Olympics!!!

Love Dad… XoXo…

WICKED QUOTE

“The Australians, it seems to me, thrive on their remoteness from the world and see it as a way of keeping up a code of “No worries, mate,” while peddling their oddities to visitors: nonconformity is at once a fact of life for many, and a selling point.” – Pico Iyer, Falling Off the Map

Monday, November 30th 2015

G’day Phi. Less than four weeks until Christmas… have you put up the Xmas tree yet? Can I help? I’m sure you can reach to the very top; you won’t need Dad to launch you and the Christmas star to sit at the very pinnacle of your tree. Is it a real tree? Do you remember grabbing Xmas pine trees with Allen down in Numazu?

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We just came off a Thanksgiving long weekend. It was wonderful to have three sleep-ins! Thursday night we went to Sarah & Trey’s for a superfluous Thanksgiving meal. Trey had gone all out and prepared a feast! There was so much food, and just the four of us. We needed you there to eat a full plate full of yummy-yummy specialties! There was of course turkey with stuffing & gravy, mash potato, and pumpkin with toasted marshmallows on top! But that’s not all, there was pumpkin bread, more stuffing, and even pumpkin pie for dessert. If that’s not enough, there was also a delicious cheesecake C had prepared and matching wine to accompany the glorious food. We had great intentions of walking home, but we felt as heavy as a one of the double-decker buses here in HK, so we ended up jumping on the tram; a double-decker tram no less.

Friday morning I took Toro for a run. It was his first real hit-out with Dad, and he did okay. I’m not sure he knew what was going on, and struggled to keep a consistent pace. His rhythm was okay, but I would much prefer to be running alongside my track & field star daughter! Most of the day I spent preparing reports for my G4 students, all 22 of them. Later in the afternoon we prepared some koroke (is that how you say fried mashed potato with mince in breadcrumbs?) Friday evening Suanne, a colleague of Dad’s had invited us for another Thanksgiving meal! This time, we were a little more sensible about not consuming numerous plate loads!

Saturday, more reports, and then we prepared pizza together and opened a bottle of wine. After my month off alcohol in October, I’ve only been drinking on the weekend. Now each time I have a drink, it feels rather special. Still, looking forward to one day sipping a glass of wine with you Phi.

Then yesterday, we joined in the Global Climate March. 60,000 people had marched in Melbourne on Friday (public holiday), but only about 500 marched in Hong Kong. Toro joined us and received a few pats on the back. Sophie, Maurice, and the girls also joined us. The march started in Central, just near pier 8, and wound up in Wanchai. After our hike, we enjoyed a beer in a nearby bar.

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Who’s got spunk!

It was also your cousin Billie’s birthday yesterday. She said she wanted family at her party more than any presents or friends. She wanted her cousins, Allie, Christopher, and you Ophelia to celebrate her day. I wonder when we’ll have another opportunity for you, me, your aunts & uncles, your cousins, and your Pa & Nandee to be together again… I love you Phi… go with care this December… LOVE Dad… XoXo…

WICKED QUOTE

“It was one of those moments that you know at the time will stay with you to the grave: the sweet pie, the gaunt man playing the old music, the coals in the stove glowing orange, the scent of kerosene and hot breath. “Here’s ‘Evening Rhapsody.'” The music was so heavily romantic we both laughed. I thought: It is for this that I have come.” – William Least Heat-Moon, Blue Highways

 

Monday, December 7th 2015

G’day Phi. How’s the Christmas feel in Tokorozawa? It’s just not quite the same without you. No Xmas tree, no childlike energy & excitement, no gifts beneath the tree, no Christmas stories to read to you. What I would do to read you Charles Dickens Christmas Carol this festive season…

Once upon a time we would have set up the Christmas tree together. In fact just yesterday I sent a message to Allen reminiscing about the pine trees we used to take down at Senbon, or up in the hills surrounding Numazu. Fun but naughty times! I wonder if you have put your tree up… is it real, or one of those plastic jobs? Are there presents already wrapped beneath the tree? And what about all those many lights we had inside and outside our home in Numazu… do you remember? Will you be leaving Santa some cookies and a glass of milk like we used to?

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Last week wasn’t a great week for Dad’s health. Once again an ear infection hit me. I even had two days off school with a throbbing head. C discovered an ear specialist in Central, so we went to see him. His suctioned both ears, which almost instantly cleared the gunk out. He then put a camera up my nose and pocked around inside my head! Doctor David discovered Dad has a number of polyps growing at the back of my nasal passage that somehow or other accounts for the number of infections. I then had a CT scan to determine their size and impact on the connecting passages. Now I’m cleansing my passages with a saline wash that removes the mucus. It goes in one nostril and out the other, charming, huh? He also put me on a dose of steroids to reduce the polyps size. I go back this Friday to see the results.

Friday night, C & Dad just had a quiet night home together after Dad had bought C a nice bunch of ‘thank you’ flowers. Much of Saturday & Sunday Dad spent writing reports, but on Sunday we walked into Wanchai and did some shopping. We found some nice boutiques, where Dad bought C a beautiful pink shawl, a skirt, and a top. We then wandered back to Causeway Bay and had a coffee at a place Tim had recommended, Coffee Academics.

And last night Dad whipped up a green curry for dinner. There was plenty for three; in fact there’s always enough for you Phi… always.

BTW, we’re booked for Chennai, India for Christmas, but the poor people of Chennai are experienced flooding and the heaviest rainfall since records began. We managed to call our friends there, despite the fact that they have had no power, internet or hot water for five days!

Hope this finds you well & excited for Xmas & a prosperous NY. Love Dad… take care of that beautiful heart Phi… Dad… XOxo…

WICKED QUOTE

“Travelling through the world produces a marvelous clarity in the judgment of men. We are all of us confined and enclosed within ourselves, and see no farther than the end of our nose.” – Michel de Montaigne

Thursday, December 10th 2015

tumblr_nooefwhQT11t8knqro1_1280Hey super model… Dad came home from school this evening, ran actually. C was teaching our landlord Japanese. Anyway, after dinner she showed me some photos of a young model. At first I hardly recognized you. Your hair is a rainbow of colors, and clouded is your beautiful smile. Does your smile hide something within? I hope it’s your choice… 100% your choice. Phi, there’s no doubt you’re very beautiful… go with care Ophelia… go cautiously… XoXo…tumblr_nkifyaispL1t8knqro1_1280

Love Dad…

“You go away for a long time and return a different person – you never come all the way back.” – Paul Theroux, Dark Star Safari

Monday, December 21st 2015

Morning Bella. Four more sleeps to Christmas! What’s Santa bringing this year? Some new running shoes? What size are you? I have a gift voucher to a sports store; I can nip out & buy you a pair!

Kick like a gal!

You can do anything Phi, ANYTHING!

Dad & C are on a flight to Chennai, India. We’re lucky to be on this flight, but more about that later. It’s 9.30am, and we’re still sitting on the tarmac in Kuala Lumpur. Last night we arrived in KL from HK at about 1.20am. We stayed in the Sama Sama Hotel inside the airport. It was nice to get some sleep considering we had an eight-hour layover between flights.

The day before we left HK (Saturday), Dad met Bill, my outdoor education lecturer from Deakin University. It’s such a small world. Our relationship started at uni. I guess I must have been somewhat of a favorite of Bill’s ‘cause he asked me to work at his son’s 21st b’day party. Shortly thereafter I left for Japan; it just so happened Bill had a daughter in Japan who I soon met and we’ve been mates ever since. Cool hey!

Also Saturday afternoon I also Skyped Nandee & Pa. Nandee is determined to visit us here in Hong Kong despite poor health. The chronic fatigue syndrome has lingered and recently she’s woken up in hospital (twice) with bleeding on the brain. It’s the start of dementia Phi… She’s a brave soul, determined, and with a soul that is all about family, your family Phi. Your Australian grandparents are thinking of making the flight to the Orient in February, which could work out nicely, because it’s the Chinese New Year, and Dad has a week off school.

Dad finished up at school Friday afternoon. Later a group of G4 teachers took a small boat out to a nearby boat club for a few drinks to celebrate. Friday was also pajama day, but as Dad doesn’t have any pajamas, that presented quite a problem. We celebrated with champagne & macaroons courtesy of some Xmas gifts from my students. Thursday was green & red day at school, and on Wednesday it was come as your favorite Xmas character. Dad came as Ebenezer Scrooge from Charles Dickens Christmas Carol… the same book I would love to read to you.

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Take off! Gotta fly! Love Dad…

WICKED QUOTE

“I came to realise that I travelled best when I travelled no faster than a dog could trot.” – Gardner McKay, Journey Without a Map

Tuesday, December 22nd 2015

Hey Phi, we’re in Fab India! Our buddies Jan & Beth were waiting for us at Chennai Airport; just as well, it had been a long & eventful flight. Firstly, they took us to Bombay Brasserie, a delicious Indian restaurant serving south Indian cuisine.

Here’s a letter I penned to family that I thought you might like to be included in:

Fam (that’s you too Phi),

A short missive from Chennai.

We made it… JUST!

Firstly, there were two flights flying to KL & onward to Chennai leaving at 8.25pm Sunday evening (what are the chances of that???), and we didn’t know about the second one. Duh! So in ritualistic Ged-fashion, we’re the last to board with the stragglers, and of course the gentleman tells us that this isn’t our flight.

That’s when Forest Gump and marathon champ Naoko Takahashi (think 2000 Olympics marathon gold medal) kick it up a gear. We had 15 minutes to get to our flight, and one of those shuttle trams to navigate because of course, our flight leaves from a different terminal. Takahashi streams ahead as Gump isn’t quite as nimble & agile. Finally we arrive at the gate. The lights are out. There’s a single attendant ticking off a few boxes. The gate is closed. Gump, despite lagging behind on the marathon route is in better nick than Takahashi, skips greetings and asks the chap if there’s any chance the plane is still on the tarmac. “Don’t panic sir, the flight is delayed and leaving from a different gate.” Kisses all round!

One night in KL, then onward to Chennai. Just to mix things up, Geddy leaves his passport on the plane upon landing in Chennai!!!

But we’re here now, passport found, and despite spending a good 30min being fingerprinted (the fingerprinting machine needs an overhaul), we’re with Jan (Swedish) & Beth (US), our great mates from Cairo. Less than 18 hours into our India adventure, and we’re lovin’ it.

Picked up at the airport and taken to an ace Indian lunch. A nap, then a walk along the beach dodging human one or two feces, and later, several gin & tonics; what else would one drink on the subcontinent?

Up at sparrow’s fart and writing to you guys… Phi next.

Today, a spot of Xmas shopping and then a Bollywood movie with the locals.

Internet here is good, but we’re off to Bangalar for Xmas. Staying at a $100US+ hotel, so one would think the www will be up & running, but Beth & Jan say that’s not always the case. Hopefully we’ll be Skyping Dec 25th.

Luv & licks,

Ged & C (Chennai, India – below).

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So there you go Phi. Kind of funny now that it’s all over & Dad’s passport is safe. Tonight we went to the movies, Bollywood!!! It was all in Indian, but it didn’t matter too much. It was spectacular to say the least. We also went to the cotton stalls across town where we bought C a gorgeous Xmas sari. Tomorrow evening we’re taking a train trip to Madurai. It’s on the banks of the river Vaigai, near the southern tip of India. Second class for we subjects. Fancy a train journey? Don’t drink too much water before departure; we hear the toilets aren’t too clean!

Good night Ophelia… love Dad… and merry, merry Christmas! XoXo…

WICKED QUOTES

“I’m leaving on a jet plane; Don’t know when I’ll be back again.” – John Denver, Leaving on a Jet Plane

Friday, December 25th 2015

Christmas day… Merry Christmas Ophelia… we hope it’s a special Christmas for you. Your first Xmas as a teenager, WOW! We hope you’re feeling loved, cherished, supported, nurtured and cared for. We hope you have the freedom to release whatever is in your heart, the voice to tell a friend, and the courage to speak the truth. Dad misses you so much… Did you receive the Che Che NY bag & card we sent you? Hope you like it… So, what was under the tree for you?

Tokoro de (BTW), you would love it here. Yesterday (Thursday) morning we arrived in Madurai. It was an interesting train journey, but not one I’m keen on repeating. A car drove us two+ hours to Karaikkudi to the Bangala hotel, a beautifully restored whitewashed home that is to be our Xmas residence. There are homey pictures of the original family members displayed everywhere, a cool pool and their famous Chettinad food. The food is outstanding! It’s actually quite mild as far as Indian cuisine goes, and the variety is astonishing.

Today we just wandered around the village. There are several antique shops, a market, and the same hustle & bustle that is India. Dad had a haircut & shave for 100 rupee; that’s about 200 yen!

Here’s Dad’s favorite Xmas song:

I must have listened to Tim Minchin’s emotional family classic 100 times, and each time I hear him sing about his daughter… the tears flow… you my baby girl, my jet-lagged infant daughter… these are the people who will make you feel safe in this world… we’ll be waiting for you in the sun Phi… whenever you come… all your cousins, Chris & Luca, Billie & Allie… XoXo…

Well Phi, enjoy your day… hope we’re giving gifts together next Xmas… Love Dad… XoXo…

“Paris (India) is always a good idea.” – Sabrina (Audrey Hepburn) in Sabrina, & Dad in Karaikkudi, India

Sunday, December 27th 2015

Hey Phi, any NY resolutions you’re thinking about? Being stronger, more creative, more resilient, more collaborative? Running a 5km road race in sub 25min, jumping 4m+ in the long jump, doing 25 consecutive push-ups, holding a plank position for 90sec+? What about becoming a sassy, surly teenager & tracking down your Dad? I’m ready… whenever you are Phi… XoXo… here’s to an ace New Year Ophelia, here’s to you… here’s to us. XoXo…

Dad & C are still in India… and still lovin’ it despite my traveling companions all becoming sick. Jan was first to come down with some stomach bug, then C and now Beth. So far, Dad has escaped the virus… fingers crossed his iron guts will prevail! This morning I had my second run along the foreshore. Again I ran for 35 minutes with many of the locals walking the same route. The breeze was out, so the remnants of everyone’s trash wasn’t as foul on the nose as my first jogging experience here in Chennai.

Later we walked around Chennai, took a few tuk-tuks here & there, & bought Jan & Beth a hamburger lunch. Yes, a hamburger in India. It was good too. Dad also bought three pairs of strides. 100% cotton, cheap, and well made – whoo-hoo!

Saturday we enjoyed a hearty Indian breakfast at the hotel then took a car the two hours back to Madurai. We visited the Sri Meenahshi Temple, the abode of the triple breasted, fish-eyed goddess Meenskshi Amman. Apprantly she lost her third breast when she married for love. There are 12 towers at Sri Meenahshi, the highest of which is 52 metres. Much of the temple is off limits to non-Hindus, but it was still very interesting.

My favorite part of the day was visiting the Gandhi museum. The detailed English-language signs pull no punches about British rule. I was enthralled by his selfless life. Many, many years ago I read a biography but not much had stuck to my brain. I remembered he studied law, lived in South Africa where he protested against Apartheid, but my mind had forgotten the horrendous part the British had played. It was enlightening to hear how the British wished their subjects, the Indians, would fight for them during WW2, but at the same time they didn’t want to talk about Indian people not having any rights under British rule in India. The British hierarchy wanted to postpone any talks about concessions to Indian people until after the war. What hypocrisy hey!

Time to tend to C and help Jan prepare a little dinner. It’ll be a busy few days leading up to NY & our return to Hong Kong, so just in case I don’t get a chance to write, here’s a little something from Adele to close the year. Go with care Phi… Someone like you: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hLQl3WQQoQ0

Love Dad… XoXo…

WICKED QUOTES

“No one has ever described the place where I have just arrived: this is the emotion that makes me want to travel. It is one of the greatest reasons to go anywhere.” – Paul Theroux, The Pillars of Hercules

2015 July – October

Wednesday, July 1st 2015

Dear Phi, another day, another letter. Sometimes, as much as anything else, this journal is a record of me not letting this tragedy rule me. It’s been three years since I’ve actually seen you… three years… and counting.

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Hokkaido – just the two of us

We’re still in Cairo, but just one more sleep and our two years in Egypt closes. How’s your running going? Battling the heat & humidity? When I run, I challenge myself, not so much to overcome this tragedy, just to deal with it in a better frame of mind. Even with the constant heat & dust I am able to somehow set my mind and spirit to run for you, with you. As I run, I kind of pull my thoughts into a zone. A zone, that intensifies and becomes ever more real as I exercise. A zone of thoughts so focused, that I can capture the hope of one day being reunited with you. My mind conjures happy episodes of yesteryear, and it channels pilot episodes of happy times to come. My body surges, finding strength from my youth. And when I don’t think I can manage another chin-up, or another push-up, or my core is screaming for rest during sit-ups, I do 10 more for you. Always for you. You drive me and your presence in my life, no matter how many kilometers distant brings me the gift of hope, and a better wellbeing.

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Hokkaido

Last night we checked into Mel’s (Melanie Flynn) flat just around the corner here in Maadi, Egypt. Mel arrived with us two years ago. She’s a Melbourne lass, just like your Dad. She’s a ripper, a breath of fresh air; bold, generous, and full of bounce & passion. Mel is off frolicking somewhere in this wonderful world, but she left us a bottle of wine and a gorgeous A4 handmade ‘good luck’ card. The card was resting up against the bottle of red; it has a photo of the three of us aboard her b’day boat upon the mighty Nile.

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Another b’day for Dad

This morning, Dad had his final run up and around CAC. It was 6:30am. Bright & early, it’s the best time to beat the heat, dust, and crowds. What about you Phi? When do you train? Hope you’ve found routine and you’ve stuck with it with discipline. How else will you make the 2020 Olympics??? The real question is whether you’ll run for Australia or Japan! Anyway, the birds are alive & boisterous early, and there’s always the smug thought that most of the world is struggling to get out of bed, and your Dad is already striding through Cairo. How’s your mental strength? How do you cope with “No”? Do you have a growth mindset? Your life is no doubt one of privilege; I just hope it hasn’t given you a sense of entitlement. Sorry Phi, drifting again… these are the conversations I have with you when I’m jogging. I want you to be strong in mind, spirit and body. Live strong Bella. Live good. Give, love, care, and when things don’t go your way, move on… shigata ga nai Phi Chan.

Okay, back to my run. I ran for 30 minutes and did my customary 30 chin-ups, 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, and even added a 100 dips. I was hurting, but with you as my guide & inspiration, I then planned to do 6 x 200m at a good sprint, but during the fourth interval, I felt my left hamstring suddenly tighten… and I had to give up the idea of running a fifth & sixth 200m interval. It’s unusual for my hamstrings to give me any trouble; usually it’s my knees, or just age that slows me down – hope it’s not a sign of things to come.

Anyway Bella, it’s been a good morning. I’ve had my exercise, I’ve had a slow breakfast reading The Age online, and I’ve managed to capture a few thoughts & write to you for the past 25 minutes. It’s still only 8:30am, but Dad needs a shower before we get started on the remainder of the day.

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The Easter Bunny just arrived

It’s no secret that kids who grow up insulated from difficulty and disappointment are also likely to struggle in adulthood if they don’t get into their first preference for university, miss out on a job, or are dumped by the love of their life. No resilience. No growth mindset. No grit. Always do your best Phi.

Phi, you can counteract this belief of entitlement by giving of yourself. We all need to learn that sometimes it is more about others than myself. Do your best, reach out to those in need and when you hit the pillow each night, you can be proud of living strong.

This morning while reading my newspaper of choice from Melbourne, Australia, I came across an article that once again had me thinking of you. It was an article likening divorce to being in a car crash. I can relate to that, and I’m sure you can too. The article takes the perspective of the child. I wonder if you feel like you too have been strapped into the back seat of the same car that holds your Mother & Dad… Have you been colliding daily with the bitterness, misery, and shattered illusions your parents set? I’m sorry Phi, I truly am.

In any case, the article is worth a read. The writer suffered through her parents’ divorce ten years before she penned her story. Even though she was an adult, it was still one of the most traumatic experiences of her life. I understand that. I’m sorry. She said that if she had her time over, this is what she would have done differently:

“1. Don’t become the parent

Divorce can reverse the usual child-parent relationship dynamics. Parents often begin taking the role of the child because they’re hurt, vulnerable and scared.

After thirty years of marriage my mother had to find a way to live without my dad. She had lost so much confidence and self-esteem that simple things like redirecting mail, banking and cooking for one overwhelmed her.

I rushed in and did whatever I could to make her life easier. Before long, I found myself making important life decisions for her. But far from helping, I was enabling her to remain passive and helpless. I was keeping her trapped in the familiar comfort of victimhood.

Eventually I stopped being her crutch because I couldn’t live with all the misery and I wanted my own life back. At the time I thought I was being selfish and my mother felt hurt and betrayed.

Looking back, it was the best thing to do for both of us. She had the chance to reinvent herself and I could go back to being the daughter instead of the parent.

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Helping Nandee in the kitchen

  1. Create firm boundaries about what you will and won’t talk about

When relationships break down people need to talk. A lot.

Divorcing parents can forget that their adult children are still their children, and try to turn them into confidants. Both my parents went to great lengths to detail the alleged transgressions of the other one. I learned things about both that I would prefer never to have known.

I should have established rules about what was appropriate to discuss. Not only did I not want to hear it, re-telling the past kept both of them trapped there — far longer than necessary.

  1. Don’t take sides

When your family breaks up and triggers unimaginable pain for one of your parents, it’s natural to be angry. I was furious at my father for leaving my mum and I said all sorts of thing to him that I wouldn’t have said under other circumstances. Things that will never be forgotten.

With time comes perspective. Even though I can’t condone many of the things that were said and done, both of them are still my parents.

It’s not uncommon for divorcing parents to demand the absolute loyalty of their children, and to regard any contact with the other parent as a betrayal. While these demands come from a place of desperation, it’s unfair for parents to enlist their kids to the frontlines of their personal battles.

It’s also unhelpful to the recovery process. While they may take solace in punishing the other parent by withholding the kids, it keeps them trapped in a place where their own wellbeing is linked to their ex-partner.

  1. Allow yourself to grieve. It’s your loss too

When the parents of young children divorce people are, with reason, concerned about the impact on the children. There are psychologists, books and even Sesame Street segments devoted to helping children come to grips with the transition.

The impact of divorce on adult children is, in contrast, barely acknowledged. But it is devastating to watch the foundation of your family crumble — no matter how old you are. It’s heartbreaking to see your parents suffer so much, knowing that they are doing it to each other.

  1. Get out of the car the first chance you get

I felt trapped in the backseat of my parents divorce car for years. But no matter how long I stayed, I couldn’t prevent the inevitable. It wasn’t possible for me to save either of them from their pain. They had to choose to move on in their own way and in their own time.

And they have. But if I had my time over I would never have gotten into the car. I would have offered support but not co-dependency. It would still have been painful, but it might have been over sooner.”

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The Easter Bunny arrives

Perhaps you could pen your thoughts and feelings too; when you’re ready. Sometimes when we jot what’s on our mind, the words & phrases begin to map themselves in front of us. Sometimes the darkness becomes clearer. You don’t need to share your notes with anyone, not if you don’t want to. But if you do, it would be a privilege to listen to your heart. You can blame me, you can bring it all out, I don’t mind. You can judge me, scream at me, I don’t mind. When you are ready, you need to be honest with yourself. Don’t hold it in. Don’t pretend it’s not there. It happened. You need to come to terms with what happened and move forward; if you don’t, the pain will slowly destroy you. There needs to be release from all the anguish and questions you must harbor. I’m here Phi…

Go with care my Angel… much LOVE… Dad… XoXo…

WICKED WISDOM

“Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For indeed, that’s all who ever have.” Margaret Mead

FAST FACTS

When you run the streets on Cairo early, you can hear the sweet & memorable warble of the magpie perched in a eucalyptus tree, just like you would in that town we both love, Melbourne, Australia. Isn’t that ace!

 

Tuesday, July 7th 2015

 

Hey Bella. So another chapter in our journal begins. This time as I write, you’re not so far. We flew out of Cairo late evening of July 2nd, arriving late afternoon at Narita on July 3rd. So, two years in Egypt gone… wow, that was fast. A memorable, challenging and sometimes haunting mind-opener of an experience. Cairo American College was a great school, with strong vision, and a leadership team that cared for me personally & professionally. There were many bonuses: great colleagues (a shout out to Wayne, Julie, Mel, Sarah, Rick, Juana, Matthew, Ilana, Pen, LeeAnne, Todd, Zoe, Beth et al), ace kids, fantastic facilities, wicked opportunities to coach track and x-country, super professional development opportunities, and some great friendships. Living in Cairo also meant cheap flights to Europe. We took the opportunity to visit France (twice), Switzerland, Italy, Turkey (twice), Jordan, Spain, and also had wonderful experiences on the Red Sea, and aboard a Nile cruise.

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On the ferry from Niigata to Hokkaido

Dad had a run this morning; did you? I even managed to find a chin-up bar of sorts for 3 x 10 reps. It’s been a few days since I could complete my regular set: push-ups 4 x 25, and sit-ups 4 x 25 thrown in too. Feels good. You?

 

It’s good to be back in Japan. Your country, your home. Yesterday (Monday) we just dagged around Chiba. I wish I could have run straight for you, instead, in the morning C took me to an ear clinic. Yep, again my ears have been bothering me. Luckily she insisted we get them checked out, because in one ear I have an infection (bacteria growing!), and the other ear, well, the good doctor sucked out a sizeable piece of wax. In the afternoon we did a bit of banking, Dad had a haircut (only 1000 yen from a lovely chap named Makoto), and we bought some flowers for C’s mum’s birthday; she’ll be 73 today. A spritely, cute and strong woman.

 

Later Monday afternoon we went to a cool home centre to purchase some wood. K and Y (Y went to school with C. Her & K have just bought their first home; exciting hey!) would like a small bench to sit upon and sip their beers on their new balcony.

 

Sunday, K & Y picked us up again, and took us to a huge second-hand shop with a whopping 100 Yen store above. From there they took us to the enormous Aeon Mall. We had a coffee and a donut, showed them a few of our travel photos, and purchased a few things on sale at UniQLO.

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By Lake Shikotsuko

Saturday, the day after we arrived, C’s friend Y and her husband K picked us up for a bbq. The rain very politely held off for three hours, so we managed to get the bbq going and eat like kings & queens.

After such a generous lunch, Dad needed some exercise, so I went for a 30 minute run in the rain. Shortly thereafter, we raced to the Shinkemi Station to meet Katsu & Yumiko. That evening, they took us to an izakaya that specializes in seafood… mmm, yummo Kiddo! So much better than the food in Cairo!

 

Today we had Ramen!!! Yeah, so delicious, so simple, and so affordable! This afternoon we’ll visit our house in Tokyo and say hello to K San, one of our former neighbors. And this evening, we’re going to catch up with Dad’s old mate, Travis Ion, Megz, and their son, Noah.

Gotta run, has just finished with the doctor.

 

Love Dad… XoXo…

 

WICKED QUOTE

“I soon realized that no journey carries one far unless, as it extends into the world around us, it goes an equal distance into the world within.” – Lillian Smith

 

Wednesday, July 8th 2015

Oh Phi… you’ll never guess what has been going on in our house in Tokyo?! It’s been turned into a zoo! Yesterday, when we went out to check on the house, the first thing we noticed was the decrepit state of the overgrown garden… what a shame! But then we heard from K San (neighbor) that the tenants have numerous dogs & cats. We were shocked to say the least. For one, the tenancy contract specifies one small dog and one large dog that would be mainly kept outside, but when K San informed us that they housed probably half a dozen dogs and as many cats, we contacted the real estate agent immediately. The agent went pretty much directly to the house and discovered they indeed had 6 dogs, and wait for it, some TWENTY+ cats!!! Can you believe it? Our home has been turned into an animal shelter.

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So today, we treated ourselves and drove out to the Shisui Outlets in Chiba. C bought herself a new suit for interviews in Hong Kong and some Nike running shoes, while Dad bought two summer sweaters that I can wear with my numerous Egyptian cotton scarfs from the Fair Trade shop in Cairo. And tonight, I had a few bourbons with Mr. O, and chatted happily with he & Mrs. O.

We’re is really miserable about the house… I wish you were here to comfort us. See you soon, love Dad… XoXo…

WICKED WISDOM

“Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.” – Benjamin Disraeli

 

Saturday, July 11th 2015

Morning Phi. You’re only about 50km from where I sit this morning. Wondering if you’re having some toast at this moment too… I’m sitting in a café beneath Sakaragicho Station. It’s just gone 10am, and I’m killing a little time before meeting C at 1pm for some oysters with Greg Feezell & his wife Satoko. This morning I had a lovely run, albeit hot, along the foreshore of Yamashita Koen. It was great to once again pound the circuit I used to run here in Yokohama so often… thinking of you. I ran the same paths we once rode together. I ran past the boat you loved to explore, the pier we often walked, the steps from where we watched the fireworks, and the amusement park you loved. All was good as the memories flooded back. All was good.

Yesterday (Friday), I went out to Kamikitazawa Primary School. Why, you ask. Well, while I was teaching at Cairo American College I had a wonderful Japanese student in my fifth grade class, Mahsa. Mahsa had left CAC in February, and was keen for me to visit, so she organized for me to meet her principal, her homeroom teacher, and to observe a class. She did it all herself. What a gem, hey! It was a pretty special experience, even if it wasn’t you. I also brought along Mahsa’s yearbook from CAC; all the kids had signed and written a message for Mahsa.

In the afternoon, I took the train out to Yokohama, did some banking, and visited my old colleagues and students out at Saint Maur International School. At about 3:30pm, Evan, Jamie, Baysar, Shiraz, and a new teacher, Jeff, wandered down to Yamashita Koen for a few refreshing drinks. By 6:30pm it was time to head back up the Bluff and watch a game of AFL, Carlton Vs. Richmond at Sandy’s. After the game, Jamie & I went back to his new house in Sakaragicho. It’s a pencil house, so pretty challenging to build a deck or a garden, but great value at around 40,000,000 yen… very happy for him and Yuki.

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Driving tractors in Hokkaido

Going back to Thursday morning, I had a run, did my push-ups, sit-ups and chin-ups. You? Feeling fit? What about a workout with Dad? Do you think Dad could keep up? When I returned, C was keen to go to the public pool, so I skipped along too, but instead of swimming, I went to the training room and had a second good workout. Now I’m ready to take you on Phi! What’s it to be, 3km time trial? Look out buddy!

In the afternoon we both went into Shibuya; C had a haircut and met her old boss, and I hooked up with my great mate, Milton Miltiadous. With Milton, was none other than Spiro Kourkamelous, and his lovely wife, Angie. Spiro played football with Milton at Carlton Under 19s and went on to play AFL with both Carlton & Saint Kilda. We had a great evening chatting and laughing at Spiro’s accounts of the funnier moments of his AFL career. Later, we went back to Milton’s and he spoiled us with some magnificent scotch, 12, 18, and 30 years aged! Whoopee! Talk about a grand evening… wish you were with us Phi.

Love Dad… XoXo…

WICKED QUOTE

“The journey not the arrival matters.” – T. S. Eliot

 

Monday, July 13th 2015

Morning Phi. I’ve just caught the 6:09am train from Shinkemigawa Station for Akitsu. Yes, I’m on my way to say “Hello!” I hope it’s the right thing to do… Right now, I feel so hollow and disturbed inside. I’m clinging to hope that you’ll give me a smile, but my stomach is twisted and empty by what your Mother has likely be saying about me. When I’m still, part of me feels defeated, more susceptible to giving into your Mother. Sitting here alone, she seems to hold all the cards; the cards that eschew the truth. But when I run, a stronger me connects with you. I hope you’re at the station this morning. I hope you’ll look me in the eye and know.

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Furano – Kita no Kuni Country

When C & Dad left Japan for Egypt, it wasn’t because your Mother had won her battles. Her victories are shallow in the sense she must eternally tread a thin ice of lies and deceit. How she moves forward, I don’t know. In many ways I pity the hole she has dug for herself. When you discover the truth, your mother will need your support. She’ll need your forgiveness. Go easy on her Phi. Though her judgment is vicious, and her sense of entitlement princely, she loves you. Go with care Phi… XoXo… hope to see you soon…

Dad.

DO YOU REMEMBER…

Do you remember the big grey bicycle with the basket and child carry seat? We used to go everywhere on that bicycle. To & from kinder, to the supermarket, visiting friends… I miss those days & the songs we sang as we cycled…

 

Wednesday, July 15th 2015

Hey Buddy, how’s things with you? I didn’t tell you what happened on Monday morning… I couldn’t. I arrived at Akitsu from Nishi-Funabashi at just before 7:35am. It was excruciating watching the exit of the station knowing that each and every second, you may spring through the ticket wicket on your way to school. I didn’t know how you were going to react… would you smile? Would you be afraid? Would you run into my arms? Would you run from me? The wait was agonizing. After 30 minutes, I knew my chances of seeing you were slimming. Most of your fellow students had passed through the ticket wicket by 8:15am, and by 8:20 it was less than a trickle. At 8:28, a late student burst through running for your school. But you never came. Where are you in my life Phi?

Letter posted July 16th...

Letter posted July 16th…

Perhaps you’re sick, perhaps you’ve changed schools, or perhaps you went to school extra early Monday morning. In any case, I was deflated, breathing irregularly, and needed to sit down. I moved away from the busy exit, and sat down on the curbside. I needed to regain some composure. I stared blankly at nothing. I could not gather my thoughts. I felt old and alone. I miss you Phi… really miss you.

Love Dad.

FAST FACT

I love you… XoXo…

 

Friday, July 17th 2015

Greetings Phi. Another missive from an airport. We’re on our way to Hong Kong. It’s good to get out of Japan at the moment, not just because I missed seeing you at Akitsu Station… it’s been a tumultuous last week in Nippon! I wonder what our future holds in HK. I wonder what will become of you and I this next year.

A few gifts Bella...

A few gifts Bella…

So, back to the miserable last few days in Japan. To complicate matters, Monday turned into a hell of a day. It wasn’t all bad, C took me to the doctors for a second check on the ear infection; all good, Dad can hear again! But then the battery on the car decided it was a good day to die, and later, we had a depressing meeting with the real estate agent and a lawyer about our house. Evidently our tenants have turned our beloved home into a zoo. When we visited Trav & Meg last week, we also dropped into our old neighborhood, and K San, one of our neighbors informed us of a number of dogs and cats. We in turn informed the real estate agent, and he visited our tenants to learn they are keeping 6+ dogs and TWENTY+ cats inside!!! Can you believe it??? The stench must have by now permeated the walls, and the cats & dogs running around must have scratched our brand new floors & walls… Bummer hey!

BUT, life goes on. We must have faith that this next step in our lives will be a forward move toward positivity, choice, and hope.

Fancy a tim-tam Phi? Might be what all three of us need right now! Love & licks, Dad… XoXo…

FUNNY HA-HA

“People come back from flights and tell you a story like it’s a horror story. They act like their flight was like a cattle car in the 1940s in Germany. That’s how bad they make it sound. They’re like, ‘It was the worst day of my life. We didn’t board for 20 minutes and they made us sit there on the runway for 40 minutes.’ Oh really? What happened next? Did you fly in the air, incredibly, like a bird? Did you partake in the miracle of human flight you non-contributing zero?” – Louis C.K. (comedian)

 

Wednesday, July 22nd 2015

Phi, arrived! Hong Kong is ace!! We can’t believe that we’ve never been to this fascinating part of the world. It has so much to offer, so many intriguing contrasts, such vibrancy, noise, sights, and smells.

We arrived in Hong Kong Friday, July 17th. We were met at the airport by Sammy, one of the school’s drivers. He took us to our hotel, the North Plaza Harbour Hotel. Very kindly the school is paying for a two-week stay in this hotel while we search for a home to live. At 7pm that first evening, we met Sylvia from HKIS. She gave us our settling in allowance (in cash!) and a few relevant bits of info, maps, etc. Later that night we had a bit of a walk around the neighborhood. Hot & humid outside, more so than Tokyo. We settled on a local Chinese restaurant. The food was good and quite reasonable price-wise.

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Sapporo – somebody is happy with the remote in hand!

Apart from flat-hunting, we’ve been eating out non-stop. Not such a good thing for the belly, but after being starved of decent restaurants in Cairo, we’re kind of living it up a little… yeah, okay, quite a lot. We are trying, however, to cut back somewhat at overindulging when it comes to the grand buffet breakfast! You would love it Phi. I can just see your eyes bulging at the array of choices! I have, however, been using the gym early in the morning. It’s so humid here, more so than Saitama Phi, so I haven’t been courageous enough to jog outside (yet), but within the air-conditioned comfort of the gym, I’ve been running 5 – 10km and doing my push-ups & sit-ups. Just maintaining, not really grinding out a solid core.

So, our first full day in HK (Saturday), we charged downstairs for a BIG buffet breakfast. We both ate far too much. I started with an omelet with lashings of crispy bacon on the side and some hash browns. Then I had a big bowl of fresh fruit, papaya, watermelon, mango, a few dried prunes, and a tub of blueberry yoghurt splashed over the top. At 10am, Connie, a real estate agent from the south side of the island met us in the lobby. She very kindly took us to Stanley to look at two flats. Both had sea views, and both had rooftop balconies! Amazing! We’re very keen, but they’re also a bit of a stretch price-wise. Rents are ridiculous here, more than double what they are in Tokyo! Maybe even triple!!! It looks like we’ll be paying $1000+ per week for a flat with around 50 – 60 square metres!

Stanley is out by the school and surprisingly beautiful. There are beaches, mountains, bays, trails, and double-decker buses to view it all! We jumped on a bus and headed back to the hotel to meet another agent at 2pm. Shame you couldn’t join us; we had the best view up top, up front in the double-decker bus… it was like a roller-coaster! At times overhanging branches crashed into the bus! The agent showed us six different flats, but they were rather small. The agent wasn’t a particularly good listener, so that had a negative effect too. So, we had seen eight places, but nothing that really grabbed our attention. A little later we set up our Octopus (Pasmo) cards, so now we’re ready to travel the public transport system everywhere!

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Sunday, and we still hadn’t seen Toro. The poor puppy is in quarantine and will be for four months! Fortunately, he arrived July 3rd, so he’s already done two weeks of his detention sentence. We met Sylvia again, and together with some other teacher families, we got ourselves set up with mobile phones. Dad has a bright orange smart phone and C chose black. What colour would you like Possum?

Monday we went to immigration to apply for our HK ID cards and Sylvia also helped us open a bank account; time consuming but friendly staff.

Another real estate agent calls… gotta view some more flats… wish us luck Phi! Yes, we’ll make sure there is a second bedroom… for when you come and visit! Love Dad… XoXo…

YOU ARE ALWAYS WITH ME

“But at times I wondered if I had not come a long way only to find that what I really sought was something I had left behind.” – Jon Krakauer, Into Thin Air

 

Tuesday, July 28th 2015

G’day Gorgeous,

Since I last wrote we’ve been pretty much constantly searching for flats. We figure we’ve seen about 40 flats, and we’ve met with 10 real estate agents. We’ve seen places C likes but Dad wasn’t so sure about, and we’ve seen places that I’ve liked, but C wasn’t convinced. And today, Tuesday, July 28th we viewed a flat we both really like. We think you’ll like it too. It has two bedrooms with built-in closets, a bath (for C), gas stove top, an entrance with a built-in shoe cupboard, a double bed with neat storage containers beneath, and it has views of Kowloon and the harbour… spectacular by night we imagine!

The view awaiting you...

The view awaiting you…

We think you’ll love it. We’re just awaiting your arrival!

Love always, Dad… XoXo…

COOL QUOTE

“The greatest justification for travel is not self-improvement but rather performing a vanishing act, disappearing without a trace.” – Paul Theroux, Dark Star Safari

 

Tuesday August 4th 2015

G’day Phi,

On Sunday, August 2nd we officially moved into our flat in Causeway Bay. See you soon! Thursday the landlord gave us the key, so since then we have moved a few of our purchases in… just waiting for you to come and stay… sleep-over soon, yeah!

We’re loving the area of Causeway Bay. It’s almost like Shibuya! It’s so busy, vibrant and colourful, day & night. It’s bustling with shoppers & tourists, there are restaurants galore, and the subway station is a two minute walk. Our flat is also conveniently located to Dad’s bus stop to school. Every morning I’ll take the mini-bus #40 to Repulse Bay; apparently it’s only about a 15 minute journey… we’ll see.

And, we’ve finally seen Toro. In fact, we’ve been pretty much every day since Tuesday July 21st. He’s a happy camper each time we visit. He is adorable Phi, you’re going to luv him. His cage isn’t too bad. It’s clean and the area the dogs are housed is air-conditioned, so they don’t suffer too much from the heat & humidity of HK’s summer.

With all the home-hunting and visits to see Toro, we really haven’t seen much of HK. But what we have seen really impresses. Even the ferry trip across to the Kowloon side is a wonderful experience, and the bus trips to the south side of the island are spectacular. The jungle comes right down to the beaches. Yes, HK has beaches! The water quality isn’t too good, but I imagine that’s got something to do with the fact it pretty much rained for the first 8 days we were here. The MS & HS campus is actually situated at a place called Tai Tam, and from the classrooms you have views of resort-like bays & coves… it’s incredible!

Yesterday (Monday, August 3rd) orientation started for us new teachers at HKIS (newbies). Today we had a holiday, so this morning we picked up our HK ID cards and spoiled ourselves by visiting a lovely yum cha restaurant for lunch.

I wonder what your favorite yum cha will be… Love you Bella… Dad… XoXo…

DO YOU REMEMBER

Do you remember the bento lunches Dad would prepare for you at kindergarten? You said that they were the best… thanx Kiddo! You’re the best!

Tuesday, August 18th 2015

Hey Phi, sorry my letters aren’t as frequent as they should be. It’s been a busy time settling into our new home. C is doing an amazing job organizing things in preparation for the arrival of our belongings from Cairo. Where it will all fit, nobody knows. But we have a couch now, and a TV too!

This morning school started at 7:50am, but many kids were in the classroom by 7:30am. It’s a massive school with 2600+ students, and at the Upper Primary campus of G3 – 5, 650+ students! I have 22 students, and after day 01 they seem a lovely bunch.

Last Tuesday, August 10th, returning faculty joined us newbies, and so I’ve been busy, Busy, BUSY ever since. New curriculum, new routines, new colleagues. I’m loving HKIS and more importantly, we both are really enjoying all HK has to offer. It’s wonderful to see C so happy Phi, just ace!

Yesterday I met my students (for the first time) and their parents (August 17th). They just came in for 15 minutes, staggered throughout the morning, from 8am – 12pm. They seem a lovely bunch of Chinese, Hong Kong-ese, Americans, Canadians, Swedish, Brits, Japanese, and even an Aussie lad named Robert. Wish you were here…

Dad… XoXo…

WICKED WISDOM

“You can’t deny what you’ve learned; you can’t deny your travels; you can’t deny the nature of your life.” – V. S. Naipaul, The Paris Review, Fall 1998

Monday, August 24th 2015

Howdy Cowdy! How’s tricks in Nippon? Running, jumping, studying, playing hard?

Dad has been running in nearby Victoria Park. It’s probably HK’s most famous park and it’s only five minutes away. On Sunday morning it’s a hot spot for group exercise. I usually arrive between 7 – 7.30am and they’re dancing, twirling batons, singing, swinging swords in huge groups, some of them with at least 50 members. Within the park is a jogging track that measures 600m+. It’s pretty cool and the pedestrian joggers & walkers make your old man feel not so slow!

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You & your cuz, Allie

We’ve joined a nearby Aeon supermarket that is handy for Japanese items & sushi. There’s also several 100 yen ($12) shops that we frequent often. Everything you might need, right?

From school Dad has been running trails with Jay, Stan and Brian. Life is good, and my new colleagues a good bunch. Things are working out swimmingly for your Dad Phi… Even though I’m crazy busy at school, at least three times a week I go for a run. I can run trails with Stan, or sometimes I just run down to nearby South Bay. I run along the road, but as it’s a dead end there is little traffic. The bays are beautiful, so picturesque in fact that I sometimes can’t quite believe it.

Last week David So visited us. David was a colleague when Dad was working at Saint Maur in Yokohama. At some point in his past he was working at the Chinese International School here in HK. He stayed for two nights, Wednesday August 19th to Friday 21st. David took us to Mid Levels and a place called Soho… maybe it’s the same place??? I met C & David after school Thursday night. They were already smiling, with an adult beverage in hand. Later we went to a cool restaurant. David & Dad had a delicious steak each, and C ordered the risotto. Fun times Phi!

Hong Kong is a foodies’ capital! We’re loving the variety, finding little eateries here & there, and it doesn’t have to be too expensive. We’ve eaten at Sushi Express twice now. It’s just a sushi bar with two pieces for only $8HKD, about 120 yen… it’s pretty good, but would be better if we had you and your cousin Allie sitting beside us.

Love you Phi… looking forward to showing you our Hong Kong… soon… XoXo…

WICKED QUOTE

“And that is all anyone can do, try to be honest about what he feels, what he’s seen or thinks he’s seen.” – Paul Theroux, Sunrise With Seamonsters
Saturday, August 29th 2015

G’day Phi,

I’m sitting at our very cool circular glass dining table on one of our four very retro orange chairs looking out over Kowloon Bay. It’s 9:30am, and the UBS Hong Kong sign is flashing 29 degrees Celsius. Before me are cranes busy at work building a second tunnel beneath the bay. The scene is chaotic, but oh so interesting. I often find myself just standing and staring… not staring, but watching as my gaze flits from here to there, taking in the boats, the parks, the double-decker buses, the building projects, on and on. Usually the toothpaste dribbling from my chin indicates that I’ve been watching for 10 minutes+ and it’s time to spit the toothpaste out!

Thursday night was Back to School Night for the parents. All 22 of my students were represented, with 26 parents in total. I had to speak for 60 minutes which was rather daunting to think about, but again, it went smoothly and I needn’t have worried & stressed too much about it. Afterward, Stan, Hyun, Carrie, Sarah & I went down to the beach at Repulse Bay and celebrated with an adult beverage. It’s just beautiful, clean white sand beneath our feet… and to think I’m in bustling Hong Kong… unimaginable.

Today we’re off to see Toro, and we’ll meet Toby & Jin, a Hong Kong-ese couple who have a dog in custody too. They’re actually waiting to get their dog into Australia, Melbourne! We plan to have lunch with them, and then race back here as the plumber is arriving at 1:30pm because the plug in the bathroom basin is jammed, and the shower hose is leaking and needs replacing.

Yesterday I had a run with my teaching partner Stan. We ran along the aqueduct to Stanley and he asked me about you. He’s a good listener; I think we’re going to be great mates. So, I told him all about my darling Ophelia.

Last night we went to a Korean restaurant recommended by Crystal at school. It was very flash, on the 13th floor of the World Trade Centre, but it wasn’t too pricey. Good food for around 750HKD, perhaps a little ver ichi-man ni-sen yen.

Wednesday, I also went for a run after school. It’s just so beautiful at the southern end of the island. It feels very remote, and despite several high-rise flashy apartment buildings, it’s absolutely gorgeous.

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Melbourne Zoo

One day soon Phi we’ll have to go for a swim together… Missing you and can’t wait for a splash!

WICKED QUOTE

“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read on the train.” – Oscar Wilde
Monday, September 7th 2015

Hey Phi, it’s Uncle Richie’s birthday today. We’re both missing it. 46. Last night he had pizza with Nandee & Pa, Uncle Sean and all your Aussie cousins… Luca, Allie, Billie & Christopher. It was also Father’s Day in Australia. Nandee & Uncle Rich wrote to wish me a happy day… I miss you kiddo. I’m sorry I can’t be the Dad I wanted to be…

Yesterday I had a run at Victoria Park and left my sweat on a few walkers who kept walking three abreast. The 600m jogging trail is quite narrow, and despite signs in Cantonese, Mandarin & English stating “Joggers Only” more than half of the users are walkers. The walking I don’t mind, it’s just those that walk in pairs & threes blocking oblivious to those they block from passing.

After my exercise, we visited Toro in jail, then we headed to a nearby shrine to pay our respects and offer a tribute to the gods in the form of incense. I prayed for happiness! Yours, mine, ours.

Last night I made some cauliflower soup and some toasted sardine & garlic toast. Saturday I worked all morning preparing things for my classroom, and then in the afternoon we had a lovely dinner at my principal’s home in Tai Tam. Her flat is beautiful, overlooking a gorgeous bay and mountain range. Friday night after my run with Stan, we had ramen for dinner. Most peculiar as you kind of sit in a solitary cubicle to slurp your ramen; not sure I’m a fan… it wasn’t cheap either.

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Thursday, September 3rd was a public holiday… PERFECT! I didn’t get to visit Toro as I had too much planning & preparation to do for my classroom. In the afternoon… oh, it’s terrible Phi… you know, I can’t remember what I did Thursday afternoon. Isn’t that bad?! You know what else is a worry? Recently Dad’s perfect eyesight has started to falter. Until last year, everything has been fine, but last month I even bought a pair of glasses from the 100 Yen shop! I don’t use them often, but they have come in handy a few times for writing and reading when the text (usually instructions) is too small. SAFE… I remember! We headed to Neko Street Thursday afternoon; there was curiously only one cat. It’s in Mid-Levels in a trendy area known as Soho. Super cool & interesting, perhaps a little like Jiyugaoka or that station next to Shibuya on the Toyoko Line… what’s it called??? Daikanyama, right?

Last Sunday, August 30th, after we had visited Toro and had lunch with Jin & Toby, we jumped on the ferry for Northpoint and visited Sophie & Maurice. It was about 7 years ago you met Mauve & Dara in Melbourne. They’re 13 and 15 years old now. I can’t believe you’re almost as old as Mauve… she’s so tall! And so are you!

Well Phi, that’s about it for now. Much love… Dad… XoXo…

DID YOU KNOW

There are just 15 months separating your Dad & your Uncle Rich.

Tuesday, September 15th 2015

Good evening Phi. Though I haven’t written for a week I have been thinking a lot of you. I have also been thinking some of your Mother. Running helps me digest the past… come for a run with me… how is your mother? I hope she’s okay.

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What did you do to your Dad???

I don’t understand her reasoning, but I see what she hopes for. She loves you, and it’s safer for her if you assimilate and become only Japanese. She doesn’t seek bilingualism for you because it might threaten the hold she has over you. But by being bilingual and bicultural, it will open your eyes and empower you. It will also bring you peace. Phi, multilingualism is a gift to be cherished. It helps us understand ourselves & the world. Both your parents should be encouraging your multicultural identity. Questions make us stronger.

 

Co-parenting could bring you so many inner smiles & peace. Unfortunately, the only form of consistency from the Family Court was its conspicuous ignorance of anything pertaining to co-parenting. Despite our rights [sic] to see each other, each time it seemed our rights were swiftly extinguished.

But amidst all of this, it was you, is you, who must hurt the most. Everyday, you must face situations that are loaded with dilemmas that are beyond your control and experience. Conflicting desires to please those close to you, no matter their motive. Perhaps, you just go to your bedroom and play with your things. Alone. Close the door to the world of conflict behind you.

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I paid retainer fees to lawyers, bonuses despite their failures, and still nothing really changed. Back and forth to the Family Court, round and round we went, the lawyers danced and played their game. Three lawyers, four, if you count the second firm representing me (they sat as a panel of two).

How have I sustained myself during this ordeal? Well, having met C helps, but I also have family. Your FAMILY Ophelia. I have hope, and I have you. And I know you’re better than all this. You’re pure and gentle, and that my Angel, brings me energy & hope. Your spirit lives within in me, and helps guide me, maintains my focus.

What say you Phi? Time for truth? Time for a reunion? Time to travel through your identity?

Love Dad… XoXo…

 

WICKED WISDOM

“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” – Maya Angelou

 

Saturday, October 3rd 2015

Hey Bella,

Well, what an October Break. Dad is at the end of a one-week Autumn break. Last Sunday we took to the hiking trails and took on the Dragon’s Back with Jin & Tobie. After our hike we found ourselves in a village by the sea called Sheko. Dad took a swim and as it was still before midday, Tobie shouted us breakfast. Good coffee.

Monday, we woke early and took the #40 mini bus out to Repulse Bay, near where Dad works. We had a delightful swim before 7am, then wandered around, visiting a temple before finding our way back to Causeway Bay for breakfast. There was something very special about sitting on the sand after our swim at that hour. We had the whole day ahead of us, and already we’d accomplished so much. Saturday, Sunday, and Monday Dad ran… feeling good Bella.

Wednesday, we took the tram to the Western Market for a little sweet tofu pudding. Then we wandered around the Central Pier for a bit before deciding to take the cable tram to Victoria Peak. Classic views… we’ll take you there one day.

Thursday, we woke early and took a bus to Lantau Island. Fortunately we beat the crowds and were one of the first to board the gondola. At the top were a giant Buddha, a Wisdom Path to meander along, and a pretty impressive temple. At the foot of the gondola, we discovered some outlets, had lunch, and purchased a Bose stereo system. Woo-hoo! Now we can dance Phi!

Friday we woke early and ventured to Victoria Park. Me for a run, C for a walk. Later we visited Mutley in detention and shouted Tobie & Jin lunch at our favorite café in Kowloon. On the way back we did a spot of shopping in Aeon, then Dad cooked some chili con carne for dinner.

And today, October 3rd was the AFL Grand Final. The mighty Hawks were too strong for the Eagles. Go Blues in 2016! Go Phi!

Love Dad… XoXo…

WICKED WISDOM

“A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless.” – John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley

2015 April – June

Friday, April 3rd 2015

G’day Phi… Here we go again… I’ve been writing to you, my dear daughter, since March 2009… that’s over six years now. I miss you Bella, and am always thinking of you… always.

I’m sitting at an airport again. We’re at Cairo Airport on our way to Aswan for a Nile cruise to Luxor. Yep, your Dad’s teaching has taken him to Egypt!

It’s odd, I often seem to be sitting at an airport thinking of you, writing to you, missing you, wondering how you’re fairing, how you’re feeling. You and your Yoda smile, your Yoda vision, your Yoda heart… such grace and wisdom for one so young and pure. You’re a poem, a sonnet, a flamenco dance… so capable of bringing me speechless Goosebumps, and of taking my breath away. You’re a gift that kindles my spirit. You keep me determined, you steady my focus, you bring me hope. You’re like a secret that might make me burst.

I love you Ophelia… Your Dad… XoXo…

CIMG2466WORDS OF WISDOM… from a Wally…

Take your relationships slow. Don’t follow your Dad’s lead of throwing caution to the wind and gambling on what you might at first think of as love. Yes, one has to gamble on love, but give it the time & thought it deserves. With R, there was a certain temptation to move in with one another and create all that delicious drama; especially when you said to her, I wish you were my mum. She was a truly remarkable woman. But it was a tragedy really. It wasn’t just R & I who ended up hurt, you, and her girls suffered your own losses too. And for that, I am truly sorry, I allowed my heart to lead my head.

I urge you to go slow, to follow your head and not your heart. Easily said, but not so easy to adhere to, especially when your heart is fit to explode with happiness… Maybe I’ll learn to slow down and breathe by the time we have our next conversation… Life is full of unexploded landmines… Listen to those who love you, for sometimes, they know where the landmines are.

With R, everything was peachy & perfect at first… I guess in retrospect, it’s often the case when you launch into a new relationship open & trusting, hopeful & giddy. Your heart is open, your mind presumes good intentions, and your soul is bouyant.

You and her gals were instant friends; an overnight sensation we all wanted more of. And then, in the space of a few short weeks, you were gone, taken from me on that nightmarish evening at Shibuya Station. I still can’t believe what your Mother did that evening…

After you were abducted, that black haze that at times threatens us all, tried its luck on me. Fortunately, or unfortunately, I had been around depression with your Mother. She had suffered from this illness for years, but I was determined to avoid falling down this crevice. My wicked mate, Hadyn Xavier Hewitt (HXH) was looking out for me, as was my family. Hadyn challenged me to beat my predicament, not just mentally, but physically too. And so I did.

I drank a little too much Scotch of an evening, but of course I was in denial because I balanced my drinking with cruel running/workouts. Hadyn had challenged me to overcome and not give in, so I stuck rigidly to my exercise routine. I joked with myself and Pat Cossey that the Scotch was medicinal, that it helped sooth my heartache; but of course, it was just an excuse.

In the evening, a glass of single malt on ice did dull my senses, numb my pain, but there was no forgetting you. In the meantime, your Dad was pumping out 3000-4000 push-ups per month, all the while gritting my teeth and thinking of you. Hayd had embarrassed me on the chin-up bar back in Melbourne, so I started throwing in 300-400 chin-ups during the same time period (monthly). And, I was running 4-5 times a week, hard… anything to avoid having to feel my feelings… anything to numb my thoughts. I worked out with the x-country and track & field teams at Saint Maur, and buried myself in my wonderful job… but I never forgot you… it was just easier to be apart from you if I was busy.

I had to step outside of myself and force myself to breathe deeply. At times, I was so exasperated that I could feel fury coursing through my veins. I let my blood charge and ran hard, and did extra push-ups & chin-ups. One night, I banged out 400 push-ups. And I hugged my sweaty self alone.

There were moments I thought my heart was going to break from all the mixed-up feelings, to puncture itself, and I would slowly leave this world. Nights were torture, alone without you, but by day, I could stand again.

With what was happening at the Family Court, trying to sleep was the worst. I missed you so much. I heard myself breathing as I stared into the nothingness of night. Sometimes we just can’t quiet the mind Phi, sometimes. I tried to shut myself down, and most likely I shut out (not completely) my family and close friends, like our Pat Cossey.

I was living in mud… everything seemed so heavy, so thick, so impenetrable. There was nothing transparent about the Japanese Family Court, or your Mother’s next move. I tried to keep things to myself, not voicing 90% of what was happening, and yet in a strange twist, it was the thought of my family and friends that brought me through each night. Just the thought of them was a steadying factor. They weren’t even there, but our family is the BEST, sister-in-laws included. Nandee & Pa on a scale of supportiveness, blow the scale out of the water, and Uncle Rich, well he’s Dad’s best friend… he just knows, he’s totally intuitive. And Uncle Sean, he’s the hippest, most with-it dude one could ever have in one’s corner, articulate, generous in spirit, and wise. And then there’s family like Uncle Hadyn Hewitt, Ralph Dankwort, & Milton Miltiados. They’ve always been there for us, always. They’re solid, forever, and platinum. They’ll be there when you walk into my arms again. We’re lucky Phi, our family is perfectly always with us… it didn’t matter that they were 10,000km away, I felt their presence, their love, their encouragement, their support, their fight.

At dawn, I was still petrified of losing you, hollow, and unwilling to get too close to anyone. But then I met C, and bit-by-bit, my life started to turn around. Spring always blooms, always, despite the depths we must conquer. I want you to believe that Phi. The hurdles harden us, scar us, confuse us, but they also teach us, remind us, and keep life in perspective. We can all learn, if we’re willing and open and honest with ourselves… everyone can.

I hoped beyond hope that I could continue to be a Dad to you… to watch you sleep and marvel at your shallow breathing… I had to occasionally stroke your hot flushed cheek as you slept as a toddler, very gently, because at times, I wasn’t sure you were breathing… you slept like a plant breathes! Young, strong, alive, reaching for warmth & light. Often your cheeks would grow rosy red, and little strands of your hair would stick to your forehead with sweat in summer. Beautiful, so beautiful, so full, and bursting with promise.

Hope continues. Hope is what sustains us… it thrives in a positive mind… believe that Phi, and you’ll be fine. I want you to grow up to have faith in who you are, to be strong and sure of your identity, to be a gentle and considerate person; somebody people turn to, because you will not give up on the ideals of peace and justice and mercy for everyone. I hope you will be a forgiving person, and even after you discover the truth, you will forgive her too. Everyone needs a second chance, everyone.

As I sit here, it seems the worst is over. I have to hope, I have C. Though you are far-far away, C is now my life… I just hope she realizes. I don’t mean to pressure her, it’s just that sometimes I feel as if she doesn’t comprehend the depth of my love.

I love you kiddo… XoXo… Dad. Flick us a mail at moriceg@hotmail.com or gedmorice@gmail.com

 

SAD BUT TRUE…

When you got your first round of vaccinations you didn’t cry… but alone Dad got a bit teary later on. Stoic, that’s you.

 

Sunday, April 5th 2015

Hey Bella, it’s Uncle Sean’s (Sean Morice) birthday today! Happy b’day bro’! I think my little brother is turning 42! Can you believe it?! He’s still the same uncle to you though… fun & loving, gentle & considerate, compassionate & creative… he’s one of a kind, your Uncle Sean!

You won’t believe where I’m sitting now… C & Dad are on the Nile… yes, on the Mighty Nile. We’re on a Nile Cruise looking out our bay window at what’s passing by. Up close, the scenery by the river is very green; sugar cane, mango & avocado trees, bananas, rice paddies, palm trees, donkeys, kids swimming, men washing their motorbikes, mud-brick houses, straw huts, people fishing, boys in canoes ferrying bricks, straw/hay in canoe type boats, people in white plastic chairs sipping hot tea, vegetables, there’s even vendors in little boats trying to flog things to us tourists on the boat… the view and sites are a million times better than the TV!!! Such infotainment, and despite being keen on a nap, the real-life documentary is too interesting to pass-up. Besides, it’s almost beer-o-clock. What special drink would you like Bella?

This morning at 6:30am we took a horse drawn cart to Edfu Temple. A Greek Roman style temple built between 200BC & 180AD. Spectacular in size and detail. It towered over 50 meters in height and had a myriad of rooms, aisles and stories to match.

Last night the cruise stopped for an hour at the Komombo Temple & Crocodile Museum. Before the High Dam in Aswan was built (1971) to create Lake Nasser and Egypt’s hydro-electric system, there were crocodiles this side of the dam… don’t know what happened to them all, but at 4 meters in length, they’d be pretty hard to miss. The same morning, we were woken at 3am, and by 3:30am we were on our way to Abu Simbel. No wonder I need a nap!

But, back to our cabin aboard the mighty Nile. It’s just so relaxing, so comfortable, so memorable sitting here, lying here on our bed watching the world go by. Fascinating personified, and although I could sorely do with a nap, there’s too much to miss if I close my eyes and visit La-la Land. Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Jesus Christ, and even Napoleon, they’ve all been here. Can you imagine it? It’s real, so real, so tangible.

On day 01 (Friday) we were picked up at Aswan Airport and taken to the High Dam that was jointly built by the Egyptians and the Russians in 1971. The first dam, perhaps 2km down stream from the newer dam, was built by the British. After the High Dam, our guide took us to the Temple of Philae, an ancient Egyptian Temple that was mostly submerged after 1906 (when the first dam submerged it) but was painstakingly moved after 1971 (when the second dam was completed) piece by piece to its present site. 44,000 pieces, and quite a dramatic location. Kudos to UNESCO and the many countries who helped. This magnificent temple was built on this island for the Goddess Isis. We took a boat across to the island to wander the ruins of Philae and enjoy a bit of lunch. Then we boarded our boat, and settled in for dinner aboard our Nile cruise…

Gotta go, missing the sites. Wish you were here with us.

Love Dad… XoXo…

WICKED QUOTE

“Travel is glamorous only in retrospect.” – Paul Theroux… I’m not always sure about that one.

Wednesday, April 8th 2015

G’day, g’day, g’day my little Aussie battler. Back from our splendid Nile Cruise and time for a recap… now let me see… where to begin… Mmm…

Dad’s been busy coaching track & field, mainly track, but enjoying showing the kids a bit of high jump and long jump; don’t mind the hurdles too. It’s fun working out with the kids. They range in age from G6 to G12, so 12 to 18 years of age. I push them pretty hard, though a good many of them could work harder. All the same, they keep me on my toes, and I work hard trying to lead by example. Wish you were with me, running beside your Dad… I bet you can move too.

Getting Toro into Hong Kong is proving difficult. C started the process in February, but it seems it’s a never-ending list of to-do items to check off. He’ll have to sit and wait in quarantine for minimum four months, but that’s not the end of it. Coming from Egypt he has to have all sorts of vaccinations and certificates prepared before they’ll even consider taking him into quarantine. Blood samples have been forwarded to the UK for testing, numerous vaccinations, check-ups, and a special dog carrier kennel purchased. Still, Toro Chan is a cutey, a dog you’re sure to love. Like most dogs, he’s very loyal, good for a cuddle, and has that innate sense of knowing your moods and adjusting his actions accordingly. He’s great company, especially for C. CIMG2885Toro has been a genuine companion for her, good for a kind lick and an affectionate snuggle.

Hopefully he’ll be in your arms one day too… love Dad & C… XoXo…

WICKED QUOTE

“To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.” – Aldous Huxley

Thursday, April 16th 2015

Ophelia Hirakawa-Morice (Ophelia Ishijima), how are you? By now, you’ve started Middle School… it’s so hard to believe… I remember your entrance ceremony in Primary School, and now you’re really going places… Kid, you’ll move mountains!

We’re moving on too. Hong Kong beckons, so we’re packing up our belongings once again. We’ll lump together many of our items to sell to a newbie (new teacher); washing machine, fans, microwave, curtains, and other assorted goodies.

I’ve enjoyed my time here at Cairo American College. Wayne is a great superintendent, the best I’ve worked for, and Julie (ES Principal) has really looked after us. Great staff, mostly good kids, and the campus is pretty much an oasis as far as Cairo in concerned. Unfortunately, C has had several incidents on the streets, so it’s time we moved on. We’re off to HKIS, so happy days.

Last Friday, April 10th we took a felucca with Jan & Beth, and their guest, whose son’s book I purchased: What If… It’s not a bad read, posing insane but topical questions, which he answers with a good amount of scientific credibility. I guess it will prove one of our final felucca rides on the Nile in Cairo. You’d love it Phi. It’s a very relaxing way to watch the sunset, sail flapping happily above, and the chaos of Cairo receding in the background. Your favorite drink in hand, and some tasty nibbles complete the equation.

And Thursday April 9th I had some fun with the kids. We’re kick starting our unit on geometry, so we created a wicked dome that we’ve named our Readohedron. It has 26 vertices, 45 edges, and 46 faces!!! I wonder if we can work out the surface area, and work out how many equilateral and isosceles triangles we have? The kids love it, and are rightly very proud, because while I gave them some instructions, they largely built it by themselves. It’s a great dome to sneak into and curl up and read a book! I hope you’re provided the same opportunities to explore Math at your Japanese schools…

CIMG2462All the best kiddo… XoXo. Ged & C.

READY FOR A LAUGH KIDDO…

When you first began eating solid food, you plunged in with mighty pride and vigor. After boiled and mashed potatoes and carrots, you seemed to graduate to real solids pretty quickly. I handed you a lamb chop and some pasta in tomato sauce, and OMG, Phi, did you enjoy it! Such enthusiasm. It was five star ***** dining for you Mademoiselle! You had spaghetti and tomato sauce all over your face, in your hair, in my hair, and your bib was working over time. And, the solid food made changes to your poo too! Sometimes the reaction wasn’t so good, but usually solid equaled solid, and you would poop little perfect solid balls. Sometimes as I was changing your nappy, one of those hard solid spheres would neatly roll off your nappy and find its way to the floor. It was so comical chasing your kaka-kaka; sort of sporting, and it would never fail to bring me an inner smile… even now, 12 years on, the memory is fond and somewhat exhilarating.

 

Tuesday, April 21st 2015

How ‘r’ you doing Phi? The weather is starting to warm-up here in Cairo. Every day it’s pretty much 30+ degrees Celsius. How’s the weather in Nippon? I guess it’s just starting to become milder, and time for the cherry blossoms…

Tonight Jan & Beth came for dinner, and C made one of your favorites, pork gyoza! In Japan, it goes without saying that the meat would be pork, but here in Egypt, a predominantly Muslim country, pork is scarce & expensive, and somewhat taboo (pork is only sold at one or two stores, and it’s never on display). The gyozas were exceptional, with Jan and Beth salivating as they gorged themselves with these tasty Japanese delicacies so far from home.

On Saturday, April 19th we had another track & field practice out at AUC (American University Cairo). Dad had a good work-out, mainly training with the distance and 400 meter runners. After practice, I invited the coaches for coffee (Hatem, Susan & Thomas) to discuss a few important issues, and to determine our traveling team. Have I told you about Coach Hatem? He’s none other than an Egyptian Olympian, in fact he was at the Sydney Olympics; and guess who was in the stands watching? Your Dad! He was a phenomenal athlete with a PB in the long jump of 8 meters 31cm. That’s world class.

On another note, I think I’d like to purchase two large alabaster candle/light holders. I prefer the rectangular prism type, but C likes the cylinder type. Of an evening, the cut of the alabaster, and the line of the rock looks sensational as the light pierces it. I hope one night, we’re all seated on the deck at our place in Tokyo with the alabaster candles burning our bond bright.

We look forward to sharing our Egyptian odds & ends with you some day Phi… there’ll be no shortage of stories Bella!

Love Dad… XoXo… XoXo… Missing you Possum!

WICKED QUOTE

“What you’ve done becomes the judge of what you’re going to do – especially in other people’s minds. When you’re traveling, you are what you are right there and then. People don’t have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road.” – William Least Heat Moon

Saturday, April 25th 2015

Hey Phi, how’s life in Nippon? How do you sleep? What’s the last thing you think of as your eyes close each night, and what’s the first thing you think of as you rise each morning? I know whom I think of…

It’s hard to understand what has happened to us, but it’s even more complicated trying to anticipate what your Mother will do next. This summer when we return to Japan for a couple of weeks with C’s family, I would like nothing better than to see you… but how? If I write to your Mother, she’ll conveniently ignore my pleas. If I call, she won’t answer, and if I do decide to visit you, who knows what she is capable of. It’s incomprehensible that she wishes to severe our ties completely… what to do Phi?

Anyway Phi Morice, you’ll never guess what Dad did this morning. It was ANZAC day, and I attended my first dawn service. Sarah, Rick and their kids (a Sydney family), Mel (a teacher from Melbourne) and I were in Old Cairo, in a military cemetery at sunrise (5:15am) for the dawn service. Incredible that so many Australian & New Zealand service men and women were buried here in Cairo during/after both WW1 & WW2. I had no idea. Many fought Rommel’s army in North Africa, many others trained at the foot of the pyramids before being shipped to Gallipoli.

CIMG2536Yeah, I actually attended my first dawn service. I was very tight-lipped about my feelings and thoughts, skeptical of the common Aussie notion that it (it = mainly our troops landing in Gallipoli, Turkey) helped carved Australia’s identity, especially as I perceive(d) it’s a very white-Australian-male thing to do. As it happened, as it played out, it was in fact to be a real eye-opener. For one, the ceremony was organised by the NZ embassy whose ambassador greeted us personally (can you imagine? His wife, Jacqui, even knew me by name – they have two kids at CAC), then invited us back to their home for breakfast! Breakfast at the New Zealand ambassador’s residence in Cairo! Cool, hey? You would have loved it. They had an in-ground swimming pool, and even though it was still before 7am, I’m sure a quick swim with breakfast would have suited you and your Dad.

Barney, he introduced himself as (that’s the ambassador), was a man of some standing and principal. His first and last words of his speech were in Maori. Impressive. I like that. We don’t take the words of our own indigenous people enough in Australia.
I was also touched by the fact that the master of ceremony was an Asian-NZ chap. And, the third person to speak was the Turkish ambassador, who quoted Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the Turkish leader of such renown:
“Heroes who shed their blood and lost their lives! You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours. You, the mothers, who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.”
Standing there in the dawn, surrounded by so many nationalities, it was a humbling and emotional moment. Such beautiful words, don’t you think Phi?
The first to lay the wreaths was the head of the UN peace-keeping force in Sinai (Egypt), none other than a female NZ army major.
Again the Kiwis got it right, because as a Fijian played the “Last Post” on his bugle, five members of the peace-keeping force, two of them women, saluted.

The ceremony forced me to reassess my thinking. I still passionately disagree with anything that glorifies war, but there was something very peaceful, something very symbolic about nations that once stood opposite each other in trenches, shooting to kill, standing together at dawn to remember their dead, and the tragic paths their leaders took them down. I will stand at another dawn service, because it’s important we learn from history, so our mistakes will not be repeated.

And all of these thoughts just penned wouldn’t have been possible without a little sustenance. This evening I made chili con carne with a dollop of sour cream, Mmm! Not bad kiddo, with some extra cheese just as you like it!

Yesterday (Friday), wasn’t so eventful; I spent a good part of my day getting on top of reports for my students… all 21 of them! That represents tens of hours of evaluation and drafting comments.

Thursday night we went to Zentro with Azarea (our Australian – Croatian buddy). We had a couple of drinks at Azarea’s first, then after our meal (courtesy of Eddy – my student), a night cap back here at Road 207, Building 14, apartment #3.

Love & licks, Dad… XoXo…

WICKED QUOTE

“Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.” – Seneca

Tuesday, April 28th 2015

How’s my Australian – Japanese Angel? Enjoying the challenges of Middle School? New friends, new teacher, new curriculum, but same campus, right? Your Mother doesn’t reply to anything we send… emails, letters, postcards, gifts, packages to you… all go unanswered. I guess, one day, we’ll know if you’re receiving them… one day… But that day can’t come soon enough.

On a brighter note, today was the artistic HOUSE EVENT. It’s all organized by Sara Harman, the most amazing sports teacher I’ve ever had the opportunity to work alongside. We also coached cross-country together. The kids all had chalk and a colourful pattern to follow; it looked like the Yellow Brick Road, only it was very much a multicolored mosaic. It was warming watching Egyptian kids colour alongside American kids, French next to Kiwis, Palestinian next to Canadian, Chinese beside Japanese, Koreans helping Nigerians, Syrians lending chalk to Indians… wish you were still with me Phi…

After school, in place of our regular Tuesday meeting agenda, we had in-house PD (professional development) run by the teachers. I had the pleasure of working on a Weebly site with Brandon. It looks great, and might just prove as a tool for reconnecting with you… I’ll need a little practice first!

Yesterday (Monday), I had two meetings regarding track & field. Unfortunately, with only 14 students traveling, only two coaches will accompany our CAC athletes to Brussels, Belgium. It’s a bummer, because we started with a list of 54. Actually, probably only about 45 turned up for the first few training sessions, and from that point on, the less than serious just stopped coming out for a run, and a few were encouraged to give it away because of poor attitude.

Wish you were part of our team. I know you would give 100%. I just know I would be proud of you… love Dad… XoXo… I bet I can make you a serious 1500m athlete! We still have time… XoXo…

WICKED QOUTE

“Wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed between man and the universe.” – Anatole France

Sunday, May 10th, 2015

Howdy Cowdy! How’s trix in the Land of the Rising Sun? Here in Cairo, things are pretty good, apart from the bureaucratic frustrations of shipping Toro (our Alexandrian canine), and the quarantine rules & regulations of Hong Kong.

Last Sunday, May 3rd Uncle Hadyn Xavier Hewitt, Ted, and Ged (Hadyn’s brother) departed for the great Southern Land. We’ve had a great stint of visitors (the fourth set in as many months), and each group has brought excitement, laughs, and plenty of duty-free alcohol! It was especially grand to see Hayd et al. Ted (Hadyn’s dad), at 84 looked a tad frail and expectedly tired, but he’d lost none of his wit and sparkle. We were a little bit worried about his 84 years of three-veg & meat diet, but at our very first meal, he told C, “This is the best meal I’ve had since leaving Australia.” Ged & Hayd enjoyed a second serving of curry rice, and quite quickly C charmed the Hewitt lads.

On the Friday, Dad dragged ’em out to the Great Pyramids (Giza). We had a great time, and they hung curiously close to Big Red, as one tout after another masqueraded as some sort of would-be official trying to squeeze money out of them. Even on our way to the pyramids, our car was waved down by a couple of would-be rip-off seekers, but we managed to convince the driver to drive-on.

Recognise your Dad?

Recognise your Dad?

The day after the pyramids (Saturday, May 2nd), Hayd came with me bright and early to help coach the track & field team. Every Saturday, we take the squad out to AUC (the American University). It’s an amazing facility, though shade-less, and damn hot. I enjoyed putting the team through their paces as Hayd observed. It was great to have Hayd along, and one of my favorite parents was there too, and quickly he & Hayd struck up a conversation.

Happy Mother’s Day to all Mums today…
Luv & licks, Ged & C… XoXo.

FAST FACT

Dad still holds and cherishes the black school shoes you once wore at kindergarten… XoXo…

 

Monday, May 18th 2015

G’day Phi. Two weeks and your Dad will be 47 years OLD! Can you believe it? A birthday month of sorts, with a few drinks at Mel’s last Thursday night. We sat on her balcony, and had a few wines, a bit of cheese, and even some hard to find chorizo here in Egypt. Friday night we had a farewell dinner for Jan, and Saturday night, Azarea came over for dinner. So quite a bit of celebrating, but Dad still managed a good workout Saturday morning. Once again we took the track & field squad out to AUC for a track meet against CISE, another international school here in Cairo.

Fancy running for CAC Bella? I think I can make you into a good 800m and 1500m runner. What do you say, up for the challenge?

Coach Morice… XoXo…

 

Saturday, May 30th 2015

Well Phi, Dad is on his way back from Brussels with 14 students. We’ve been in Belgium for the ISST Track & Field Championships on May 28th – 29th. There were schools from Paris, London, Frankfurt, Zurich, Vienna, The Hague, etc., 12 big international schools (mainly American) in all. Here’s an excerpt from the MS & HS newsletter that I’m writing at the moment:

CAC Track & Field ISST Report

A small but committed team traveled to Belgium May 26th – 30th for the Brussels’ ISST. The mild Brussels’ temperatures were a pleasant surprise after toughing it out in temperatures hovering around 40 degrees Celsius in the lead up to the event. After starting out with a list of 50+ potential athletes, 14 jumpers, throwers, and runners qualified to represent CAC.

Our major highlight was the JV boys SILVER MEDAL in the 4x100m relay. Our star athlete, Yeong (3 medals, GOLD, SILVER & BRONZE) ran a solid first leg, before handing off to Rumi, who dominated his leg, and in doing so, proved the big improver on the team. Rumi handed to Kyumin who ran a strong bend. Daniel ran the anchor leg and held onto second in a sensational time of 47.84 seconds; a phenomenal effort by a young relay squad considering none of our sprinters made the final of the individual100m dash.

Other highlights included:

  • Yeong won GOLD in the JV Boys long jump with a jump of 5 meters 60cm
  • Yeong also took BRONZE in the JV Boys 100m hurdles in a time of 15.76
  • Daniel jumped into SILVER in the JV Boys high jump with an equal first jump of 158cm
  • Isiaih came FOURTH in the Varsity Boys high jump with a jump of 165cm
  • Isiaih jumped 5 meters 70cm to take the BRONZE in the Varsity Boys long jump
  • Alexander came SEVENTH in the Varsity Boys shot with a powerful throw of 10.56 meters
  • Daniel ran17.57 to come FIFTH in the final of the JV Boys100m hurdles
  • Odeh ran EIGHTH in the final of the 3000m in a time of 10 minutes 43 seconds

Special thanks to our ex-Sydney Olympian, Coach Hatem. His expertise and encouragement gave our athletes the confidence and belief they needed to compete against much bigger schools.

The strong culture and spirit that the squad has built in 2015, will prove the key to success next season. There are a core group of determined and promising athletes who we can build upon, and with 2016 being an Olympic year, we anticipate a strong and dedicated team.

If you have a positive attitude, and are committed to bettering yourself both physically and mentally, you might be just what we’re looking for in 2016.

Coach Morice.

WICKED QOUTE

“Too often travel, instead of broadening the mind, merely lengthens the conversation.” – Elizabeth Drew

Wednesday, June 10th 2015

Hey Phi… it’s time to say our “goodbyes” to CAC. C came up to school today… God bless her… to help hand out presents and say our farewell thank you. She had wrapped presents for Todd, Juana & LeeAnn (my teaching partners), Julie (ES Principal), and Wayne (Superintendent). It was a nice way to go out, and I much appreciated C’s time & effort in preparing all she did for me.

CIMG2886Believe it or not, with all the packing and sorting of things at school and at home, I managed to find some time to complete an online course before starting at HKIS (Hong Kong International School). It’s titled: “Darkness to Light – End Child Sexual Abuse.”

Yesterday (Tuesday), I had my final day with my G5 kids; actually it was only a half day, but a lovely day at that. Received a pair of running shoes from my class, and some great cards from parents and students alike. Squeezed in a 30 min run, 75 push-ups, 60 sit-ups, and 25 chin-ups. Returned home from school at a very respectable hour, 5pm and then went with Cc and collected three pairs of shoes that Cc had had resoled for me down on Road 7, that’s across the railway line, and considerably cheaper than the Maadi expat area we live in. The shoes actually look pretty good, and at 40LE each, that’s only around 600 yen a pop.

Monday, I joined Sarah at the Coaches dinner. It was another warm way of saying farewell. Dad received a plaque for coaching T&F and X-Country. Didn’t last too long, despite a Mexican buffet, because Rick (Sarah’s husband) had invited me back for a bourbon.

And, Saturday we went to the Chinese just opposite with Sarah & Rick, and their kids Matt & Emily, and Beth. Shame you couldn’t join us, as I know you and Emily would prove great mates.

Tomorrow the moving company (AGS – a French company) will arrive at 9:30am. Wish us luck! I think we’ll need it…

With loads and loads of love… your Dad… XoXo…

FAST FACT

I miss you more than vegemite!

 

Wednesday, June 3rd 2015

Well Bella, Dad is well on his way to the BIG 5 – Zero! On Sunday I turned 47 years OLD! Besides an ever worsening rounding of the shoulders, I don’t feel too bad. I have to keep reminding myself to stand up straight, and to look out for my posture, because I tend to slouch, especially when I’m seated.

Beth Rappe, our wonderful American friend came for dinner tonight. We’re both going to miss her easygoing ways and her calming influence. She and Jan were our first neighbors when we moved to Cairo, and fortunately after we were all moved from that particular apartment building, their new dwelling was just around the corner from our new flat. Beth and Jan are moving to Chennai, India. Actually, it’s the same American IS Dad did some collaborative Math with for 12 months last year, AND, we’re planning on visiting them both for Christmas 2015! Xmas in India!

And, so Sunday, May 31st, was Dad’s b’day… Well, when I opened the front door (actually, we only have one door) Cc, Azarea, Beth, Juana & Matthew, Rick & Sarah were all there to say SURPRISE! Yes, even without you, it was a special evening.

Love you Bella! Dad… XoXo…

FAST FACT

Dad has three photos in his wallet of you… XoXo…

 

Friday, June 5th 2015

G’day Phi. C just showed me a youtube clip of you dancing in Japan. We think it was taken in the autumn of 2014. I’m not sure how I feel, but I know I’m proud to be your Dad. You were dressed as a cat, and looked so athletic, so tall, so beautiful. Tears streamed down my face, as I watched again and again. By now, I imagine the same clip is being screened in Australia by all those who have loved you. I miss you Phi, so much.

Love Dad… XoXo…

 

Wednesday, June 17th 2015

Hola Ophelia Hirakawa-Morice!

Good morning Phi! It’s 6:40am and we’ve just departed from Seville Station for Granada. We have a 3 hour journey ahead of us, so a little time to catch you up on where we are, and what we’ve been doing. We arrived in Spain yesterday, after a long transfer in Amsterdam. Our hotel has a lovely historical, quaint charm about it. The concierge, Sergio, is ever so helpful, and the food!!! Last night, though exhausted after our 3:30am departure from Cairo, we wandered aimlessly through the cobbled stoned streets of downtown Seville. First impressions: FANTASTICO! It’s a foodies capital, and very, very affordable. To be continued…

So, La Alhambra… WOW, what a palace! It was built 800 years ago in Granada, and from roughly 711 – 1400 it was the resting place of the Sultan, yeah, an Islamic place. The gardens are beautiful, and despite the dry and hot climate, water is plentiful, streaming down from peaks, still snowcapped in June at about 3500 meters altitude. It’s where Queen Isabella of Portugal is buried, and so too King Ferdinand of Spain.

The forests nearby must have hosted good game, because the Sultans, and later the Kings hunted with their falcons. King Ferdinand arrived during the crusades with an army of 50,000 men to capture the city from the Muslims. There was a standoff for years, until finally in 1492, the Christians took Alhambra. In the 16 century, the mosque was destroyed, and fortunately they weren’t stupid enough to also destroy the gardens and series of aqueducts that provided the fresh water. Charles V built the palace, and the magnificent wood comes all the way from Lebanon, and is some 7 centuries old.

It’s also the place where Columbus came seeking his money for his exploits in the new world… Gold, Glory, and God.

Can you believe it? Queen Isabella, Columbus, King Ferdinand, Ged & C, have all spent some time roaming Alhambra’s tranquil gardens.

Now, what to eat this evening??? What do you fancy Phi? Love Dad… XoXo…

WICKED QUOTE

“Not all those who wander are lost.” – J. R. R. Tolkien

Friday, June 19th 2015

G’day Phi. Dad & C are sitting on a bus heading back to Seville, Spain. I hope as you’re reading our travels, you have the atlas out beside you. Don’t you just love maps?!

This morning we took a bus to Cordoba. It’s a magic place beside the Rio Guadal River. The highlight was a visit to the cathedral, first established around the sixth century. Some years later there was an Islamic invasion of Cordoba, and the church made way for a mosque. King Ferdinand III re-conquered Cordoba in 1236, and even today, there are wonderful reminders of both faiths.

For lunch, we enjoyed some tapas, a glass of sangria, and then a glass of chardonnay with the local pate. We then wandered aimlessly through the old town, the Jewish quarter and surrounds, until the heat, and the clock got the better of us. It’s almost as hot here as Cairo!

Yesterday we woke at a respectable time (7am), and Dad took a 45 minute jog along the river here in Seville with the locals… threw in a few push-ups and chin-ups for good measure too!

We then took to the streets of Seville after a hearty breakfast at a local café. The proprietor was a friendly chap, so we returned this morning for our fresh orange juice, coffee, and toasted ham sandwich; 8 euro for two! We visited the cathedral, then meandered through the cobblestoned streets searching for a tapas bar for lunch. With so many to choose from, one just continues to search until finally our hunger got the better of us, and anything would do.

Bugger the bulls, tonight, it’ll be more tapas, and perhaps Dad will be dancing the flamenco in his new shoes! Spain might be a foodies paradise, but it also boasts superfluous shoe stores, with funky affordable leather shoes… YEAH!

Fancy some tapas? Don Juan Ged & Queen Cc… XoXo… to be continued… I’ll write tonight Phi… missing you, and wishing you could join us here in Spain…

Just to add a little sassy salt to your tapas Phi, we’ve just returned from a restaurant C researched; pretty much le boss in terms of value for lira (actually, it’s all euro these days) anywhere on this planet, or Mars.

25 euros bought me a beer, a glass of blanc, vin rouge, and for madame Cc, the prerequisite two glasses of sangria. AND le feast extravaganza included pork ribs, anchovies fried in olive oil, tiny hamburg with egg (almost Japanese style), the second item on the menu (some describe-less fish egg thingy – exquisite), and three or four other tapas that our drinks have deprived me the name/description of. Alas, rest assured, we’re heading back tomorrow! 25 euro, fantastico, considering I’m earning US$… viola! Come on Phi, jump on that big bird in the sky and join us… we’ll pick you up at Seville airport!

Love Dad… XoXo… XoXo, XOXO… XoXo… XoXo, XOXO… XoXo… XoXo, XOXO…

WICKED QUOTE

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” – Lao Tzu

 

Wednesday, June 24th 2015

Hey Bella. Sitting beside the birthday lass on an Air France flight from Paris to Cairo. Yes, back to Cairo, for the last time. It was C’s 44th b’day yesterday, and we celebrated with a fine meal at Epicure, the restaurant that C once worked at in Paris, the City of Lights.

I often think of traveling with you, like we once use to do. I see kids with their tiny backpacks, and I think of you and your petite pink backpack, wandering proudly beside your Dad. I dream that you’re beside me, with your own purse, perusing the duty free, wondering if you’ll buy a little something, or pass, and keep your euro for next time. I imagine giving you our change, change that you carefully deposit in your purse, and then with a smile, tip our waiters, and the buskers that bring you a smile.

Monday, we arrived in Paris from Bordeaux. We checked into our very, very cheap hotel… terrible, and then headed off to meet JB for an Italian lunch of pasta & pizza, and of course, a glass or two of wine. For dinner we met more of C’s friends who are residents of Paris, K & JP.

Tuesday, a little sightseeing and shopping, a cool Italian sports jacket and sweater for Dad, and a bag for the b’day lass. Awesome crepes for lunch… I just know you’d love French crepes! Had my third run and workout for this trip late yesterday afternoon, but it’s a bit of a battle keeping the calories at bay with all the tantalizing treats on offer.

So, it’s back to Cairo, and time to punish the body for all its culinary sins. Will need to wake early to beat the heat… will let you know how the intended routine goes.

Love Dad… XoXo…

WICKED QUOTE

“A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.” – Tim Cahill

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Morning Phi. Worked out at school this morning to serve it up to the gluttonous past 10 days we’ve had living it up in Spain & France. Did my regular three laps (30 minutes jogging), 30 chin-ups, 75 sit-ups, 75 push-ups, 75 dips, and a few squats for good measure. Not bad for an old chap, hey!? I think I’ve still got you… fancy a race?

And, just penned the following to the two squads I coached this year:

 

CROSS COUNTRY – GOLD or SILVER? Who wants it? What’s it to be? It won’t just happen…

 

Mantra: I can do anything for 30 seconds!

 

-each of you need to run over the summer. Calvin, Odeh (you can run top 3) & Amin, I expect you to run under 20min next season, and Ben, I want you to aim for a PB of 20:30 & a top 10 finish. Hana & Zeina, your “can-do” attitude during Track & Field proved to me, we can build a strong JV team around you both. I know you can both run top 10 at ISST if you train like you did at T&F

 

-to run your best 5000m you need interval training, hills (hit the stairs & ramp again & again and AGAIN), km in your legs, and a strong core

 

-before we can do interval training, we need an aerobic base to build upon

 

-when running your intervals at 100%, run like you stole something from Coach Morice, or better still, Mr. Rutherford! To run faster, you have to spend time running fast! With practice and effort, you’ll be able to run faster for longer periods while maintaining the same perceived effort

 

SESSIONS

-6 x 200m intervals with the 3rd and 6th intervals at full speed (longer intervals for fitter runners)… intervals are character building!

 

-fartlek training (like intervals, but you jog the recovery). Fartlek intervals are all about the effort. Try 5 fartlek pick-ups for 3min each at race-pace, then back off for 3min, and repeat

 

-gradual pick-ups: run 8 x 400m (race pace, with pick-up 4 and 8 fastest)

 

-float workouts are awesome late in the season (fartlek training with less recovery). By keeping the recovery quick, but below threshold, you maintain high lactate levels throughout the run without having to stop… I can do anything for 30 seconds! Try 200m at 90%, then 200 meters 10 to 15 seconds slower, repeat up to 6 times… only the fit will survive… run in packs!

 

-intervals:              1 x 800m at 90%

2 x 400m at 80%; jog 200m between

4 x 200m at 95%; jog 200m between each

2 x 400m at 80%; jog 200m between

 

-squeeze in a beep test

 

-relays: pair up runners so that you’ll get the desired blanket finish; ie., fastest with slowest. Runner 01 runs one lap, passes to runner 02 who runs one lap, passes to runner 01 who runs two laps, passes to 02 who runs two, passes to 01 who runs 03, passes to 02 who runs three. Try four & five laps later in the season

 

-when you go to the wadi, do at least 6 intervals up the hills. Push extra hard and remember this year’s mantra: I can do anything for 30 seconds! Talking won’t be an option.

 

-final push/surge: 6 x 10 second sprints is a great way to complete a session. We can do all out sprinting even when we’re tired, just as you would at the end of a race (without beating up our body)

 

-run barefoot on the grass; shorten your stride, feel the surface with the soles of your feet, run careful & alert; running barefoot will strengthen the muscles in your feet

 

TIPS

-in addition to The Degla Dash, try hard for two time trials at AUC, preferably against other schools (CISE are keen – contact: Stephanie)

 

-if you can get the track at the Olympic Centre or AUC, it’s a great experience for the kids to try running two even splits, i.e., each 2500m split should be within seconds of the other

 

-after the first reliable time trial, stagger start each runner according to their times over 5km. The slowest runner sets off first. If the second slowest runner was 32 seconds quicker than the slowest runner, they set off 32sec later, and if the quickest runner was 7min 14sec faster than the slowest, they wait 7:14 before they start. It’s a very exciting workout, and ensures a blanket finish where every athlete gives 100%

 

-when the team trains, it’s best to run in packs, shoulder to shoulder. This builds team mentality, and it also makes us accountable to one another. We know, as soon as we drop off the pack, it’s that much harder to keep up. During a race, it also helps prevent us from breaking the cardinal sin: going out too fast in a race. Run with your race group for a PB!

 

-limit km increases to 10% per week; once a month drop it back by 20% This avoids too much, too soon, too little rest

 

-when we train 5x per week, it’s important you have at least one relatively easy day so that your body can recover from the tough sessions. When your coaches say back off to 80%, that’s exactly what they mean; it gives your body time to recuperate and the recovery allows you to give 100% next session

 

Gonna miss you guys. Make me proud, stay fit!

 

Coach Morice.

 

WICKED QUOTE

“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.” – James Michener

2015 January – March

Saturday, January 3rd 2015

HAPPY NEW YEAR BELLA!

How’s things in your part of the world? Are you still the loyal and caring daughter you always were? What a stupid question, sorry. Let me ramble, because I think it’s important that you know that you were the best thing that ever happened to me. You had the eyes of the family dog who looks at its owner as if she/he can do no wrong. You were selfless, and emotionally mature beyond your years. You were quick to forgive our shortcomings as parents, but I know it rocks your heart even today, to sense the tension left by your mother and me. Forgive us, forgive me Phi…

 

So many times I have just stood and stared out at the night, stared into the leaves, lost my focus and wondered about you, wondering what if… wondering if only I had… wondering if I/we had taken a different path, perhaps a less noble & honest one…

 

Wouldn’t it be easier to pretend that this never happened? We could meet at our designated pick-up/drop-off area, and we could run into each other’s arms. No, not run, SPRINT! Can you run faster than a horse now? Dad’s not even as fast as an old hobbled horse… in fact after training with the Track/X-country Teams I’m sure if I were a horse I would be branded “lame”, and put down… but I’m ready to catch you when you leap into my arms.

 

I imagine you growing, growing without me, growing without us, your Australian/Morice identity. I think of your birth and picture your soft pink skin, your full head of beautiful shiny black hair and your chubby wrists. Despite being chubby your wrists had much the same circumference as Dad’s pinkies back to back. And now you read, but not with me, you write, but not to me, you dance, but not beside me, you sing, but not the same chorus as Dad, you skip, but with a different rope.

 

I am old, but so is Paris, and so is Rome, and parts of Paris & Rome feel refurbished and youthful. And though they may appear in places to be cracked and battered, and even crumbling, their spirit endures. Their loves blazes. So does Dad’s love for you… it blazes omnipresent.

 

Tonight for some reason, my mind can almost fit itself around the fact that it is not too late for us to be reunited. It’s never too late. And though at times it feels like I may collapse, that I am weak and crumbling like Roman ruins, your star burns forever bright in my sky.

 

Sometimes when I’m home in Melbourne, when I’m asleep in this room, my bedroom as a child, my bedroom as a teenager, and my bedroom before I left Australia at the age of 22, I think I will wake and all will return to me. Wake from a long, complicated and tedious dream. Wake from the frustration, from the pain, from the wondering. Wake to the joy that is you. Wake to your smile that warms us all. Wake to your spunk, your laughter, your sensitivity. But when I wake, nothing has changed. Everything around me is as it was, just slightly more unfamiliar. The disappointment scratches at my soul, scars my heart, and heavies my bones. It prods my heart with sharp jolts, and I know I’m awake. It was not a dream. This is my world. This is our world. But together, some day, we will do what is right and just… we will embrace and shed our tears because our love is true and good.

 

But it doesn’t stop me wishing. I wish I had taken you more times up Mount Kanuki to collect flowers and create more necklaces. I wish we had driven up to that park beyond Gyoshu High School, where we both believed we’d seen Totoro… just one more glimpse of Totoro together. Instead of going to the park with Riku every afternoon to throw the Frisbee, I wish we had gone twice a day. I wish we’d walked along the beach at Numazu more, collecting flotsam and throwing a stick for Riku.

 

Instead of reading just three books every night before bed, I wish we had read six. I wish you were asleep in my arms, your head resting perfectly against my shoulder, the smell of your freshly shampooed hair bringing me an inner smile. Your little heart beating against mine. I wish you were asleep in the next room, just like you used to when we visited Nandee and Pa… whenever you were close, Dad too slept more deeply. I wish you could somehow gauge the love I feel for you, because somehow because we’re apart my love for you has multiplied itself exponentially!! It’s unquantifiable and definitely inexhaustible… Can I ever run out of love for you… never, it’s perfectly impossible.

 

So, Dad is in Melbourne with Nandee & Pa. I’ve been Skyping with C, and it seems freezing in Tokyo right now… I hope you’re warm as toast and cradling a hot chocolate with extra marshmallows! It’s cooler here in Melbourne now, but it hit a gruesome 43 degrees Celsius today!

 

I miss you Phi, more and more as every year passes. More as every star passes. More as every sun sets. Sometimes I can block out the heartache. Sometimes I can try and ignore the precious moments in each other’s lives that we’re unable to share. Occasionally I forget what it was like being able to hear you breathe… Magical. To watch you sleep, so content, so beautiful, so pure, so loved… Magical.

 

I see a child laugh as you did. I glimpse a child smile as you did. I smell something that triggers a memory of you, and my defenses collapse. You’re everywhere in my world Phi, and yet you’re not beside me. I smell the buttery crispness of sausage rolls, and picture you and Pa giggling with your sausage rolls… a little tomato sauce lingers on your lips. I drive past the playground in Bayswater where I took you to play, and the only image I take with me is a lonely swing gently swaying in the breeze. I see a random kid in a café with a babycinno, and my mind drifts to the warm milk moustache you used to love showing after your first sip. Do you drink coffee? I hope not, and I hope you’re still too young for a coffee when we do meet again.

 

But it is also in the deeds of children who are nothing like you that I think of you. It’s in the child who throws a tantrum, that I think of your goodness; it’s in the child who is overtired and whimpering, that I feel your resilience; and it’s in the child who greedily snatches more than their share, that I recall your sense of fairness and generosity.

 

CIMG2107

Your cousins & uncles

Pretty much everyday now, I see your cousins. Luca & Billie, Allie & Christopher. They’ve all become beautiful kids, cousins that love, and cousins that would love to love you. Family is family. It’s so beautiful to see them at play together. There’s a bond, a connection, that makes them one, and yet somehow, there’s something missing… quite obviously, it’s you.

 

CIMG2113

Xmas with your cousins in years to come

I feel it most through Allie. She’s become very close to me, very personable, respectful and generous. She’s family, enough said. Allie loves you. She feels the injustice of not being able to see you, her cousin. I feel her warmth, her care, and her desire to do what she can to bring you back into our family, your family. Some years ago she even wrote to the Family Court in Japan to tell them how unfair she thought it was that your mother wouldn’t let you see your cousins. She misses you Phi, so do I, so too Nandee & your Pa. We all miss you Phi… that’s why it’s so hard to be home, because everyone clings to the hope that there may be some news… so they ask, because they care… but there’s no new news of you.

 

Anyway Phi, the Search Associates Melbourne Job Fair started today. There’s only a select group of schools we’re interested in: United Nations Hanoi IS, Phnom Penh IS, Yangon IS & St. Josephs IS Singapore. It would seem however, that our choices will be less than this small group of four. St. Josephs aren’t advertising any elementary positions, and Hanoi only has PE, while it looks like Yangon are only employing teaching couples at this stage; the head in Yangon says it’s financially too much to employ single teachers, or those with a trailing spouse because it’s costing them some $60,000 per year in rental per apartment… sounds hard to believe, but apparently true. Anyway, we’ll see what tomorrow brings when the schools open up for interviews.

 

The last time I wrote to you, Allie sat beside me, and added bits and pieces from time to time… since then, it’s just been nice being around your grandparents every morning. I’ve been running four or five times. I go early, probably a legacy of jetlag, in fact the first morning was still dark when I dusted off my old jogging shoes. Slow but sure. There’s something invigorating about running at dawn while the world sleeps on… while you dream, I conjure images of you… they help me run the hills harder!

 

When I get back, sweaty and huffing, but feeling great, because most of my run I think of you, the newspaper has been delivered. So as I’m opening up The Age (Dad’s favorite newspaper) for a good read, Nandee & Pa come to life… so too does Lucy, Sean & Lauren’s dog who is staying over while they go camping in Northern NSW. Lucy sleeps in Pa & Nandee’s room and potters out for a sticky beak as I prepare the coffee. Pa gets up first and begins to make fresh juice of apple, carrot, celery, orange, and other bits and pieces. I know you would like making the juice with Pa. He selects his fruits, then usually heads to the backyard to cut some mint and perhaps some celery from the vegetable garden. I can just see the two of you washing the dirt off. Then your dear Nandee gets up and has her juice. Wouldn’t it be great to sip juice with Nandee… you could squeeze in beside her and she’d tell you all the news.

 

We chat, but not as much as I suspect Nandee desires. With Pa I feel there is a comfortable silence. I don’t need to talk with Pa. I love him and respect his quiet stoic ways. I talk with Nandee of C, and what the day holds, but only in basic terms. I know I don’t talk as much as I used to. People don’t seem to realize half on me is missing. Nobody does. I have to be guarded because I don’t want their pity… but I know I’m brittle and hard, and not entirely with it emotionally. I can’t talk about you… not with anyone really, not until you return. Perhaps then I’ll find what’s missing in my soul.

 

Self-pity and tears are near, so I’ll instead try and remember what I’ve been up to…

 

On December 30th we met at Uncle Rich’s for a pool party. All your cousins were there… it was warming yet in many ways hard to watch their playful kinship. In the afternoon, Billie & Luca jumped in Nandee’s red Hyundai and I had a sleep over at Sean’s. We had a kick of the footy in the same park that Uncle Sean was bitten by the tiger snake! Crazy times, because it’s not the area you would expect a snake to be, especially a tiger snake. The grass was short, and there weren’t any bushes for the snake to find cover in.

 

Billie played footy too, so would have you… For dinner we all had fish ‘n’ chips and before we knew it, it was 10pm and time for some sleep.

 

On the 31st Dad went for a run with Sean, and Billie came part of the way on her bicycle. Even tiger snakes can’t slow Uncle Sean down. He ran effortlessly, just gliding along. I tried to slow him down a bit by throwing in some x-training, some push-ups and chin-ups… didn’t work too well, he’s plenty fit.

 

On my way back to Nandee & Pa’s that afternoon, I dropped into Bridge Road… it used to be a shopper’s haven, but it’s showing wear and tear; even so, I bought a cool pair of maroon shoes for $100 off, only ending up paying $40. Your Dad might be 46 years old, but he still enjoys looking dapper now and then.

Your cousins mixing it up on the trampoline...

Your cousins mixing it up on the trampoline…

 

On the final evening of the year, Pat & Pete (my HS mate’s parents – Tim Lawson) came for dinner. It was so wonderful to see them, and to see how they lifted Nandee’s spirits. It was just like old times and I would have gladly just stayed and chatted all evening. Then around 9pm, it was over to Ralph’s for a little New Year cheer… but I was home in time to Skype C at 11:30pm.

 

I can’t remember what I did on NY’s day… isn’t that terrible! Actually, I think Uncle Jeff, Tony & Margot, and Maur came over for a BBQ. Of course your cousins were here too, and they put on a show on the trampoline… there was just one part of their show missing… you.

Your cousins Allie & Christopher...

Your cousins Allie & Christopher…

 

And yesterday, January 2nd it was back to Uncle Rich’s for a swim with your cousins… it was a hot 37 degrees Celsius. In the evening I had dinner with Mick Tarulli, my old high school running mate in Box Hill, Vietnamese.

 

And tonight, Vietnamese again for Marty’s birthday, that’s Ralph’s brother. It was nice to see Marty and his family, as it seems each time I’m home he’s on holidays somewhere.

Chris & Allie with some of your Xmas gifts...

Chris & Allie with some of your Xmas gifts…

 

Good night Bella… I miss you, and wish you were here jumping in Uncle Rich’s pool with your cousins.

 

Dad… XoXo…

 

BTW, you can email me any time you like at: moriceg@hotmail.com or gedmorice@gmail.com

 

WICKED QUOTES

  • Treat your friends as you do your pictures, and place them in their best light (Jennie Jerome Churchill)

DO YOU REMEMBER…

  • You used to love being the toban (class leader for a day) at Katoh Kindergarten. It was so great to chat with you about your responsibilities at breakfast, and then again at the end of your day as leader. So proud of you Bella!

 

Monday, January 12th 2015

 

Good evening Phi,

 

By now you would have received (I hope) a little package of Christmas Cheer from Dad. While in Australia I bought you a silver necklace with a silver horseshoe. I hope you like it. I hope it brings you strength of mind. I hope it comforts your soul, and I hope it revives warm memories. I love you. I popped it in a postal bag and posted it along with a cool drink bottle from Aunty Rach & Uncle Rich to you.

Did you like it Phi...

Did you like it Phi…

 

Right now I’m sitting in Bangkok International Airport, awaiting my flight back to Dubai – Cairo. It’s been a successful trip, with your Dad signing with Hong Kong International School. Our plan is to be in Hong Kong for the next five years, and return to Japan for the 2020 Olympics. You’re 12 now, so in 5 years you’ll be 17… I wonder if you contact me while we’re in HK… here’s my email address just in case you’re reading along: moriceg@hotmail.com

 

What do you think about Hong Kong? It’s very cosmopolitan, and apparently very mountainous and beautiful. I think I’m going to like the environment. Evidently there are great trails I can run along, some good mountains to keep me young and fit, and of course a bustling Asian city of myriad delights.

 

So, let’s cast our minds back and try and remember what your Dad’s been doing. On January 4th I had dinner with Julie & Wayne, my principal and head at CAC. Crazy prices in Melbourne, so much more expensive than Tokyo, as I had a $9.50 beer!

 

On January 5th I picked up my new passport in downtown Melbourne. The last time I renewed a passport, it was yours… I guess that’s expiring this year too… I hope together we can have an Australian passport reissued soon. And on this day, I dropped into a shopping centre and bought your necklace. As soon as I saw it, I knew it had to be. It was the fourth shop I had entered, and each time I told the assistant what I wanted. I wanted silver, I wanted it to be simple and not too flashy, I wanted it to look pure and perfect, like you. That evening we had a family bbq minus Sean et al, who were holidaying north.

 

On my last morning in Melbourne, the 6th, I posted your necklace to Japan up at Ringwood East post office. My bags were packed. I tried to chat with my mum, your amazing Nandee. She’s been so strong for me, in so many ways. She was even out in the garden for a little bit, as if to prove to me she was okay. I hope she’s okay. When I’m so far away from her, as I always am, a small part of me can’t help but wonder, will I see her again. She’s fragile, yet energetic. She’s alone, yet surrounded by Pa’s brilliant love. She’s vulnerable, yet bold.

 

By just after midday I was at the airport with Pa for my flight to Bangkok at 2:40pm. There were no tears, but we both knew how hard it was to say “goodbye” again. That evening I landed about 8pm and took a train to the end of the line, then an 80 baht taxi to Win Long Place Hotel.

 

Oh, by the way, Phnom Penh IS offered me a position when I was back in Melbourne. Very kindly they gave me almost a week to think it over.

 

On January 7th your Dad had his first of three interviews with HKIS.

 

On the 8th a second, and third interview, and then finally an offer from HKIS. Just minutes before the HKIS offer, I had great interview with ISZL (Switzerland). Chinami arrived around 9:30pm that evening and we ummed and arred about Hong Kong or Switzerland.

 

On the morning of January 9th Dad accepted the offer with HKIS. Happy days, and then alongside C we began shopping and sightseeing. My first port of call was celebratory, time for your Dad to go to a tailor for a suit & 4 shirts! Wait till you see them, pretty flash Phi! That evening we had dinner at Harmonique, a lovely outdoor restaurant that I visited less than 12 months ago with teachers who I had attended the NESA Reading Conference with.

On the 10th I had another fitting for the shirts and suit, and then dinner again at Harmonique with Julie & Brian.

 

And yesterday, the 11th C left for Japan.

 

My flight is creeping up, the 8:40pm flight to Dubai… time to stretch these aching legs and my numb bum. See you in 2015 I hope!

 

Love always,

 

Your Dad.

 

WICKED QUOTES

  • Grief can take care of itself, but to get the true value of joy, you must have somebody to divide it with (Mark Twain)

DO YOU REMEMBER…

  • You were in Plum Class in K3 at Katoh Kindergarten… you turned 6 that October

 

Saturday, January 31st 2015

 

Hey Bella, the news from Japan says that snow fell over Tokyo & Yokohama last night. I imagine my wonderful daughter waking to silence but sensing something glistening white fell to the Earth through the night. Did you tip-toe across to peek from your curtains? Did you pull just a slither of the curtain to see if the ground was blanketed in pure snow, or did you tear the curtains wide open anticipation that fresh, pure, white greeting?

 

My morning wasn’t so exciting, although I guess I could argue it was interesting. Before heading to Hong Kong before my next job, it’s likely I’ll need to do a “police check” here in Egypt, so when the school offered to take teachers who are finishing their contracts in June, I joined the party. There was seven of us moving on, so one of the security guys from CAC chaperoned us to the big Maadi Police Station. It was quite the fortress, with several security checks before we managed to get anywhere near the inner sanctum. The police have had a lot of trouble in terms of bombs over the past 3 years. They’re quite the target (I guess because they themselves are very heavy handed). There were several security checks, and all in all it only took about an hour, and then I did some grading back in my classroom.

 

And now I’m sitting here biting my nails as Australia are playing South Korea in the Asian Cup Final (soccer). I don’t really follow the soccer, but I take a bit of notice if Australia makes the final. What about you? Do you support the Japanese soccer team in their bright blue shirts? It was 1 – 0 for the longest time, and then incredibly in the 91st minute (the first minute of 3 minutes of overtime, the South Koreans scored the equalizer).

 

Now they’re into the second half of two 15 minute extra time halves; Australia have gone to a 2 – 1 lead… Australia WIN! Oh, Phi, wouldn’t it be great to dance together like nobody is watching… wait a moment, who cares, if the world sees a Dad & his daughter dancing!

 

Love you GORGEOUS!

 

WICKED QUOTES

  • Don’t worry about senility, when it hits you, you won’t know it (Bill Cosby)

DO YOU REMEMBER?

  • We used to visit Mike Bostwick & Yukari in Yugawara. They had grand views of the ocean, but your favourite pastime was playing with their Labradors, Max & Hannah

 

Friday, February 13th 2015

 

Happy Valentine’s Day Phi. Are you creating any Valentine’s chocolates this evening for someone special?? What’s his name?

 

Last night we went to the JP embassy to watch a special screening of Miyazaki’s Castle in the Sky, I think it’s called Laputa in Japanese. It was his first major release, and a great tale of the importance of caring for Mother Earth. I think I’ve seen it before, but I’m so forgetful these days, I couldn’t really remember the plot. In any case, it was nice to get out, but I was hoping they’d have some onigiri and Sapporo beer… no such luck.

 

Last Thursday we took Jan & Beth to Zentro, an Asian fusion restaurant for Beth’s birthday. It was their first experience eating sashimi, but unfortunately not a memorable dining event. The sashimi had most likely been frozen a considerable time and was subsequently quite bland and tasteless. Even so, we had a lovely evening with our dear American/Swedish friends. They were our first neighbors and Cairo, and just beautiful, welcoming, embracing people. Beth has found a job in Chennai, India, so already we’re planning on visiting them; most likely as soon as Christmas 2015.

 

And this past week, particularly Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday, the desert has fallen out of the sky. The pollution combined with the winds whipping up the dust and sand have proved chaotic. Apparently much of the orange that has filled the air is from the Northern reaches of the Sahara Desert. It’s engulfed much of Libya and the Sinai (beside the Red Sea) too. Wednesday I had 6 kids absent or leave school early largely because of the putrid air. Our eyes are stinging, and we’re all coughing with itchy throats.

 

And tonight we’re off to Azarea’s for dinner. I’m craving her handmade pizza, so I hope it’s an Italian feast! Wanna join us? You’d love Aza, and particularly her pets; it’s like a zoo! She has her own cat, Bailey, who is a real-life version of Garfield. He has heaps of personality and bosses the two dogs around like he’s the general of Cairo. And then there’s Jasper, a tiny white dog who likely thinks he’s a human and all but ignores all other dogs. In addition to her own animals, Azarea is usually rescuing animals off the street. In most situations they are puppies or kittens that need a cuddle from you! I can just see you learning so many things from Azarea and becoming her veterinary apprentice.

 

Anyway Phi, time for a shower & a shave… see you soon buddy! Love Dad. XoXo…

 

WICKED QUOTES

  • It is hard for those who have never been to a Third World Country to imagine the degree of poverty in which human beings can live and love and laugh and have their being… we must realize… that the people who live there are not members of some strange tribe or race from another world, but that they are people who feel hunger and cold and weariness, just as we do (Shiela Cassidy)

STRANGE BUT TRUE

  • I had my first kiss when I was 14 years old… it wasn’t very memorable… perhaps I should have practiced on my arm more!! Did you know that a person is exposed to around 500 bacteria when kissing? Too embarrassing Phi? Yeah, I know, your Dad is a bit of a goofy one…

 

Tuesday, February 17th 2015

 

Hey Angel, how’s the winter in sunny Saitama treating you? Did you know that my first train station in Japan was Musashifujisawa… I think it’s the same local station for you?? If I ran from my humble abode, I could be at the station in 60 seconds, but usually 3 minutes was enough to walk there. When I think about it, it was a terrible apartment, probably made of asbestos! It was one room, no heating or A/C, no shower/bath, no hot water, and a piddly squat toilet.

 

When I first arrived in Japan at 22, I came with some of my savings, and had a vague understanding of how key money/real estate agents worked. I only checked a few apartments, but wasn’t quite prepared to fork out some 5+ months rent before even moving in to my shelter. Needless to say, I chose the cheapest apartment shown to me, and didn’t/couldn’t negotiate on price. And you know what, it’s meager fixtures didn’t worry me at all. Bonus trivia: my neighbor was in the Yakuza (complete with three partial fingers after he’d been made to cut them off at the joints), and he was pretty much the only Japanese neighbor to be friendly with me… fun times! His wife even helped me prepare for Halloween one year!

 

This afternoon we skipped regular meetings at school and had a welcome wellness afternoon. Dad did an awesome aerobic class with Sarah Harman (she’s the wonderful Aussie lass Dad coached x-country with), then your old man ran 45min. Feel tired but good!

 

What crazy weather we’ve been having! Is Saitama succumbing to global warming too? Last Wednesday the desert fell out of the sky, and then Sunday it was freezing and it rained… well kind of. Monday we woke to thick, thick fog. Upon arriving at school one couldn’t see the trees less than 50m away! If you changed the weather setting in a movie like we’ve just experienced, your audience would be thinking, that’s so unrealistic. But it’s happening, and still the conservatives in the US and our own countries remain climate skeptics.

 

Saturday we went to Carre Four (the big French supermarket chain here in Cairo) and bought loads of gourmet cheese. It was Valentine’s Day. C gave me some cologne, and I gave her some Swiss chocola & a big bunch of flowers. Of course Dad ate far too much cheese and wound up sick. Just as well Sunday (long weekend) was a holiday because I didn’t get out of bed until midday.

 

Hope your Valentine’s Day was better & healthier! Your Valentine always, Dad… XoXo…

 

CRAZY QUESTIONS

  • What are your memories of me? All the world is queer save the & me, and even thou art a little queer (Robert Owen)

DO YOU REMEMBER?

  • The first time I ever took you to McDonald’s you vomited. We were looking to move houses and the real estate agent was near McDonald’s. You had fries, a tiny bit of a cheeseburger and some corn soup… Naughty Dad hadn’t prepared a bento, so McChuckers it was… bad decision Dad!

 

Thursday, February 26th 2015

 

Hi Phi, another blackout in our part of Maadi, Cairo. It’s 7:45pm, and I’m sitting here in the living room with five candles writing to you. We were lucky, C was just finishing preparing dinner when the electricity went. It’s not even cold, so I imagine very few people are using their A/C’s for heating purposes; even so this part of the electricity grid is switched off. It’s the end of the week, and we have another 3-day weekend to look forward to, but I imagine much of it will be spent at my desk at school finishing off student reports… busy, BUSY!

 

On Tuesday we bade farewell to Nathalie, Dad’s colleague from Saint Maur, Yokohama, who now teaches at an International School in Istanbul. Nat San arrived Saturday around midday, so after a sandwich we jumped on the metro and ventured into Ataba (downtown Cairo) and the Khan (oldest bazaar in the world). Sunday I went back to the classroom, so C took our guest to the pyramids. You could have gone too… three lasses on their camels at the Giza pyramids!!!

 

The Friday evening before Nathalie arrived we had dinner with our JP connection. Takeshi introduced us to Kozue San, and an American/Egyptian women who spent some time studying in Japan. It was a nice evening, and Dad even managed to wheel out his rusty Japanese.

 

Sunday night we took Nat to a South American restaurant; the owners are from Ecuador. Very tasty!

 

Next Wednesday Milton arrives, and Thursday Dad will be checking out some potential candidates for a coaching position on the track team. Rather exciting. There will be four of us coaching track & field, and Dad is the head coach… cool bananas hey!

 

Tomorrow, the ES school put on a production of The Wizard of Oz… I wonder if you would have had a role…

 

I love you… Dad… XoXo…

 

WICKED QUOTES

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”

― Ralph Waldo Emerson

DO YOU REMEMBER?

  • We used to read “Never Ride your Elephant to School” over & over. You loved the part where the elephant gets creative in Art class and plasters the teacher with paint… fancy another read?

 

Sunday, March 1st 2015

 

G’day, g’day Phi-Fai-Fo-Fum,

How’s things? Three-day weekend here, which is nice, especially the little sleep-in this morning. We’re readying ourselves for our move to Hong Kong, getting moving quotes, checking on quarantine regulations for Toro, visas, police checks, and a hundred other educational documents that need checking and rechecking by different authorities. We had the fourth & final estimate for a shipping company to Hong Kong take a look at our belongings this morning, and in a moment Dad’s heading to the dentist for a check/clean. Wish me luck! How are your teeth doing?

 

QUICK TIP: Ensure you brush after each meal, and especially after all the candy your mother seems to give you. Be vigilant of your sparkly white teeth; you only get one set of adult teeth! Brush your teeth systematically, both sides, and the top, and it’s a good idea to use floss daily! Moreover, pay for your own dental bills as soon as you’re 18; that’s what Nandee & Pa did for us, and it definitely ensured you properly cared for dental hygiene. I’m expecting a big beautiful smile, and beautifully cared for teeth when we meet!

Milton arrives from Tokyo Wednesday, and Tim flies in from China Wednesday week, so it should be a bit of fun. I can feel a boys’ weekend coming on! We just said goodbye to Nathalie (French colleague from Saint Maur, Yokohama) Tuesday. We had a great time, and Chinami enjoyed showing Nathalie around and using her French.

Last night we had a couple of drinks with a Sydney couple, Rick & Sarah. They suggested a good Nile Cruise, so we think we might do just that during our April Break. And shortly, we’re also off to Istanbul; me for the writing conference, and C will see quite a bit of Nathalie (above guest), as she now resides there. Then off to Brussels with the athletics’ squad in late May. Fun international life… just one piece in my jigsaw missing… YOU!

Love you now and always… thinking of you now and forever… Dad… XoXoXoXo… xoxo…

 

STRANGE BUT TRUE

  • We both live in the Northern Hemisphere, less than 50km apart… but I rarely see you. Did you know that 75% of all countries are north of the equator?

WICKED QUOTES

  • A clear conscience laughs at false accusations (unknown)

Sunday, March 15th, 2015.

Here’s a letter that I placed in an enveloped and addressed to you in Iruma, Saitama, Japan. Along with it I enclosed a gift and a little spending money (5000 yen). You’re on your way to Junior High School, so you might like to buy some special stationery. Milton will personally take the package back to Japan and post it for me. Hope it arrives in your precious hands soon… XoXo…

Hey Phi,

It’s Sunday, March 15th, 2015. This gift to you comes all the way from Cairo, Egypt. Dad is here with C, Milton, and Tim. You’ve met them all and they fondly remember you. CIMG2390

I’m including a small handmade bag that is made by the “zabaleen”. The zabaleen are this amazing group of Egyptian people that basically collect rubbish and recycle it in so many wonderful ways. Inside the bag is a little gift of 5000 yen to say congratulations on graduating from Elementary School. Perhaps you can buy some matching jewelry for the horseshoe necklace I sent to you at Christmas 2014.

I can’t quite believe you’ll be graduating any day now. I remember attending your opening ceremony when you were just about to start grade one… those skinny Morice legs in your navy blue sailor uniform… how time flies.CIMG2331

Yesterday we flew into Cairo from Jordan. We hiked in the mountains of Petra… one of the most incredible places I have ever been to. We also visited the Dead Sea, some 400 meters below sea level! It was actually used for part of the setting for the first Indian Jones movie.

CIMG2293Anyway Gorgeous, all the very best at your graduation, and if you feel like contacting Dad, send us a mail at: moriceg@hotmail.com

Love always,

Dad.

STRANGE BUT TRUE

  • When Dad was your age he thought when your leg “went to sleep”, that’s exactly what it meant. One time I was doing my homework at the bench and I jumped up to grab some milk from the fridge and my leg went to sleep. I sat down very gently and quietly on the kitchen floor and let my leg have a much needed sleep

STRANGE BUT TRUE

  • Dad interviewed Hatem for the fourth coaching position with the CAC Track & Field Team. Lovely modest guy, and it turns out he represented Egypt at the 2000 Sydney Olympics! He was in the long jump, and has a PB (personal best) of 8.31 meters! Phenomenal! Welcome aboard Hatem!

WICKED QUOTES

  • Friendship is far more tragic than love… it lasts longer (Oscar Wilde)

 

Friday, March 20th 2015

Ophelia, greetings from abroad once again! I’m at a NESA Teacher Conference learning a trick or two about contemporary educational directions. You’ll never guess where I am… Istanbul! YEAH, TWICE IN THE PAST 12 MONTHS! There’s about 10 of us here from CAC for 4 nights, 5 days. And better still, C joined us and is off playing with our French friend, Nathalie, who is a resident here. The only problem is that Dad feels quite sickly, and isn’t sure he’ll be even able to attend day 02 of the conference tomorrow (Saturday).

 

So, Istanbul, WOW, what a city. You will love it. It feels safe; it’s a vibrant rich of Europe & Asia; it’s a foodies paradise,;it culture and history draws you into the city,;and it actually has a public transport system that works. We’re staying in the extraordinary Taksim again, right off the main boulevard set up especially for walkers, day and night. We’re close to the conference (Hilton), eateries, bars, Nathalie’s, the ferries, and Taksim Tower. Perfect… let’s meet here soon!

Oh, last weekend Phi was absolutely incredible… I had a boys’ weekend in Jordan with Tim & Milton. I had a three day weekend, so we flew out Wednesday night and arrived in Amman around midnight. At the airport we were met by a driver who drove through the night (some four hours) to Petra… oh, what a place! Petra is elevated, so the fog and the clouds very nearly had the better of our sleepy driver (and us) as he inexpertly maneuvered the winding passes in the dark up to Petra’s 1000 meters above sea level.

 

There are some places in the world that you will just have to visit some day… Cairo is not one of them, but Petra definitely is! Astonishing natural beauty, with a history to match the magic splendor of the setting. Ironically, once again being an Islamic country, we couldn’t find any alcohol for the first two nights, so tea and shawma it was for our boys’ weekend… LOL! So much for a few drinks with your mates!

 

Day 01 we hiked down to the Treasury, marveling at the long narrow passage that led us there; apparently it was the result of an earthquake that opened the Earth up making it even more remarkable… divine intervention??? Sharp shards of light find there way down the deep winding passage making for spectacular scenes. We wandered further down the valley, and then Dad took a side-track to the top for some of the most spectacular views I’ve ever had in my 46 years on this planet. Unfortunately, Uncle Tim (Tim Lawson) wrenched his shoulder and appeared to be in quite a bit of pain.

 

That first evening was a pretty non-descript sort of evening… no beer, no wine, and definitely no whisky; no boisterous laughter with my mates. In fact we were all rather exhausted so we were rather early to bed after the rather draining previous night’s drive up to Petra.

 

Nether the less, Day 02, and Dad was up early for a 50 minute run. I ran back down the valley to the ticket office, but without my passport they initially wouldn’t let me in. Finally they okayed it, and I ran past the first tourists of the day already on their way. Before long I was my way to the Treasury once again. I was the first of the tourists to reach the treasury, and had the golden sun highlighting this monumental temple all to myself. Quite a special moment. It was a little further than I had expected, so I could have done with a running buddy to urge me back up the valley… do you think you can keep up with Dad??? I bet you’re not far off…

 

DID YOU KNOW…

Petra’s Treasury Temple was one of the famous scenes in the first Indiana Jones movie.

 

After breakfast (I think Tim dragged us back for chicken shawma again), Milton & I hiked back down again. Tim’s shoulder hadn’t allowed him much sleep, and he opted to stay at the hotel and rest. Dad took a longer circuitous route to the Cathedral where we met, and then we hiked back out to meet the injured Tim. Again the views were breathtaking, and even alone I had such a magic time scrambling up and over rock faces. It’s the sort of place I would gladly go back to, and the sort of setting where I would love to have a pack on my back, a tent, a sleeping mat, and some food to cook by the fire in the evening.

 

From Petra we drove to the Dead Sea, then onward to Amman. The capital was a pleasant surprise, with good dining, and quite a bit to see and do. We visited the Coliseum and the Citadel on our final morning before flying back to Cairo about 6pm.

 

Let’s go to Petra some day soon! My treat! I love you Bella! Dad… XoXo… and loads more kisses & hugs!

 

STRANGE BUT TRUE

  • The two mechanics across from us at our first house in Numazu, Kita San & Miura San remember you as the most beautiful princess I’m sure. You were especially fond of Miura San… let’s go and meet them again some day!

WICKED QUOTES

  • I am not afraid of tomorrow, for I have seen yesterday, and I love today (William Allen White)

 

Friday, March 27th 2015

 

G’day again Phi. Yesterday Erin Scott & Nico arrived. Erin is 26 now, but I first met Erin when she was a grade 6 student at Templestowe Park Primary School. 15 years later she has visited me three times abroad. The first time she visited both you and me in Numazu (do you remember… I’ll have to dig out some photos). At that time she was a HS exchange student in Chiba. The second time, was just a couple of years ago when she visited Dad & Chinami in Tokyo. On that occasion she was a graduate student at Tsukuba University. It’s lovely to see her again… tomorrow I’ll take her up to CAC and show her my photo board… her G6 class features, and so do you Gorgeous!

Today we took them to Coptic Cairo after they eventually woke up… I’d forgotten how young people love to sleep in. They crawled out of bed at around 10:30am. We had a lovely day reminiscing and talking about Australia, Japan, and how Erin is now teaching English in Spain.

Gotta run… Dad… XoXo…

 

Sunday, March 29th 2015

Hey Phi, yesterday Erin & Nico went off to the pyramids, and I went to coach track at the American University here in Cairo. Beautiful facility, but of course no shade, so it was bright and hot, hot, HOT! I had two boys vomiting because of dehydration. In the afternoon your uncles & I got together with 8 chaps from Melbourne, Sydney, Yokohama, and of course Cairo for our annual fantasy football draft.

 

This week, one of Nandee’s aunts, Aunty Peg passed away. In some ways it was fitting that she went out with another Aussie stalwart, Malcolm Fraser, a former prime minister of Australia. Ironically he was the leader of the conservative Liberal party. When Dad was a child he came to power, and he was the devil incarnate in our left-wing family. And yet over the years he mellowed, drifted away from his conservative political views and set about making Australia a more egalitarian society. Aunty Peg as I remember, and Malcolm Fraser were both strong in stature, both so full of dignity & humanity, and both of them were loved for their genuineness & presence.

When I recall Peg, I think of someone who gave you all of her attention. Even as a kid, she seemed such a good listener. I’m sure you would have loved her too. She focused on you and made you feel that what you had to say was equally important to any adult banter in the same room. She seemed intelligent, yet humble. I know Nandee will miss her…

I read some of the tributes to Malcolm Fraser on my beloved Age (not dearly so beloved nor enchanted anymore). Four decades after the tumultuous Whitlam Vs. Fraser battles, curiously I can’t think of a better person to govern our landscape. He had Peg’s intelligence & wit, and he also had a better Australia in mind.

One article described a group of former Vietnamese refugees quietly huddled outside Fraser’s funeral holding placards to thank the former prime minister for the egalitarian society he endeavored to carve… it very nearly brought me to tears. Who else in power recognises minorities, even when they’re our hard working neighbors?

I love/d the way Nandee & Pa welcome/d new Australians. As a kid it warmed my heart to see how openly your grandparents embraced the Vietnamese up at the monastery, the Costa Ricans at Saint Francis, and more recently the Burmese. Such civility, such warmth, such togetherness. Your Aussie grandparents are truly wonderful ambassadors! We must thank them for giving us this multicultural spirit and awareness that is such a central theme to our lives.

Last night I read an article based on Peter Greste. He was the Australian journalist locked up in Tora Prison here in Cairo. Greste thanked Julie Bishop (Australia’s Foreign Minister) for what she did to secure his release from an Egyptian prison. He referred to her fondly & not unkindly as the Terminator. He was incarcerated for reporting on both sides of the story here on my doorstep. I often ran around the prison where he was locked in a cell. Eerie.

But what Peter said next blew me away. He asked our own government, why don’t journalists in Australia have access to our very own inhumane detention centres… mind-blowing! Australia, 2015, and still we don’t have access to the truth. Too many parallels with Egypt’s shut-down mentality.

Again, it was Fraser, and is Adam Bandt who have led this fight. But why so few of today’s leaders (Australian/Japanese) won’t stand up for what is right?

Oh, I wish Uncle Sean would get back into politics! Our country needs him.

Love Dad… XoXo…

 

DO YOU REMEMBER…

  • We used to practice riding the bicycle on the weekend in the Suruga Bank’s car park diagonally opposite our home in Numz

CRAZY QUESTIONS

  • What’s outside of space?

2014 October – December

Friday, October 3rd 2014

Hey Ophelia Hirakawa-Morice, how’s it all going??? It’s someone’s birthday this month. I wonder what she is hoping to wake to… a beautiful handmade card from Dad, a pair of running shoes, a smart new skirt, and three chapter books. How does, The Hunger Games sound. And what about Jackie French’s Hitler’s Daughter? And for book number three, let’s give you, Counting by Sevens. Classic books every young adult reader should read.

So, another three-month chapter in our correspondence. Where did all those years go??? Dad has been writing this journal to you since March 2009… five and a half years now. Wow, that’s a lot of letters… that’s a lot of words, especially as your Dad is a notoriously slow typist! I wonder how many pages??? Sometimes I read over the letters, and even I think, “Do you really think Ophi Chan will read them all? Maybe, maybe not. But at some point you’ll discover these letters online… they’re all for you. Every single word, every single sentence, every single thought, every single page.

This is my little gift to you.

It says I love you.

It says sorry.

It says I’ve never stopped thinking of you.

It shows you what’s in my heart.

And it helps me remember all the good times we shared, and I guess, it’s a bit of a window into the life I now lead.

Right now, I should be in bed, but instead I’m sitting up sipping scotch and writing to you. It would be better if we were both up late, sipping hot chocolate together, don’t you think? Healthier than Scotch too. Do you want marshmallows in your mug, and what about a piece of Nandee’s Christmas cake? Would you believe it, there’s still a tiny bit of her famous cake left in the fridge, all wrapped up in tin foil awaiting you! You could have extra marshmallows, then we could brush our teeth together… properly brush our teeth! You have to look after those pearly whites mademoiselle! We could both be excited about heading to Italy tomorrow! Yes, Italy, here we come. Woo-hoo! Pizza! Pasta! Wine!

Even C is in bed… which is saying something because 99 times out of 100 I’m in bed first. Actually, that’s not true. It’s more like 364 times out of 365 nights C stays up later than me. I should be in bed beside her, dreaming of romantic Roma, Italia…. Imagining wine and antipasto, pizza and the Coliseum, pasta and gladiators, crosses and Popes, saints and angels. But sleep will not come. Tomorrow morning we fly to Rome from sunny Cairo!

Thoughts of you joining us are on my mind, plus I’m on a bit of a roll with this letter, so that’s another reason I can’t sleep. Oh, my birthday gal, I can’t sleep. Why can’t I take you to Rome for your 12th birthday? It’s less than two weeks away now. Why did your mother do what she did… the unexplainable, the totally unimaginable? What happened in that family court all those years ago makes no sense at all. None. So many contradictions, so many sleepless nights, so many lies, so many tears, so many questions for you, so much pain for us all. How can I still sleep… How can I rest easy not knowing how you are? How can you sleep not knowing the truth? How can I rest when I know how you were taken…

Right now, it’s hard not to picture you awake too. I’ve just looked out the window and imagined you sitting up in bed. It’s still warm outside here, and nearly midnight. There’s no wind, and it’s quiet, but far from silent. It’s never really ever quiet in Cairo. I guess it’s a bit like Tokyo; it never sleeps. I feel you may be awake too, thinking of your Dad, your cousins, your Nandee, Pa, Patty, your aunts & uncles… But of course, there is no recourse. There is no quick-fix. I won’t wake in the morning, and see you jumping on the end of the bed excitedly screaming, “C’mon Dad, we’re off to Italy!” It’s just me, alone with my thoughts.

Wow, two pages, and still going strong!

Almost every other part of my life is smooth. I have much to be thankful for. So many people to be grateful to. Their kindness, empathy, and thoughts will always be with me. I have a beautiful wife, a solid job, good health, and the most supportive family in the world. And yet nights like these, when my head hits the pillow, I am tormented by injustice, longing, and so many “what ifs?” I’m tired of it. It exhausts me, and sometimes threatens to swallow me. I must do all I can to stay calm, to live with integrity, and to give so that others may feel valued & supported.

I want to give so much to you. I dream of teaching you how to write a tight narrative of realistic fiction. I wish I could coach you how to run two even splits over 5000 meters. I want to prepare your bento box, and cook our evening meal beside you. I want to read chapter book after chapter book to you, take you to the ballet, the cinema, musicals, and galleries. But most of all, I just want to listen to you.

Sometimes I wish to escape this agony of existing without you, but I cannot. I will not. I will not give up my dream of laughing with you again. To hold you, and feel your embrace.

But in so many ways, I am defined by this crime that has been perpetrated against you. I’m much less confident as a person, personally & professionally. I’m less of an extrovert (and that maybe a bonus). And I have to try twice as hard to be positive and optimistic.

Enough of my misery, because life is really what you make it. Life, is what I make it. I carve my future. I control my destiny. I determine what sort of person I will be. I must be bigger than my woes. I must remember that I am lucky for what I shared with you. Nobody can take those memories from me, or you. Nobody. You are innocent. You are pure. None of this in any way is your doing. None of it. What’s in our heart is forever, and though the dreams fade, our hopes will endure and permeate our future.

So, let’s dance like nobody is watching… here’s a little Dad to get you going (Dad & his class put this one together):

And this one Princess:

Now, that’s better, isn’t it! I love you. I miss you, and I’m okay. You needn’t worry. I can sleep now. I’m actually rather tired, but it’s a good sense of tiredness… I’m reaching out to you! I’m okay because I live with the hope that we will once again dance together!

Send us a mail if you feel like dancing, or laughing, or chatting, or just being… moriceg@hotmail.com

You can also mail me at gedmorice@gmail.com

XoXo… Dad (Gerard MORICE).

WICKED QUOTE

“Travel does what good novelists also do to the life of everyday, placing it like a picture in a frame or a gem in its setting, so that the intrinsic qualities are made more clear. Travel does this with the very stuff that everyday life is made of, giving to it the sharp contour and meaning of art.” – Freya Stark

Tuesday, October 7th 2014

Bonjourno Phi,

Fancy some pizza & pasta? Dad & C are in Roma on a train! What a city, even without you… Rome is like the broken mirror the woman opposite us brandishes. We wait for the train to depart, as she does, and outside the window that we share with fellow passengers, there is a jigsaw of old and new. Bridges, churches, homes, aqueducts, parks, roads… yep, old & new. I guess they’re mostly old, centuries old, woven so beautifully into the landscape that is Roma, it’s astonishing.

The lady with a mirror has a friend. She’s very interesting, it’s impossible to to sneak a peek. Roma. Rome, it’s the fallen strap from her companion’s shoulder, a puzzle of astonishing complexity, not quite whole, but neither incomplete. Somebody is playing Mozart (I think it’s an old tape cassette player, but I cannot see it), others are engaged in animated discussions (perhaps about the soccer, or who they kissed last Saturday night!!!), and there’s a man just across from us in a suit with what looks like boots made of fur… very snazzy!

So, like a summer camp we’re all on a train at Roma Termini bound for Naples (Napoli). We’re just waiting for the train to move. Some passengers wait patiently, others impatiently bounce their knee up and down, or pat the seat a million times a minute, or flit glances out the window… but there’s nothing to see. Nobody but us wait silently. Chaotic noise abounds. We have seats because we arrived early, but there are quite a few locals who have just arrived not too happy to see the train very, very full. There’s a bit of tension in the carriage… or perhaps it’s just the Romans, animated yet on edge. I wish you were here to giggle with me. There’s any number of things to look at.

We arrived in Italy Saturday evening for a week’s rest & relaxation from dusty old Cairo. Crucifixes, churches, the Pope, arches, classic red sports cars (haven’t seen any as yet!) and older women in black… perhaps not as many as gossip in the streets of Melbourne… also known as Little Italy back home.

Thus far we’re loving it. Rome is such a happening city with majestic sites, better than great food, and a people full of passion, energy, and personality.

Rome is a beautiful embracing city, and perhaps as a result, I have so often thought of you. There are so many little intricate sculptures, intriguing shop fronts and markets full of fresh produce to tweak one’s interest and palette. Then of course, there are the massive, historic architectural marvels that leave one’s mouth as wide open as one’s eyes. It’s astonishing to live history, to taste history, and to smell its magic aromas! Won’t you sit with me, and join our tour? There’s a little room between C & Dad… and the train has started to move…

Morning, afternoon, and evening I imagine you with us. I picture you running ahead to find the entrance to an historic site, or smiling with your eyes as you choose your favorite gelato flavor. Sometimes I see a dress in a shop window, or this morning as in the Benetton store, I saw a pair of very cool boots that I think you would just love. What size are you now??? 21, 23 or 25cm? Perhaps I should run back and buy you a pair… would you like that? I hope you never get to Dad’s 29cm, or worse still, Uncle Richie’s 30cm shoe size!CIMG1764

The food too is just perfect for you… and me. Again, C has done her research, so we only visit great restaurants that are reasonable in price and have terrific reviews. I imagine you beside us, choosing carefully from the menu, listening to C’s suggestions, your head tilted to one side, tossing up between a thin pizza crust with 5 different cheeses and honey, or a pasta dish with cream & salmon… and of course you with your best manners, “Dad, can I have the salmon fettuccini?” Yes, you can!! Guess what I had last night, yeah, you guessed it, the same salmon fettuccini that was your favorite at the wine bar in Numazu (Coeur).

So, Night 01, Saturday, October 4th, we arrived at about 5pm in Rome. That evening we went in search of a restaurant with rave reviews. When we found it, however, the next table sitting was 10pm. It’s a shame because it seemed so alive. There were patrons seated at the bar drinking an aperitif and sampling some lovely smelly cheese. The waiters were loud, welcoming & cheeky, but we were starving and couldn’t wait 3 hours.

So we wandered the streets nearby and found another restaurant in a busy street overflowing with dining options and alive with Romans. Sadly, not nearly as good as our first choice, in fact the wine was almost as bad as Egypt… but we were in Roma, and the excitement of our first night made the meal more palatable. Even so, we were both disappointed with the food… but things changed after our first disastrous choice.

Sunday morning, we didn’t even need you to wake us up. We were up and ready to make the most of our first full day, and only 7:30am. We bought a 48-hour public transport pass that combined free or discount entry to all the historical sites. The only problem was that it was also the first Sunday of the month, and as such, all the government museums were open to the public for free! Nobody told us! Thus, everything was so crowded, and our discount pass wasn’t much good to us. We wandered down the Spanish Steps, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, through Rome’s famed cobblestone streets, across the river toward Saint Peter’s Castle, the Vatican, and numerous museums. The line extending from the Vatican was preposterously long; it must have been around half a kilometer long, maybe more as it wound its way in front of Saint Peter’s. Even so, everything is radiant, everything so monumental, so worthy of museums… in fact Roma is one BIG museum!

So we left the Vatican to the Romans and the tourists, and made our way to one of C’s must eat at restaurants. Ace! No unbelievable! And cheap! Well, relatively priced, especially compared with Paris. And the wine tasted like a vintage after Egypt! It had been a long, long day, walking, jumping on & off buses and trains, and more walking, so the food was just right… comfort food… and of course the wine helped ease the aching feet… just between you and me, your Dad slipped his shoes off under the table… don’t tell C! I had a tomato based pasta with crispy bacon & chili, and C had a seafood pasta. Oh, Phi, the crispy bacon smelled of heaven. We shared a seafood entrée (there was enough for you), and a bottle of pinot grigio (you could have had a special drink too).

Monday we woke early, and headed straight for the Coliseum. Incredible! Wicked! Inspiring! Historians tell us it held up to 75,000 people. Really, that many??? Despite its size, it does seem a little hard to believe, because it’s not nearly as big as Melbourne’s mecca, the MCG, that has a capacity of 100,000 people. In any case, the architecture and engineering behind it was phenomenal.

From the mighty Coliseum we wandered up the hill for a view of Roma, and again boundless archaeological monuments. From the summit, we took in views that almost embraced 360 degrees of Rome… but not quite.

Next up we headed for a store that specializes in tiramisu, however being Monday it was closed. Bummer! It would have been nice if you were near to comfort C, as she was a little down after the trek to find the establishment, only to find it was closed. Some trek! Needed a piggyback from Shrek! Not to worry, because just around the corner we came across a lovely bar/café. We ordered our breakfast café, and a toasted ham (C had prosciutto) sandwich. It was still only about 10:30am because we had arrived at the Coliseum at about 7:30am. Breakfast was delicious and only cost us 6.80 Euro.

After breakfast, C realized there was a second tiramisu establishment open for take out. So we made our way back to the heart of Roma, and pretty much stumbled upon it. C was right, the tiramisu was grand!

It was then time to try our luck with the queue to Saint Peter’s (Vatican). To our delight, it was only about 300m long and moving quite quickly this time round. The biggest church in the world didn’t disappoint, I just wish you were there with your Dad, making it a first for both us… maybe some day soon huh? Rome Part II!

After an early start, we headed back to the hotel for a little kip. A quick shower and nap later, and we were ready for dinner. Earlier in the day we’d made a booking at another of C’s recommendations… again spot on, and even though we were 30min late, they saved our table. We drank the house red, and it wasn’t too bad, and with an entrée, main & dessert it was still only 54 Euro; much cheaper than Paris!

This morning, we just wandered around, found a café and had breakfast. Next we went beyond Termini and had a look through a market… cheese, wine, olives… Mmm. Last night C ordered some artichokes, they were perfect with the prosciutto. We also went to the supermarket and bought some fresh bread and made our own sandwiches for this train trip to Naples.

Choo-choo, we’re away! I love you, and wish you were beside me now in this incredible country… XoXo… Dad…

WICKED QUOTE

“The first condition of understanding a foreign country is to smell it.” – Rudyard Kipling

THINGS I HOPE YOU REMEMBER

  • I made your bed, your bookshelf, and another set of shelves in your room in Numazu. The second set of shelves featured wood washed up on the beach that we collected together. We designed your bed deliberately a little high so as to fit your big plastic boxes of toys and lego beneath. You chose your sky blue curtains with pastel coloured circles

 

Thursday, October 9th 2014

G’day from Sorrento, Italy. How’s my Bella Daughter? Here’s a little list that I created and sent to your Aussie grandparents, aunts & uncles, and my own Uncle Leo. Hope you enjoy it!

TOP 10 THINGS THAT MAKE C & Dad SMILE ABOUT ITALY/ITALIANS… even if you’re not with us…

  1. It’s cheaper than France.
  2. The drive between Sorrento & Almalfi is the ants pants of Great Ocean Roads.
  3. Italian English: Sandwiches prepared at moment.
  4. My Uncle Leo is a famous Italian / Australian racing car driver (proof: grade 4 Famous Person project on Leo Fusinato at St. Francis Primary School).
  5. The pizza is cheaper and tastier (yes, in that order) than we expected.
  6. The alleyways are monumental cobble stoned pleasure paths (makes one wonder why my famous uncle had his nephew pull up the cobble stoned alley in his backyard).
  7. There’s nothing pretentious about Italians. *see #4 & 8.
  8. My famous Italian uncle said of my pasta in Numazu, Japan, “… al dente, an Australian first!”
  9. Gelato is not just for kids.
  10. Italy is best experienced with a beautiful woman.

ODD SPOT: There are almost as many eucalyptus trees in Italy as there are on the banks of the Nile.

FAST FACTS

  • I love you more than yesterday!

 

WICKED QUOTES

“Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.” – Mark Jenkins

 

 

Friday, October 17th 2014

 

Hey Bella,

 

Sorry it’s taken me a while to get back to you. No excuses except for writing reports, teaching, and coaching x-country 5 times a week! Can’t complain, because Dad is mighty fit (for his ripe old age), and enjoying running and pushing the top boys. Curiously the top two runners are middle schoolers, yes, quicker and better stamina than the high schoolers.

 

Even so, Dad does get down on himself, especially as I can’t do anything like I used to be able to do over 5 – 10km. My guess is, I’m 12 whole minutes slower over 10km… 33 minutes has slowed to 45 minutes for 10km. That’s hard to swallow. My mind wants to go faster, and in fact I feel like I’m moving pretty quickly, but when I glance at the stopwatch, I have to do a double take and hope that the watch is wrong… but it’s never wrong… there’s no two ways around it, the truth is, your Dad is getting old and slow.

 

I wonder if I can still do backward somersaults on the trampoline, and if I can still walk on my hands… yes, I need some practice, but the back is not what it used to be. I will practice so as to show you, and teach you again some day soon… hopefully before I’m 50 years OLD!

 

And you? How’s your running going? I wonder if you frolic like Spirit still; throwing your head around like you don’t have a care in the world. Smiling & comfortable, smiling & safe, smiling & bubbly, happy & smiling. You’re the best Phi. When I think of the joy you brought me, I can’t help but smile too… thank you!

 

Tomorrow is the Degla Dash. CAC’s fun run. Fancy a run with your Dad? Love you Ophelia… XoXo…

 

CRAZY QUESTIONS

  • When do you think our next rendezvous will be? It’s your call… I’d love to see you today to experience your life… to be fulfilled, to be happy, to be joyful in your life. This is your destiny. Take your dreams seriously. You are here to become the best you can be you owe it to yourself (Susan Hayward)

 

WICKED QUOTES

“A wise traveler never despises his own country.” – Carlo Goldoni

 

Saturday, October 25th 2014

 

How’s my marathon gal? Are you an ekiden runner? Today, Sarah & Dad took the x-country team out to the wadi for the last time. We hit the barren, rocky hill five times in a row, before we took up a sandy trail around the top edge of the wadi. We then wound our way down and ran up the valley. I was mighty impressed with a group of 5 girls, who formed a pack, pretty much for the first time, and ran shoulder to shoulder. They gradually increased their pace, and managed to stay together until the final 200m. It felt good to coach them as such, and they felt proud when I asked them if they could/would have forced the pace if they had been running alone. They all answered in the negative. Theirs were big smiles. Smiles of challenge accepted and accomplished.

 

I came home with a lovely heavy loaf of bread and made C & Dad a prosciutto, cheese and tomato toasted sandwich. Late morning snack courtesy of our recent trip to Italia! Prosciutto leftover from Italy… mmm! We don’t have a toaster, so I used the oven, but it was equally good with a tasty cup of coffee. The cheese too is left over from our holiday escape. Then for lunch C made ramen. Yoshiko had given us a special pack, made in Japan! Oishikatta!

 

Tonight Jan & Beth, and Azarea will join us for a potluck dinner. We’ve all decided to leave CAC, so my guess is we’ll be talking job fairs and possible options. Dad & C will attend the Bangkok Search Job Fair for teachers.

 

I’ve been working late, long hours, writing reports, organizing my classes, coaching x-country four and sometimes five days a week, and of course writing applications to international schools. It’s a bit early yet, but it’s also a bit down heartening when nothing comes of an application. I have to keep telling myself, it was the same last time around, but when I got to the Johannesburg Job Fair, things picked up positively pretty quickly. I’ve decided I will attend the Melbourne Job Fair while I’m home at Christmas, and then meet C in Bangkok for the big Job Fair there.

 

Last weekend was the Degla Dash. Dad ran 21:09 and finished third in the 5km race. Two of my middle schoolers finished 1 & 2. Not too bad, considering it’s a rocky desert landscape, but a long way off Dad’s heyday when Uncle Sean & I were running 16min for 5km.

 

Yesterday we went to a local Chinese restaurant. Local is right, it’s about 20m away from our front door. It was great, and we met Lilly, a Chinese lady who is studying French with C at the French Institute here in Cairo. Her husband is French.

 

Our dog you ask, how is he, and when will you get the opportunity to meet him… Well, Toro is Toro. He’s quite adorable, but he needs you to run around the block with!

 

Love Dad… XoXo…

 

CRAZY QUESTIONS

  • Are you okay Phi? When a person that one loves is in the world and alive and well then to miss them is only a new flavor, a salt sharpness in experience (Anthony Powell)

WICKED QUOTES

“When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.” – Clifton Fadiman

 

Saturday, November 1st 2014

Hey Phi-Fai-Fo-Fum, how’s my favorite 12 year old?

 

Today we had a Japanese moment. A Japanese connection with an Aussie flavor… a little bit like you, my beautiful Aussie possum. Takeshi came over for tea and cake. Who’s Takeshi you ask? Well, about two weeks ago as I was walking to school on a weekend, I noticed an Asian chap with a t-shirt from a university in South Australia. As you do (well Dad does), I said, “Hello.” He seemed a friendly enough chap and we got talking. He came across as such a nice young man that we exchanged contact details, and today, well, you already know, he came over to meet C. Of course it would have been nice if you too were here to chat all things Australian and Japanese. It turns out that he’s married to a South Australian lady, and is studying at the American university here in Cairo. Unfortunately his wife became very depressed about life in Cairo and returned to Adelaide… any wonder, Cairo is very challenging to live… for a holiday it’s fine.

 

Takeshi, C, and Dad spoke of many things, and of course spent some time discussing the streets of Cairo. The poor of Cairo really have it tough. We really are lucky…

 

Love Dad… XoXo… and some more kisses & hugs especially for you… XoXo…

 

CRAZY QUESTIONS

  • Why do the poor not have any hope in this world? They seek protection the afterlife, to balance this life’s misery… poor… in candles & praises, from time beginning, hell has been invented to frighten the poor. With its eternal punishment. And the poor who are so innocent, believe what they are told. And to continue the lie they call the priest, who says that God does not wish revolution, nor petitions nor trade unions which offends his heart (Violeta Parra)

 

 

Sunday, November 9th 2014

 

Now Phi, you’ll never guess where Dad just came back from… go on guess? Alexandria, no. Sinai, no. Red Sea, no. Vienna, Austria, yes! Last Wednesday the x-country team headed to Vienna for the ISST (international schools sports tournament) event! How cool! We flew out at 4:10pm, and by the time we arrived at the hotel it was about 8:45pm in Austria. It had been a long day because teachers and students alike had been in classes until 1pm, then took the bus to the airport, etc., etc. One of our lads left his passport on the plane, so I had to go back through security with him to locate his passport… fortunately it had a happy ending!

 

On the Thursday we had a hearty breakfast at the hotel… with ham and lovely fresh grainy bread! BTW, we don’t get a lot of ham or bacon in Egypt being an Islamic country. After breakfast and checking the kids’ rooms we took our team, all 23 of them into downtown Vienna for a spot of sightseeing. They’re a great group, pretty much responsible by themselves, and actually made us proud on a number of occasions… especially compared to the behavior of some of the other IS school students. Bit of Austrian schnitzel for lunch with the other Aussie coach, Sarah, and then at 1:30pm we had to be at Vienna International School. The buses took the 10 international schools up the mountains on the outskirts of Vienna. We walked the 5km x-country course. A challenging but picturesque course of trails, grass and hills. There was a huge athletes’ dinner in a restaurant, and we held the coaches’ meeting at the same place. It was an early dinner, so we took the kids to a local mall afterwards. Sarah & I went to the supermarket to purchase wine! Smuggled 15 bottles of wine back into Egypt… who’s a naughty Dad! Good food, good wine, and good company… ah, Phi, the simple pleasures in life are the best!

Friday morning, up early again to ensure the kids had finished their breakfast by 7am. 30 minutes later we were at VIS and on our way back up the mountain for race day. All day it threatened to rain, but the x-country gods were with us. The kids ran out of their skin, with the JV Boys’ team winning their section, and our team coming third overall. Most unexpected result, so the kids (and coaches) were overjoyed.

Pretty much as soon as we boarded the buses back to the hotel, the rain that had threatened since our arrival on Wednesday evening started. Our afternoon of sightseeing was canceled, so after we’d showered, we headed with the team back to the mall for a late, late lunch.

 

When are you joining x-country? Perhaps you already have… Dad has a few tips for his favorite athlete!

 

See you soon kiddo… luv & licks, Dad… XoXo…

WICKED QUOTES

“I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.” – Mark Twain

 

Saturday, November 15 2014

Hi Ophelia. Sitting here in Cairo thinking of you. For such a dusty, rundown and sweltering city, Cairo is surprisingly green. The green-belt parallels the Nile for as long as the longest river in the world stretches… a mighty long way. Beyond the green-belt however, is just what you would expect: desert, and more desert. I’m on the couch peering out the window, waiting for the call for prayer from the minarets that dot the Cairo skyline… not that I’ll be attending… no, I don’t think Religion is for me. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I have the utmost respect for those with faith. And, I’m all for balance and learning about each other’s beliefs and history. Religions have much to give, but as Nandee once wisely said, you don’t have to be Christian to be a good Christian.

 

Anyway, this morning Dad went up to school to tick off a few boxes. I ended up applying for a teaching position with the International School of Zurich, Switzerland. What do you think about a trip to Switzerland?

 

At 2:30pm I headed to the Maadi House, an American expat club, where one of my students, Sammy, was celebrating his 11th birthday. The kids were jumping in a huge jumping castle. About half the class was there, including Mahsa, my lovely Japanese student. It’s sad though, because her family will be likely returning to Japan in December. I can’t help but think that you and Mahsa might have been very close… she’s just the sort of kid I would love you to bring home for a play date. And tonight we’re headed to a Korean restaurant with Takeshi, the chap who came for a cup of tea and C’s homemade cake two weeks ago.

 

Love you Phi… Dad… XoXo…

CRAZY QUESTIONS

  • Why was Steve Biko killed? Google him Phi… his story is truly inspirational

They said Steve Biko was a man of violence, then why did he talk of peace? They said he wanted revolution, so why did he talk of friendship? They said he died of hunger, then why was his body broken & bruised?

WICKED QUOTES

“The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G. K. Chesterton

 

Saturday, December 6th 2015
Hello Ophelia, how’s trix in your part of the world today?

 

Y, C’s friend from London arrived Wednesday night. C took her to the pyramids on Thursday, and then we went to a Lebanese restaurant that evening. Friday morning I worked on sending a CV to another international school while C & Y went into Old Cairo. Once I was done we pottered around Maadi together.

Your Xmas gift... how did you like it?

Your Xmas gift… how did you like it?

 

And today we went into the tent makers market and the Khan. I’m not so sure I would take you to the Khan El-Khalili… that’s not true, yes, I would. We would just be extra cautious. It’s an enormous suoq (bazaar) in Islamic Cairo that’s full to bursting with mostly dishonest vendors. The merchants here are ravenous, quite often rude (somewhat humorous), and skilled at ripping off the tourists. I find it quite tiresome haggling and warding off scoundrels who feign at being new-found friends. Just the slightest common courtesy, such as a friendly hello, and they’ll stick to you like sticky disturbing flies. It drives one mad as they follow you very closely, continually touching you and calling you, “My friend, my friend…” only to try and empty your wallet as quickly as they can.

Your gift & card... on its way

Your gift & card… on its way

 

Not sure I’ll ever be that keen to return to Egypt, but if you do choose to visit, let your Dad act as a tour guide!

 

Go with care Bella… Dad… XoXo…

 

DO YOU REMEMBER?

  • How about another read of Hairy Charlie and the Frog? We used to giggle at the big, burly Hairy Charlie who was afraid of the frog in his letter box… you’re not afraid of frogs!

 

WICKED QUOTES

  • A teacher affects eternity, for a teacher can never tell where their influence stops (unknown)

Saturday, December 13th 2015
OMG Phi, you’ll never guess what happened to your Uncle Sean!!!??? Uncle Sean was bitten by a tiger snake today. The fear it sent through us kind of put our lives into perspective. As we were waiting for further updates on his condition from Australia, we couldn’t help but do our own research into tiger snake bites. He was in ICU (intensive care) while they determined what sort of snake it was; he must have been in tremendous pain considering it’s one of the most dangerous snakes in the world; fourth most dangerous snake in the world according to our research! Quite often a bite is fatal. The doctors ended up giving him a second vile of anti venom because the first vile didn’t seem to work. The blood had clotted because of the strength of the venom. Although later they determined it was most likely a juvenile tiger snake that had bitten him outside his home in Northcote. Crazy times, hey!?

In the morning before we had been panicked by Sean’s bad luck story we did some Christmas shopping. I bought you a photo frame, and I plan to put a photo of the two of us in it. C has offered to post it when she arrives at Narita Airport in late December. I’ll go back to Melbourne to celebrate Christmas with our Aussie family, and then C & Dad will meet in Thailand for the Job Fair. This morning we wandered all over Maadi buying gifts for your cousins, aunts & uncles, and Nandee & Pa… and you Princess.

On Friday night it was the CAC Ball. C looked gorgeous in a blue/purple gown I bought her in Malaysia… I think your Dad looked pretty dapper too! It’s a ball with all the trimmings, wine sit down buffer meal, and at the Marriot ***** Hotel no less!

I’ve been sending out quite a few CVs, but nobody seems too interested in me. Perhaps I’m too old for this game at 46… Only Singapore American School interviewed me, but that came to nothing. I’ve sent CVs to Bangkok, KL, Switzerland, Myanmar, Philippines…

 

Ganbarimsu! Something will happen soon… must be confident of finding a good job at a good school… do you think we should move back to Japan???

 

Love Dad… XoXo…

 

I WONDER IF YOU KNEW…

 

  • Your Mother & I had a beautiful architectural designed house together in Montrose, Victoria. I used to love being in the garden; it was like therapy for me because I worried about your mother, and her absence from our family home. She didn’t like Australia… we moved there for 3 years, but when my accountant did my taxes, he discovered she was in Australia for not quite 18 months…

WICKED QUOTES

“There is no moment of delight in any pilgrimage like the beginning of it.” – Charles Dudley Warner

Tuesday, December 16th 2014
Konichi wa Phi! It’s finally getting cooler here in Cairo, but not nearly as cool as this time last year. Actually I’m loving the temperature. It’s perfectly sunny, but not too cold, and just perfect for exercise after the heat of the summer. In fact this afternoon after my meetings, I had a delightful 35min run with 100 push-ups and just 25 chin-ups, and then walked home in my shorts and t-shirt. Not too cold, nor too warm… just right! And now, well, I’m just about to pick up C from her French class. She goes into Cairo and studies from 4:30pm – 6:30pm every Sunday & Tuesday. I walk with Toro down to the Sakanat El Maadi Metro Station… the only problem is poor Toro seems to have a homing device on him for every stray dog here in Maadi… they come growling from nowhere, menacing not just him, but Dad too. So much so, that I often take a bar with me to fend their taunts off!

 

Gotta run… LOVE DAD… your Dad… XoXo…

 

WICKED QUOTES

Libraries have become my candy store (Juliana Kimball)

Here at my frontier, there are falling leaves

Although my neighbors are all barbarians

And you, you are a thousand miles away

There are always two cups on my table (T’ang Dynasty AD 618-906)

 

Sunday, December 28th 2014

G’day Phi, how are you? I’m sitting on the couch next to your cousin, Allie. Yep, I’m in Australia, your other home. Allie’s 10 now. Chris, who is now 8 is opposite playing with his lego. He made an awesome Star Wars contraption. He diligently spent hours and hours, quite determined to complete it today. I’ve been most impressed with his focus. Allie has been on the computer doing her own research into horses. I imagine if you were here, you and Allie would be researching a horse project together.

Yesterday I went into Eastland to do a spot of shopping. I was looking for something for your graduation, but I didn’t find anything. C suggested some jewelry, or a makeup bag, or perhaps a digital dictionary. Instead I found a tea set for C. It has two cups, a sugar bowl, a milk pourer, and a teapot.

After a bit of lunch, Pa & I tried to sort out the wood chipper/mulcher he received from Uncle Tony. We tested it, but it wasn’t shredding/mulching too effectively. We figured it needed some new oil, petrol, and a good clean up. We took it apart and sharpened the blades as best we could. It seemed to work a bit better after our effort. In any case it was just nice working alongside your Pa.

Last night I came over to Rich & Rach’s for a bbq. Tim, my old mate from HS was here too. He’s talking about visiting us in Cairo at some point early next year. Uncle Rich had prepared some delicious steak… there was even enough for you!

This morning we pottered around here at Rich & Rach’s, and then went into have a look at the Camberwell Market and had a coffee. This evening I’ll catch up with two friends from high school, Jenny Munro & Ellen Sheriden.

Friday December 26th, Boxing Day, I woke at Uncle Richie’s. Richie and the family had gone to Lancefield on the afternoon of Xmas day, so your Dad looked after Jazz, the family dog. You would love Jazz. She’s a gentle & affectionate Golden Retriever, but like Toro (our dog back in Cairo), she’s not much of a guard dog.

Friday afternoon/evening I went across to Hadyn’s (HXH – Hadyn Hewitt). Again, you would have fitted in perfectly, as Josh and Hope were there and ready to play, swim, and jump around with you. Do you remember going on our farm holiday with your cousins, Allie & Chris, and Hadyn’s kids, Jamie, Hope & Josh? It was good to see my old mate, who has a few more grey hairs than Dad… but Dad’s grey hairs have started to come through too! He’s a good man Hayd. We talked quite a lot about you… some day you’ll meet him again. He too is talking about a quick visit to Cairo. He’s planning on taking his own dad across to Turkey for the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign, and a side trip to Egypt could be on the cards! Happy days kiddo!

Xmas Day was hard without you. Sometimes, I think it’s getting easier, but it’s never easy being separated from you. You’re so loved by everyone here. We all miss you, and constantly wonder how life is for you.

So how was your Christmas day? What did you wake to… did you leave Santa some milk and cookies like we used to? It would be a dream come true to have you here with me, watching you laugh and converse with your cousins, watching you jump on the trampoline and swim and splash in the Melbourne sun alongside those who love you.

Christmas Eve, Ralph’s (Ralph Dankwort) father unfortunately had a heart attack. That very evening I went around to Ralph & Diana’s to see how my mate was coping. Again, having three children of their own, you would have enjoyed chasing the chooks around, or running around in the nearby park before the sun went down. Being daylight saving here in Australia, it’s still light until around 8:30pm. Ralph was well, and surprisingly upbeat & positive. And of course he had a good bottle of wine ready to share… what a man… love you Wigsta (that’s Ralph’s nickname).

Now before I forget, better pencil in what your Dad has been up to:

Dad arrived in Oz without you from Cairo – Dubai – Singapore – Melbourne on Sunday (what a long exhausting flight!), December 21st. Pa picked me up at the airport and we went direct to Uncle Sean’s. Sean, Lauren, Billie & Luca were all there ready to greet us… but alas, no Ophelia. Bummer, because I imagine your cousins would have grabbed you and twirled you around before skipping you off to the park.

Sean looked well considering his near brush with death and the tiger snake bite just two weeks ago. He cooked up a storm… bacon, eggs & tomatoes on toast for breakfast. A quick shower & then we were all off to Uncle Richie’s to see the rest of your family. It wasn’t long before all your cousins were giggling and splashing about in the pool… oh, Phi, what I would do to see you laughing with your cousins again… maybe one day soon, huh?

Later in the day, it was back to see Nandee. Phi, she hasn’t been well. The chronic fatigue is back, this time for over 8 months. She’s putting on a brave face, but she’s not too well. I think a big hug from you might be just what she needs!

In the evening I wandered around to see my good mate Ralph. Yes, of course I took a bottle with me, and he had a delightful bottle of sparkling all chilled and ready for CHEERS!

Monday morning after an early run, I drove into Princess Park to meet your uncles and cousins and watch Carlton train. Go BLUES! We all had a milkshake afterwards, and then a cup of tea back at Uncle Sean’s. Sean took us to the spot where he was bitten by the tiger snake, and we practiced throwing two of his homemade boomerangs. Lots of fun! On the way to the car, just meters from Uncle Sean’s front door, Uncle Rich saw another snake! UNBELIEVABLE! That evening you missed a pizza party at Nandee and Pa’s… your cousins missed you too…

 

I Love YOU! XoXo…

 

DID YOU KNOW…

  • When you were born, you were born with 350 bones, but as you grow into an adult your bones will calcify into just 206 bones

WICKED QUOTES

  • We all live with the objective of being happy (Anne Frank)

2014 July – September

Thursday July 3rd 2014

G’day Phi. Another quarterly chapter to you… I wonder where you are, how old you are, and what you’re thinking as you read this journal…

It’s not much, I know, and it’s pretty light on wisdom. It’s just me, and my thoughts, and you. Someone smart once wrote, write down your wishes to help them come true; I guess, that’s what I’ve been doing these past 5 years. Imagining. Hoping. Reliving our moments together. Each time I write to you, I hope, I guess I even pray that you will read these letters one day… It’s never too late for us… If we both believe, we can make this work.

Flick us an email at: moriceg@hotmail.com, or gedmorice@gmail.com, or I’m on FB; actually we both are, because my profile picture is the two of us in yukatas banging out a karaoke tune… I think we were singing Jingle Bells! We were down at Shimoda with Brenda, Allen, Nicola, Tim & David Hamer… good times, Phi, great times, and memories that will be with me forever.

So, you live in Iruma City, Saitama Prefecture, Japan. That is, I think you live in Iruma; you may have moved, but I would be none the wiser.

I too lived in Japan. We both did. I lived in Saitama, in Numazu, in Yokohama, in Tokyo. I lived through seasons, one after another, just as you do without your Dad. I remember the heat & humidity of summer. I recall the brisk, clear mornings of winter when one could see Mount Fuji. I felt the passion and birth of a million cherry blossoms welcoming spring, and that first evening of the year in late September when one pulls a sheet over themselves as sleep beckons, ringing in autumn… at last! I’ve lived side by side with my Japanese neighbors, I’ve been welcomed into their homes, and they into mine. I’ve sat and watched the Tama River flow beneath its many bridges, and I’ve run the banks of the Kano River in Numazu. I’ve climbed Mount Fuji, holidayed with you in Hokkaido, and hiked World Heritage sites in islands off Kyushu. I’ve swam in the Pacific Ocean on January 1st to ring in the New Year, and I’ve been to the Family Court more times than I can remember. Japan was good to me in many ways. It was generous, beautiful and even embracing at times. I loved and respected so many people, and so many traditions. But I will never understand why it took my daughter away… why did it take you away?

 

A MOMENT IN TIME

I kind of liked rushing you in the morning. In fact it was loads of fun because you too had Dad’s sense of humor. You, always pretending you were fast asleep in your bed, but as soon as I tickled you, you would giggle loudly in delight. “C’mon, chop-chop, get a wriggle on.” I’d be making sure you had your bento in your backpack, your lovely pink backpack that you proudly carried to Ooka Kindergarten, and then Katoh Kindergarten. I would be checking you had the message book your teachers and I wrote in every day, your drink bottle, and your little hand towel. They were special times. And you, slowly brushing your teeth, too slow to brush your own hair, so Dad would end up doing it. “Ouch, that hurts!” you’d complain. I would pretend I was annoyed, but you knew I was just pretending, because you would give me one of your funny faces and we’d both laugh. Then I would be flying around the house getting my own things ready, busy, busy… and you’d sit in the beanbag watching The Wiggles or Play School, with a great big smile on your dial. Ah, what I would give to have just one more morning with you… I guess you don’t need any help any more… you’re an independent 6th grader I’m sure.

Will write again soon. I miss you Bella. I miss your smile. I miss your caring, gentle nature. I miss your sense of humor, your imagination, and all the cuddles you used to give me. I miss you whispering… “I love you Dad…” And I miss telling you, “I love you…”

XoXo… Dad yori…

 

WICKED QUOTE

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” Saint Augustine

 

Saturday, July 5th 2014

How’s my Angel? Still an angel no doubt, but it can’t be easy, always wondering what happened between your parents. We only get one Mum, and one Dad, and we couldn’t hold it together, so we owe you, your Mum & I.

I wonder if you’re okay. I wonder what scars you’re still dealing with, what wounds still need healing, what questions still need sharing. I wish I could help. I wish I could calm your thoughts, help explain your sorrows, and keep you positive. It’s so important to look to the future with a smile and hope… we can do that, can’t we?

I wonder what they told you about me… your Dad. I wonder if you remember all the fun times we shared. And I wonder if you still believe we have a chance to redefine our relationship… to be as we were: honest, caring, open & loving. I hope so, because I have so much to share with you, and there are so many people waiting to see your beautiful, warm, embracing smile again.

Love Dad… XoXo…

TRAVEL QOUTE

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” Mark Twain

 

Tuesday, July 8th 2014

Dear Phi, how’s life in hot and humid Japan? Are you ready for another edition of Dad’s Journal? Well, we’re back from our travels in Europe; in fact we’ve been back a week now, but I’m yet to catch you up with our travels. We had a ball! We both just loved Turkey, and I think you will too! Loved it, its people, world heritage sites, and the food was pretty tasty too after the Egyptian fare we’re use to here.

So, where did we leave off Bella? Ah, yes, we were just about to arrive in fantasy land, Cappadocia, Turkey… you would have loved it… there’s something quite fantastical about this world heritage area. It’s the perfect setting to engage your imagination, to dream of other worlds, and to write creative fantastical narratives. I think I felt like a child on his/her first visit to Disneyland, especially during our hot air balloon ride.CIMG1177

After saying goodbye to our good friend Nathalie (our French friend, originally from Saint Maur IS), from Istanbul, we went east to Cappadocia and stayed in an amazing cave hotel for two nights. Grand Cave Suites it was called, and very fancy indeed. You would have loved it Phi. Not only was the bathroom and bedroom area carved into the rock (existing cave), but the bed was also carved out of the existing rock. From the balcony where we enjoyed some local white wine as the sun set, the harshness of the white bleached cliffs and the incredible rock formations softened. All around us, for as far as the eye could see, were rock fairy chimneys reaching for the last of the blue skies. Farmers with goats littered the many trails up and down valleys, and an occasional smattering of green grape vines contrasted with the dry, rocky, baron outcrops of rock & sand.

We did some awesome hiking, exploring the 1000 year old cave homes & churches in the Red Rose Valley on our first full day. The rock features are absolutely incredible; the perfect setting for a Star Wars movie. There are homes and churches everywhere (though no longer in use), and the locals nowadays use many of the “fairy chimneys” as homes to their many pigeons (a local delicacy).

The whole area has an amazing history dating back to Alexandria the Great and beyond. It was an area that was mainly populated with Christians, but as they were largely surrounded by a majority Muslim population, they were often persecuted and discriminated against. We learned that there was a mass repatriation of Christians to Greece, and a population swap of Muslims to Turkey between 1919 – 1924 (just after WW1).

On our second day, we did a whole day tour and visited an underground city (Derinkuyu Yeralti Sehri) that used to house 20,000+ people! Apparently, the caves were interconnected as a defense against attack. The underground city we ventured down had 6 levels open to the public, but 10 levels altogether. We went down some 60m, and it was almost cold; a lovely feeling because above ground it was hovering around 33 degrees. It was quite a chilling feeling thinking that whole communities sheltered here when under attack, not venturing to the surface for weeks, and sometimes months. It must have been so dark, and so awkward having to cook, wash and head to the toilet all underground.CIMG1257

Before lunch our friendly group of five, two Americans, a Mexican, C & Dad hiked a leisurely 4km down the picturesque Ihlara Valley. Our hike culminated in a lunch of fresh trout at a local restaurant. The restaurant had raised platforms that were actually in the creek where we ate our tasty lunch.

We also took a balloon ride for the memory book at the crack of dawn. Rather expensive at 390US$ for the 2 of us, but a once in a lifetime adventure. We were picked up around 3:30am and driven out of town for a quick breakfast, and then dropped off at the launching site. There were balloons everywhere, and captains yelling instructions into the brisk morning air. As the first rays of the sun hit the peaks of the surrounding hills, there was a mad rush to enter the basket and rise into the morning sky. One day I’ll show you the videos and photos, ‘cause I don’t think I can do the experience justice in words.

CIMG1247And then we headed to another world heritage site in Pammukale. It was a bit of a long haul, because we took the night bus… almost 10 hours arriving at 6:30am! I needed you to sit next to, to joke with, and to read you chapter after chapter of a good-fit book for us both.

Still got it!

Still got it!

 

Basically we only had 24 hours in Pammukale, so we made the most of our brief visit. Our first stop was the Hieraplois Archaeological Site. Amazing ancient Greco Roman ruins, an amphitheater/coliseum and the brilliant white springs. Actually the water was not very warm at all… just as well, because it was a rather Cairo-esque daytime temperature in Pammukale. Apparently the springs vary in temperature from 35 – 100 degrees Celsius.

When the hot spring area was declared a World Heritage Site, the hotels were demolished and the road removed and replaced with artificial pools; you wouldn’t know it though, the pools look quite natural. Wearing shoes in the water is prohibited to protect the deposits, and the spring guards were pretty good on the whistle, giving a blow whenever anyone ventured out of bounds.

At Pammukale we stayed in a nice hotel. You would have loved it because it had a pool. We spent a bit of time cooling off, but were basically too busy exploring to spend much time relaxing by the pool. Actually, the morning we arrived, we were far too early to check-in, besides nobody seemed to have woken, so we spent 30 minutes lounging around the pool. At some stage we probably both dozed off, but the owner’s dog gently woke us up, alerting us to the fact that someone was now at reception. The owner very kindly offered us breakfast, seeing as we’d miss it the next morning due to another early start.

Wednesday morning we were up at 3am to ready ourselves for a 3:30am pick-up shuttle! Our flight for Istanbul was at 5:50am! When we arrived in the capital, we still had a whole day of sightseeing ahead of us, so we put our bags in storage and headed for the metro. Our first stop was the Egyptian Bazaar where we bought two splendid lamps, some Turkish delight and a few odds & ends. Dad bought a pair of shoes and C a nice new bag. At the shop we received a good discount, only to discover we didn’t have enough cash to cover the cost. It didn’t matter, because the kind shop assistant and manager agreed to take what we had, so we felt like we scored a real bargain. But then, we realized we didn’t have enough change to get us back to the airport (otosan san wa baka ne!), so the shop assistant kindly gave us her travel card… so unbelievably kind!

So Ophelia, that was Turkey. An amazing country I hope we one day visit together. Luv & licks, Dad… XoXo…

CRAZY QUESTIONS

  • Do you remember Dad being selfish? I’m still selfish in that I cannot let you go… If you want a person’s faults, go to those who love him. They will not tell you, but they know (Robert Louis Stevenson)

 

Friday, July 11th 2014

How’s my Princess? What are you reading this summer? Got any good books you can recommend your Dad? Wouldn’t it be great to sit down and discuss our good reads! Dad has been reading a good deal… it’s nice to be on holiday, and to read late into the evening!

At the moment, I’m reading another Egyptian novel: The Cairo House by Samia Serageldin. I’m 123 pages in and as yet, unsure as to how I feel about the plot & characters. It’s the story of an elite family who were cut down (somewhat) during Nasser’s reign in Egypt, but at page 123, with Sadat in power, the old elite are making a comeback. I’m finding it hard to identify with any of the characters born into such privilege. Not exactly the underdog battling for success… but we’ll see… perhaps I’m in for a surprise in the second half of the book.

I also just finished White Tiger by Aravind Adiga. It’s the disturbing tale of a murderer told in the first person through bizarre letters to a Chinese political leader. I enjoyed it, but I’m not sure Indians would agree with me. The main character becomes a driver for quite a powerful local businessman, and gradually realizes that he’s not so much lucky (to have become a driver), but that he’s destined to stay in the chicken coop (the bottom rungs of Indian society). That is, until he kills his boss and flees with a bag of money to build his own fortune. Even so, intriguing and a real pager-turner: 5 stars… I recommend it Phi.

Well, my gorgeous daughter, that’s about it. July, and we’re into the second half of the year; you’re just a few weeks away from your summer break, and you’re just 3 short months from your 12th birthday… time flies… I wish I could share a moment or two with you… Take care, and let’s hope we see each other soon.

Love Dad… XoXo…

P.S. I’ll leave you with another travel quote, this time by Robert Louis Stevenson: “There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.”

 

Monday, July 14th 2014

Morning Phi. How’s trix this morning? It’s 8:13am and Dad is sitting on our bedroom balcony sweating off my run. Actually it was more of a jog, or should I say slog! It was a tough run but I managed to finish my goal of running for 50+ minutes… I was struggling with the heat and heavy legs, and my breathing (2 steps for every breath in, and 3 steps for every long breath out wasn’t quite helping my rhythm) was a little out of sync. So, who else, what else could I turn to, but YOU. As I plodded along the dusty streets of Cairo I thought of you, and the day that we’ll meet up again. And you my little battler, pulled me over the line.

Guess what I saw while jogging??? A white horse running down the road! How surreal is that? It was quite a sight as it was in full flight and rider-less. No doubt enjoying its freedom; who wants to be a captive anyway? I didn’t have your bravery and horse sense to go galloping after it, but fortunately (or unfortunately) about 20 minutes later I saw the horse trailing behind a car, as its owner sat on the back of the car hauling it home. Both horse and owner looked quite relieved.

Time for some melon, banana, yoghurt, and milk with Dad’s mega-mix cereal. Better make C a coffee too. Would you like something for breakfast Bella?

Love always, Dad… XoXo…

WICKED WISDOM

“Each time one prematurely teaches a child something he could have discovered himself, that child is kept from inventing it and consequently from understanding it completely.” Piaget

 

Friday, July 18th 2014

Morning Phi. How’s the heat in Tokyo these days. A sweltering 38 degrees Celsius in Cairo today. Fortunately it was my day off exercise this morning, but yesterday I kept to my routine of two days on, and one day off. I was up at 6:30am and ran 52 minutes, did 30 chin-ups and whacked out 100 push-ups… but I’m not sure I could do a single push-up with you, my 11 year old daughter on my back… gone are those days… but the sweet memories are still there. Do you remember running and jumping on my back as Dad did his push-ups?

As I ran yesterday, I couldn’t help but think (again) Egypt is such a peculiar place. Its people, its surprises, its events, its history, does much to keep my mind occupied, but I can never forget you. I ran past bodyguards with pistols, and others with machine guns… I ran past donkey carts pulling trash, or melons, or grapes… I ran past an Aston Martin valued at some $500,000, and a bus with no windows billowing black smoke (held my breath on that one)… I ran past enormous villas with swimming pools in their front yard, and I dodged potholes as I peeked… what a funny old place!

So, yesterday we headed into town to the Japanese library to pick up C’s membership card. Her card wasn’t ready, even though they’d stated it would be ready for pick-up Wednesday… lazy Egyptian sods need to learn a trick or two from efficient Japan! After a bit of questioning, they agreed to try and get it ready after one week… a few more raised eyebrows, and then they decided that they could have the card ready in an hour! Charming efficiency hey!

So, with C’s library card in hand, she borrowed two books, and Dad borrowed Masui Ibuse’s Black Rain (the English version). Thus far it’s the story of a young woman, Yasuko, and her life before, during, and after the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6th 1945. It’s a good read… I’m keen to read more.

After we returned home, I’ve been doing a fair amount of editing to our letters Phi. I’ve divided them into quarterly entries, to better keep track of my letters. Sometimes when I’m at school, or traveling, or just sitting in a café, I’ll have a sudden urge to write to you, but as all the letters are in WORD docs on my computer, sometimes I have no choice but to email a letter. This new system seems to have me better organized… I hope.

At about 5pm we took the dogs to Wayne & Yoshiko’s for our daily run around on the lawn. We’re babysitting Jasper, Azarea’s little white prince, so Toro has a playmate, although Jasper is not too keen on other dogs (Toro included). For dinner Dad whipped up a potato bake with believe it or not, 6 boiled eggs halved inside; some sausages, onion, garlic, Italian parsley, turmeric, S&P, and cream did the trick.

C has been doing some volunteer translating for CPR Japan, so Dad is trying to do at least some of the cooking… and ensuring there’s enough left-overs for lunch! At the moment, Chinami is working on a 30 page letter from a left-behind parent from Morocco. God bless her… XoXo…

It’s not easy for women to live here in Egypt. I’m sure my female friends long for a place where you do not constantly lose the battle against dust, rudeness, sexual discrimination, racism, and bakshish; for freedom from watchful male eyes. I think my C just seeks anonymity, and an uncomplicated existence.

Luv you Bella… XoXo…

FAST FACT

  • The heaviest I’ve ever weighed was 84kg; for pretty much the past 10 years I’ve weighed about 75 kg… I wonder what I’ll weigh after we return from an all-inclusive meals/drinks deal with a hotel in Dahab on the Red Sea???

 

Saturday, July 26th 2014

G’day Phi. Well, I missed you on this trip! We went snorkeling, snorkeling, SNORKELING!!! Very early this morning we flew back from Sharm el Sheikh international airport. We had stayed for 5 days at Dahab on the Red Sea. Dahab is a bit of a lonely outpost that sits opposite Saudi Arabia, the lights of which we could see in the evening. At one point in time, it may have been a hippy haven 100km north of the glitzy Sharm; it kind of has that easy-going, laid-back feel about it, especially the town centre.

It was a great holiday to recharge the batteries. The hotel we stayed in would have been perfect for you. There were quite a few kids, and in particular a Dutch family with three daughters would have gladly included you for their all day play around the pool and pier. It was also fully inclusive, that’s breakfast, lunch & dinner… and drinks!

The snorkeling was excellent. I would have loved teaching you some water confidence as we explored the reef. The fish weren’t huge, but there were thousands of them and so many species, colours and shapes. Every day we snorkeled for 40 minutes or so, 3 or 4 times a day. One day we even awoke at 6:30am for a snorkel before breakfast. Each day we pretty much followed the same schedule of snorkeling, eating, snorkeling, a shandy (half beer and half lemonade), reading, snorkeling and dinner with our new friends.

With all the food included, two evenings I went for a run, did my 30 chin-ups and 100 push-ups, just to maintain a little balance. One morning we walked to the Blue Hole, a monstrous deep hole in the reef that drops off the shore at an angle of perhaps 85 degrees. It was too deep to even see the bottom, but as it was circular, we swam around the edges marveling at the coral and fishes. The mountains directly behind us were baron of any vegetation, but I spotted a few camels on my evening run. What a contrast, hey!?

We met a British couple, Peter & Sharmayne T who we dined with most evenings. He is a semi-retired teacher/writer, who has written no less than 30 books! Sharmayne has a little food catering business, and they were just delightful to chat with. I think I’ll send my first few chapters of the story I’ve been writing for you (and my students) to him for his professional opinion. Peter & Sharm were really interesting & welcoming… we might even visit them at some point in the UK, and I’m going to set up a Skype session at school so my kids can ask him some questions about writing.

On our last evening we wandered into Dahab itself. Again not too many tourists, and the usual touts testing one’s patience, but not as bad as Luxor or the pyramids. We went to a recommended Thai restaurant for dinner, perched on the roof-top taking in the Red Sea and good Thai cooking. Just perfect… well almost, you weren’t there with us.

Love you a bunch, and hope we can holiday together soon. Love always, Dad… XoXo…

WICKED QUOTE

“This life is what you make it. No matter what, you’re going to mess up sometimes, it’s a universal truth. But the good part is you get to decide how you’re going to mess it up. Girls will be your friends – they’ll act like it anyway. But just remember, some come, some go. The ones that stay with you through everything – they’re your true best friends. Don’t let go of them. Also remember, sisters make the best friends in the world. As for lovers, well, they’ll come and go too. And baby, I hate to say it, most of them – actually pretty much all of them are going to break your heart, but you can’t give up because if you give up, you’ll never find your soulmate. You’ll never find that half who makes you whole and that goes for everything. Just because you fail once, doesn’t mean you’re gonna fail at everything. Keep trying, hold on, and always, always, always believe in yourself, because if you don’t, then who will, sweetie? So keep your head high, keep your chin up, and most importantly, keep smiling, because life’s a beautiful thing and there’s so much to smile about.”  – Marilyn Monroe

 

Friday, August 1st 2014

Hey Bella, how’s life in sunny Saitama? Are you keeping fit? Running, swimming, skipping, playing soccer??? One has to be proud of those mighty Japanese female soccer players.

I had my 10km run along the Corniche this morning. That’s the main road that runs along the mighty Nile. Friday morning is pretty peaceful as it’s the start of the weekend, and they’re (the Egyptians) all having a sleep-in before call to prayer around midday. The only problem is the stray dogs; they don’t seem to take any time off from chasing your Dad! Whenever I run streets, I carry a few mandatory rocks to be used as missiles should the aggressive variety of canine come sniffing Dad’s backside.

So, once again sitting here on the balcony with my juice and a big bowel of melon enjoying my b’day subscription to The Age online; that’s Dad’s newspaper of choice from Melbourne, Australia. Checked my emails and read that Hadyn and Ted are coming to Cairo! Yipee! Hayd is taking Ted to the centenary ANZAC celebrations at Gallipoli, Turkey, and as Ted’s father trained here in Cairo before joining WW1, Hayd thought he’d see if Ted was up to a visit. Ted said, “Yes,” so they’ll come for a short visit at the end of their trip for just a weekend, arriving Friday, May 1st, and departing for Oz Sunday May 3rd. Hope it’s not too hot!

Day-light saving started again last night (after Ramadan), so our clocks were put forward an hour which will make jogging that bit cooler each morning. That’s good news for me, but with all the chopping and changing, I’m sure everyone else in Cairo is going bananas each time the authorities change the official time.

Wayne, the school superintendent came for dinner last night. I did a lasagna and a halumi, tomato, basil and olive salad; and C created some custard cream fancy deserts. It was a nice night, sitting here on the balcony sipping a few cold beers. The beers have gone up 50 cents each after Ramadan… curious!? Wayne’s family (Yoshiko and the kids, Sam & Maya) arrive back from Japan tomorrow, and we’re all back at school August 6th (pretty early huh? I imagine your summer vacation is only really just starting). Most of the new teachers fly in today, and start their orientation tomorrow (Saturday)… it was just a year ago that I flew into Cairo. Time flies, in some ways, and stalls in others… I’ll let you decide.

Yesterday we went into downtown Cairo on the metro. Each ticket only costs 1LE, which is about 15 yen. C borrowed a few JP books from a JP association, then we walked through Tahir Square (where all the protests took place). Previously it was barricaded by concrete blocks not too dissimilar to the tsunami walls in Japan to prevent the protestors from assembling in their 100s of thousands. It’s the square you might have seen on TV, where the biggest protests took place. Not much to see actually, and the metro station beneath is still closed. C had located a local artists / souvenir shop that she has frequented a bit in recent months; apparently it’s owned by a French person. We bought some nice handmade glasses, each one different and quite rustic in its unique character, and a few odds and ends as decorations. I’m looking forward to eventually getting back to Japan and our own home in Tokyo… it will be ever so nice placing these bits and pieces into chosen places around the house & garden. It will be nicer still, showing you around our home… ready for some gardening? I expect there’ll be a lot to do! Let’s make you a bed, choose some curtains and extras, and together we can decorate a bedroom for you. How does that sound Phi?

Getting warm here on the balcony… might be time for a shower and to head indoors.
Love always, G&C Morice.

DO YOU REMEMBER…

One of my favourite memories with you is searching for Totoro up in the mountains behind Numazu. We were so certain we had glimpsed Totoro… even Dad used to dream of Totoro. I think we ought to head back to that magical park, and search one more time together… if we both believe, all good things will come true… good things like Totoro.

 

Friday, August 8th 2014

Morning Bella.

Another run up at CAC this morning, 30 x chin-ups, 100 x push-ups, and 100 x sit-ups. Trying to stay in reasonable shape before cross country starts in a couple of weeks with the middle school and high school kids. It’s going to be a whole new experience as the finals are going to be held in Vienna this year! Can you believe it Phi, I’ll be chaperoning a team of runners to Austria!

The other day, I enjoyed serving at the bar at Wayne’s as a welcome party for the new teachers to CAC. They seem like a good bunch, and are all very excited about the next 12 months in Cairo.

And last night, Thursday, August 7th I was behind the bar again to welcome back the whole faculty to the 2015/16 academic year. It’s kind of special serving at the bar, because if you recall from my previous letters, Wayne & Dad built the bar one weekend last year.

Time to help C with the sweeping and moping of the floor. Three large bedrooms and too much Cairo dust & sand! Wanna help?

Love Dad… XoXo…

WONDER WALL

I wonder if you’ve kept your beautiful manners and willingness to volunteer and help out where needed. I hope you’re helping with the setting/clearing of the table, washing the dishes, and doing a bit of the cooking from time to time too… but of course you are, aren’t you? Pleases & Thank yous are for winners and grinners too!

 

Saturday, August 16th 2014

Hey Runner, how’s your sporting life going?

Yesterday (Friday) at 6am I ran with the Maadi Runners for the second consecutive week; ran for 85 minutes, most likely around 15km. Not a bad clip, and enjoyed running with the front couple of runners. Last week Dad ran for 72 minutes and probably about 13km. They talk in miles, so it’s hard to know. The Maadi Runners are quite a big group; yesterday there were probably 20+ runners. They go for a run, and then enjoy breakfast together every Friday morning.

After running, on both occasions I went into CAC to meet my new colleagues, Todd & LeeAnn, to go over the curriculum. Also, last Saturday we went to Wayne & Yoshiko’s for a bbq. Toro just loved running around on the lawn. He’s getting quite big now; bigger than we expected.

Recently, we’ve been experiencing many blackouts with the electricity going out 6 or 7+ times a day. Oddly, each blackout lasts roughly an hour, so we’re without power for more or less 7 hours a day. It’s horrid at school, even though the generators are suppose to kick in. Fortunately, Wayne (superintendent) has graciously allowed male teachers to wear shorts, so I’m rather enjoying that aspect of the equation.

The kids started back at CAC just a few days ago (Wednesday, 13th August). I have 19 students, a good mix with Americans and Egyptians in the majority, but I also have a Korean girl & boy, a Japanese girl, a Spanish boy, a Mexican girl, a Japanese/Singaporean boy, an Indian boy & girl, a Syrian boy… and that might be it…

Love you Gorgeous… Dad… XoXo…

WICKED QUOTE

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

― Albert Einstein

 

Saturday, August 23rd 2014

G’day Possum. How’s trix in hot, HOT Saitama!?

This morning we met the troops at CAC and went to Carre Four (the big French supermarket chain) for a big shop-up. We spent 1100 LE, which seems like a lot (actually, it’s only about 18,000 yen) in this country considering C pays about 1LE (about 15 – 18 yen) for a kilogram of tomatoes at the local markets. We enjoyed a coffee at Costa Coffee with our good mate Juana Nolasco, and Zoe & Todd (a new teaching couple to CAC). After our many purchases, we came home had a nap, and this evening we’re going on a felucca up & down the mighty Nile with Jan & Beth, our wonderful neighbors.

Last Monday at 4:40pm, we met Mr. Mortada and we were shown an apartment… what another move??? Yep. Let me explain, it’s almost comical what has happened, but at the time, nobody was too happy:

A couple of weeks back, the landlord decided they would save money and have concrete poured from 11pm on a school night. They’re a tad eccentric and oblivious to their tenants’ feelings; this particular incident was the last of several frustrating happenings. Anyway, we were in bed (or I was) at the time, when suddenly a big diesel motor started up outside our bedroom window. The noisy hydraulics were stabilizing the truck-crane, and then the concrete was pumped up to the fifth floor. “Boom, broom, broom, BOOM, greck, Greck, GRECK!!” Four long hours later, the last of the concrete made its way to the roof, and at 3am, finally all was quiet. Needless to say, we tenants weren’t too happy with our sleepless night (and the thought of an early start at school), and CAC have decided to move us all out of the building. I can’t imagine the landlord being too joyful about all their tenants moving on, but, they’ve only got themselves to blame for their curiously inconsiderate actions. So, C & Dad are moving again!

Anyway, we went and looked at an apartment quite near CAC. Tragic inside, but it’ll be fine once it has had a paint of coat and a sweep. The windows seem to seal nicely, so hopefully that will spell less dust inside.

Love & licks,

Dad… XoXo…

FLASHBACK

You were a very cool 2 and 3 year old. You loved putting on sunglasses, fashionable or not, and putting on a cool face for the camera.

 

Friday, September 5th 2014

G’day Phi, how’s life in Nippon? No blackouts I hope! The blackouts here are getting rather tiresome!

Last Friday (29th August) was Mel’s b’day. She had booked a huge cruiser on the Nile for 3 hours. We all met around an hour before sunset, bringing our own wine & food to share. It was a lovely evening chatting with friends watching Cairo float by.

Then on Saturday, a group of us (Rick, Wayne, Jan, Scott, and myself) went into Old Maadi to purchase wood for the Wednesday Woodies building projects. I’m going to put together a bench/set of shelves for the kitchen, and create a pair of bench legs for a huge coffee table.

Well Buddy, sorry it’s just a quick letter… write again soon… Love Dad… XoXo…

A DAD VIDEO

I’ve probably sent you this link before. A friend from Saint Maur recently reminded me of this fun Japanese Day where a group of us did one of our crazy dance routines for the kids. Enjoy a Dad Video, a JP mama-chari vid:

http://vimeo.com/63546092

 

Tuesday, September 9th 2014

G’day Phi. How’s trix? In just one month’s time you’ll be turning 12… WOW! Hard to believe, as most of the images that float through my mind are of you between 0 and 8 years of age…

Today we (that’s Mighty 5M – Dad’s homeroom class) began the year with the year’s first assembly. Over the past few weeks we’ve been putting together a video clip of teachers dancing behind students, just as we did back at Saint Maur, Yokohama. My students loved producing it, and as they had kept it a total secret, the kids, parents, and teachers in the audience went wild with surprise when they saw what we had put together.

It was only a half day for some, as the students went home at 11:30am, and then Dad led the Science Accreditation Team through the long afternoon. Initially (going back several months), I was quite worried about leading a bunch of specialist middle school and high school science teachers through the accreditation process, but they’ve been a pretty solid group, and it has proved mostly smooth thus far.

Monday Dad did a 2km time trial with my x-country kids running in at 7min 3 sec; I’m a little fearful the course was 200m short, as I didn’t think your Dad could run those times any more!!!

On Friday, Jan & Dad went up to school to finish up the legs for a coffee table. You see, we bought a door, yes, a door, and months ago I created a wicked coffee table out of it. But the legs were recycled wood, full of holes, and Toro had taken to chewing parts of them, so it was time to create something a little more respectable. The door’s design was created by a local Egyptian artist. He painstakingly hammered thousands of tacks into the door creating a very cool Arabic design of geometric shapes and free-flowing Arabic lettering. So, with the wood I purchased in Old Maadi, Dad is putting together a pair of bench legs for the would be coffee table. Unfortunately Dad broke Rick’s roller door… so Jan & Dad spent the better part of 60 minutes taking it apart, and putting it back together so that it functioned once again.

Then, I started to feel a little unwell, and by early afternoon I was in bed, and pretty much spent most of the weekend in bed recuperating

On Thursday evening we had a few drinks at Sarah & Rick’s new place, and then we went back to Azarea’s apartment for the evening. There have been continuing mass power outages all over Egypt, and the latest blackout has curiously blown the water pump in our building; so we’ve had no water! Yeah, no showers, and of course it makes it rather difficult to flush the toilet!!

Well Phi, fancy a woodwork class with your Dad? We could build another deck together! Remember helping Dad with Bonnie & Phil’s deck in Jiyugaoka? Love Dad… XoXo…

WICKED QOUTE

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”

― Dr. SeussHappy Birthday to You!

 

Monday, September 30th 2014

G’day Phi. Two weeks until my not so little Princess has another birthday… a 12 year old daughter… what a gift… just wish I could give you a hug, a present or three, and my heart.

We’ve just had a busy but productive weekend. Last Sunday, September 22nd, we moved apartments. We now live on Road 207, Maadi, which is much closer to the school, and after all our (mainly C) work this past weekend, our new flat finally feels like a home. The curtains are up, the shelves are up, and our boxes are unpacked. I like the place, and so does Toro. Toro can see directly out the window onto the street, and that seems to please him very much. He sits by the window for long periods, never barking, just taking it all in. He can see the landlord’s beautiful garden out one window, and their swimming pool out another. At Road 12, our former flat, the windows were set higher, so he couldn’t see anything but the blue Cairo sky, and the sand blowing in from the desert.

Mauricio, my Chilean mate from Saint Maur, Yokohama, arrives this Friday from Istanbul. He’s been teaching at an international school in Turkey for at least four years now. We’re planning to go to the Lebanese restaurant together. Would you like to join us?

Well, that’s the rap. Another chapter in my correspondence to you… hope you’re reading along Bella… LOVE Dad… XoXo…

ANOTHER DAD VIDEO

Feel like dancing? Dad & AKB48… revive the memories:

http://youtu.be/P2e6j1P6p1s

 

 

2014 April – June

“All the love you created is still there. You live on – in the hearts of everyone you have touched and nurtured while you were here.” Morrie

I love you Phi… XoXo…

Friday, April 4th 2014

I’m sorry, sometimes I feel as though I failed you. Sometimes I wish I had been more forceful, more savage, more personal, during all those sessions in the Family Court. But I only occasionally allow myself to wallow in those lows.

I still believe in truth, and I still believe you’ll understand this sorry chain of events one day. Perhaps I could have done something to prevent your heart from ever being scarred, but even today, I don’t know what I could have done to save you. Over the years, I’ve had much time to contemplate, what if…? and despite playing out the ending in a million different ways, I cannot lie and twist the truth, and risk the heart and soul of my daughter. You’re too precious to ever lie to, besides, I know you know the truth… we all do.

In any case Phi, you’ll never guess where I am… Bangkok. I’m at a conference on reading. It’s pretty surreal to be finally here. There are 10 teachers from CAC here attending. We had a horrific flight; delayed in Cairo for 2 hours, and then another 5+ hours in Abu Dhabi. It was actually worse than flying all the way to Melbourne from Cairo! The flight itself, had me reminiscing of our flights together to Melbourne. More of that later, in my new segment to you: Do you remember?

So basically, this conference is about teaching reading, beginning with helping children to want the life of a reader. So far, it’s pretty interesting, and the food at the Sheraton is damn tasty! Tonight there’s an opening party outside beside the river. Should be pretty good, I think. Would have been great if you could have come. They have a free kids’ club for participants’ children, not bad, hey?

Alright buddy, it’s time Dad had a shave and put on a clean shirt for tonight’s opening party. Will write again soon… LOVE Dad… XoXo…

DO YOU REMEMBER?

I recalled that first flight we took without your mum as I flew here to Bangkok. We struck it lucky and we had 3 seats between us. For hours you had slept across two seats, and I hadn’t dared to go to the bathroom as you rested peacefully. But at some point I just had to take a leak. Just minutes later I returned, and you were screaming. You had suddenly woken and were understandably afraid. You were in unfamiliar surroundings, and your Dad was absent. Fortunately Andrew, a high school teacher from Katoh, was also on the flight on his way back to Melbourne too, and was sitting just a few seats from us. He quickly scooped you up, and gladly passed you over to me upon my return. What I would do, to hold you and comfort you in my arms as I once did… That same trip, I can still see you in my mind’s eye. There is a photo of you that Pa took as we exited customs. You had on your blue knitted jumper, and you were snuggled into my chest with the beginnings of a smile as you recognized Nandee & Pa. It’s ever so beautiful, memorable and gloriously, you…

 

Sunday, April 6th 2014

Phi, I’m still in Bangkok, and still feeling quite jet-lagged. This afternoon and into the evening I went in search of a special bag for C. I wish you were here with me, because I couldn’t decide which one. The problem is, she wants a special type of bag with this and that attached, and there are just so many bags to choose from, but none exactly as she has requested… doshio… what to do? Could you just pick one for me Phi?

BTW, I found this in The Japan Times. It was published April 4th 2014 and features two people C & Dad know well. The article mentions my former lawyer, Masami Kittaka. It also features Masako Akeo, who we’ve campaigned alongside many times.

Child abduction agreement too late for many parents

BY TOMOHIRO OSAKI, STAFF WRITER                     

To some parents, Japan’s official entry Tuesday into the Hague convention on cross-border child abductions doesn’t represent the light at the end of the tunnel, but the arrival of more obstacles in the prolonged effort to retrieve their children, experts say.

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction was drafted in 1980 to ensure that children abducted and taken overseas by a parent involved in a failed international marriage will be promptly returned to their country of habitual residence. Japan’s refusal to sign the convention earned it a reputation as a “safe haven” for international child abductions. But from now on, the Foreign Ministry will be legally bound to locate abducted kids and facilitate their return at the request of parents abroad. The same will apply to children whisked away from Japan, as long as the country where the child is staying is a signatory of the convention.

While widely hailed as a breakthrough, participation in the pact does not satisfy everyone. For one thing, the treaty is not retroactive, meaning repatriation is possible only in cases that take place from Tuesday on. Regardless of the date of the abduction, however, the government can still assist parents seeking visitation opportunities, such as by trying to locate their children, according to the treaty. But these benefits can only be given to parents whose kids were under 16 years of age as of Tuesday. Anyone else does not benefit from the treaty. A group of parents trapped in this legislative limbo went to the Foreign Ministry on Wednesday to explain their plight. Miho Watanabe, a 53-year-old Japanese citizen, said she took refuge in a women’s shelter in United States in 1995 with her 3-year-old daughter to escape alleged mistreatment by her husband, an American, whom she married in Japan. Shortly afterward, she took their daughter back to Japan and got divorced with the help of international lawyers in 1999. But in 2005, after she sent her 13-year-old daughter to the U.S. for a visit at the request of her ex-husband, he spirited her away and has refused to let Watanabe have access. The daughter visited her once in Japan recently, but Watanabe said she has no clue about her current whereabouts. “I was told (by the American family) I would become a ‘kidnapper’ if I ever tried to bring back my own girl to Japan,” Watanabe said.

Watanabe, who campaigned for Japan to join the Hague convention for years, said she was vaguely aware the pact only applies to children under 16. But she had always held out hope that she might benefit from it somehow, she said, noting that her faintest hopes were dashed on Wednesday, when ministry officials told her there was nothing they could do. Her daughter is now 21 and living independently of her father in the U.S. “In my case, the abduction took place ages ago. At that time, she was still a little kid. It’s so unfair, after all these years that I waited, that my case is not considered eligible,” Watanabe said.

Masako Akeo, head of Left Behind Parents Japan, a group of Japan-based parents separated from their children, expressed outrage over the government’s ingrained “tardiness.” Akeo’s husband, who is also Japanese, took their son, raised in Canada, to Japan in 2006 without her consent. A Japanese family court later granted him sole custody of the boy, effectively denying Akeo any visitation rights. She has no idea where he is today. “We all looked very much forward to this day. But now we’re devastated to find out we’re not even eligible to ask for the government’s support to locate and help us visit our kids,” Akeo said. While acknowledging that their situation is a pity, legal experts argue that the convention’s current framework does not allow such parents to be helped. “It’s not like there is absolutely nothing they can do. They could go to the U.S. and litigate a case themselves. But I understand it will be a very, very laborious task,” said lawyer Masami Kittaka. “The sad reality is that Japan’s accession to the convention does nothing to directly improve their situation,” she said.

Needless to say, I’m still in Bangkok. I fly back to Cairo on Tuesday morning. Conference finishes tomorrow. Done my 100 push-ups this evening, but didn’t bring my running shoes, so no jog. Love Dad… XoXo…

DO YOU REMEMBER?

Do you remember jumping on my back as I did push-ups? You would come running and jump on my back, wrapping both arms around my shoulders and lying down hugging me tight. Ahh, just the best memories for your Dad…

 

Saturday, April 12th 2014

G’day Phi. It’s pretty quiet here at the moment. C is busy doing an English – Japanese translation, and I’ve just returned from the travel agent after paying for our tickets to Luxor for next weekend. I say “quiet” because we’ve been baby-sitting Jasper, a tiny little white dog that couldn’t jump up on the couch (he’s so small!), and when he was actually on the couch, he couldn’t get down! He’s not a puppy though… I think he’s 4 and a half years old. I also know you would have loved him. His owner, Azarea, is an Australian of Croatian descent, in fact, we’re planning on meeting her in Croatia this coming summer (July). She’s planning on staying in Dubrovnik, which really appeals… want to meet us there?

Last Tuesday I arrived back from Bangkok with a nasty virus. I’m just starting to come good now. I’ll take the last of the antibiotics this evening, but the worst part is that I haven’t been able to go for a run for over a week and a half… I can’t recall when that last happened to your Dad.

Last night we again went to Wayne & Yoshiko’s for dinner. Y & C sold their sushi, karage & koroke at the French market yesterday morning. They could have done with your help. You could have played the role of the cashier, as they dealt with the French customers; actually there were quite a few Japanese customers too… “Irrashai, irrashai mase!”

Thursday, Y picked C & Dad up at 9:30am and took us out to the Citadel. It’s a huge mosque and fort established 1200AD. It’s situated on a hill overlooking dusty Cairo. That evening we had Jan over for dinner (he’s our American Swedish neighbor), because Beth had had to rush back to the US to be with their daughter for medical reasons.

Wednesday evening Yoshiko & Wayne invited us for a bbq. This time of year the weather is just perfect in Cairo. It’s getting to 30 degrees Celsius during the day, but the mornings and evenings are just lovely, fresh and cool… but we know summer is coming!

When are you coming to Cairo? Dad… XoXo…

DO YOU REMEMBER?

Do you remember bedtime in Numazu and being piggy-backed up the stairs to your bedroom each evening? We’d read 3 books usually on your beanbag, but sometimes on the couch, and sometimes in your bed (especially if it was winter, and we were waiting for the heater to warm your room). And then before Dad could go downstairs and do the dishes and get things ready for the next day, some cut little possum would request a story…

“Who’s going to be in our story tonight?” Dad would ask.

A little angle would tilt her head thinking, then excitedly whisper, “A princess, a horse and a puppy.”

And so our magic story time would begin… I love you… XoXo…

 

Friday, April 25th 2014

Happy Easter All! G’day Phi, Brenda & Allen. B & A, I’m including you in this letter, hoping you’ll read through this letter to our dear Ophelia. As you’re aware, I write to my daughter and have started a blog, so that one day soon, she’ll be able to reconnect. As she reads my letters, I hope she gets a feel for how often she’s in my thoughts. As you were a very special part of our lives in Numazu, I thought you both might like to add a sentence, or a paragraph, or even a page, so that Phi will one day feel a part of our lives again. So, Brenda (chose bold) & Allen (chose blue), grab a colour, and write a line or two to our Phi… my typing skills are so slow, I’ll probably only get through a portion of our adventures together, so please feel free to add extra detail, and forgotten events.

Allan & Brenda

Allan & Brenda

So, here we go… C & Dad have just said goodbye to our first guests in Cairo. You’ll remember them fondly, because their daughter, Nicola, was pretty much everything you wanted to be, when you trailed around behind her in Numazu.

THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES. HOPE YOUR PUPPY BEHAVES ITSELF!

Yes, Brenda & Allan flew in from Sydney to spend a week with us. Their youngest, Tim, stayed behind as he’s doing a gap year between year 12 & university; likewise, Nicola is working back in Sydney, while, David, their eldest, is continuing his law degree, by doing a course in Utrecht, in the Netherlands. Before arriving in Cairo, Brenda & Allan spent some time with David in France & of course, Holland.

CIMG0948Our guests flew in last Thursday afternoon. We put them in one of our two guest bedrooms, the room with three photos of you proudly displayed. I’m sure Brenda & Allan noticed the Ophelia smile immediately, because it wasn’t long before Brenda emptied her purse and showed me a photo of you. You were wearing an orange dress with cut off sleeves, so it must have been summer. It’s been years since they’ve seen you, but they haven’t forgotten your gentle, easy going nature. It brought a tear to your Dad’s eye, to know that Brenda still carried a photo of you everywhere she goes… just as I do. (lost that photo for 48 hours but when I paid for a coloring sheet of Arabic lettering- which I’ll give to you one day, I found it! It was in a deep corner of my wallet. I’m so happy that I found it again!)

So, as soon as I returned from school last Thursday, I took Allan for a walk to grab a few necessities. I acquainted him with the many stray dogs here in Cairo, bought a few hard to find beers, and some of the local bread fresh from the ovens. That evening, we sat on the balcony and reminisced. We spoke of you, Tim, Nicola & David. We laughed as the stories of Xmas, camping, beach trips and bbqs came to life. Our own dogs, Riku & Milly were mentioned, and the infamous Christmas when you and Nicola had taken Tim’s birthday present out of its cage/home. Tim’s tiny hamster was sure a cutey, but to the cat, I’m sure his present looked mighty tasty. We laughed as we recalled Nicola’s scream as the cat took possession of Tim’s hamster. At the time however, it was anything but funny, as you, and especially Nicola were quite traumatized at witnessing the stealth of the cat. I wonder if you can still remember that Christmas, it was a long time ago. Nicola and you were upstairs playing, Nicola had “sneaked” into Tim’s room, and was showing you his Christmas present – a hamster. Unfortunately, Nicola had let it out of its box so you could see it on the tatami mats, but our cat got into the room and attacked the poor hamster. Nicola’s scream had your Dad and I running up the stairs!

Last Friday morning, we all took a taxi out to Cairo airport for a flight to Luxor. Luxor is some 800km from Cairo, but the difference in temperature took us by surprise. For the 3 days we were there, the temperature hovered around 40 degrees Celsius. Day 01 we stayed close to the hotel, the Nerfititi. We enjoyed a walk through the bazaar, and alongside the Nile. The bazaar was bizarre Ophelia, everybody calls you their friend even though we didn’t want to talk with them – now I know why we have that word in English!

By evening we found ourselves on the roof-top balcony, hot wind in our faces, sipping beers and dipping Egyptian bread into hummus. We had a clear view of the Temple of Luxor and the Avenue of Sphinxes. It would have been good to have my 11 year old daughter along, to read fast facts about Luxor to the tired and weary adults. You would have told us that the Romans had been in Luxor, and that sand had also invaded the town, eventually burying the town. You could have pointed out, that an Arab town was built on top, covering the ancient treasures below.

Breakfast was included at the Nerfititi, so Saturday morning I took my book up onto the roof-top for a quick read before C, Brenda & Allan joined me. Presently, I’m on a George R. R. Martin feast, devouring his 4th epic story in the Game of Thrones series. It’s titled, A Feast for Crows. It’s not a great book to read to you as a read-aloud, as there’s a bit too much sex & violence, but it’s certainly an intriguing storyline. I wonder, what we would have read as a read-aloud, if you were sitting down between C & Dad… I think Brenda might have read you a story too. The Gemma series is what I would love you to read, which was my favourite when I was young. I’ll let Dad know the author but of course you can borrow Nicola’s series!

Saturday we’d organized a tour with a delightful Indian couple we’d met the evening before. We were picked up at 8am and taken out to the Temple of Karnak. Karnak was abandoned around the 4th century AD when the Egyptians turned to Christianity. Incredible to think that today, around 90% of Egyptians claim the Islamic faith as their religion. Within Karnak was a temple dedicated to Ramesses the Third. Of all the places we visited on our tour, this was my favorite. The temperatures had not climbed too high at this hour of the morning, and the fact that the temples had been around over 3000 years, peaked  my curiosity. Add to that, the fact that the temple covers an area of 260,000 sq metres, and had a workforce of some 80,000 people… it was pretty amazing to be walking through such history.

From Karnak, it was a short drive to the Valley of the Workers. The remains of their dwellings, and the tombs that built for themselves (in their spare time) were there, baking in the hot morning sun. Next up, we visited the Valley of the Kings, where Ramesses and Tutankhamen tombs are amongst some 60 discovered. Our guide took us through the excitement of Howard Carter’s discovery less than a century ago, when he unearthed Tutankhamen’s treasures.

I’m looking forward to showing you the photos and a good chat. As we wandered the sweltering valley, I couldn’t help but think, the tales of the pyramids, sphinxes, pharos, etc., really fascinated me as an 11 year old… so too probably you. So, however old you are now, wherever you may be in this wonderful world, flick me a message, and I promise, it won’t be long before we’re chatting and laughing like old times…

Finally, our guide, Aladdin, took us to the Necropolis of Thebes. By this stage, even Aladdin was wilting in the heat, and pretty much left us to our own devices. By the time we got back to the hotel, we all needed an Ophelia-nap. Once again, we found ourselves on the roof for a quiet evening beside the Nile.

Sunday morning we flew out of Luxor, and back to our new home of Cairo. There was a strange sense of attachment as we returned to Maadi, something we haven’t felt since we arrived August 2013. Luxor was interesting, with its historic sites, but the lack of tourists has left the local economy in tatters. Aladdin had reported that he used to work every day as 10,000 tourists would stream through Luxor daily; nowadays, there’s just a handful. The desperateness & poverty seemed to be simmering close to boiling point, to the point where we didn’t really know where we stood. It was an uncomfortable feeling, because you empathized with what they had lost, but it was somehow quite threatening too.

So back in Maadi, we spent a quiet day strolling the streets for souvenirs for Allan & Brenda’s family and friends. Yes, I took your father, C and Brenda on many “souvenir” shopping trips…you would have loved it…many things are so different to Japan and Australia…so it was fun to look and “bargain” with the shop owners. I was especially impressed with the traditional clothing Egyptian men wear – a galabeya, it looks similar to a men’s yukata. It became the main focus of my shopping trips by the end of our visit – I think the others thought I was a bit crazy! Though Maadi is on the Nile, and an apparent green belt, the trees look dusty and tired with so little rain. Only the many dusty minarets bring a little life to Maadi. Each of the mosques utilize loud speaker systems to welcome their fold to prayer. The first call to prayer, depends on sunrise in Mecca, but presently it’s just after 4am. Brenda & Allan’s laid-back manner quite appreciated the sometimes melodic invitation to pray.  I made a video of this one morning, at about 3.40am using our digital camera! You can’t see anything because it is still dark, but I wanted Tim, Nicola and David to hear for themselves. If you ever have a chance, you should come to Egypt and see/hear for yourself. For Dad, at least at first, it was ritual torture, as I never quite seemed to be able to drift back off to sleep after the rude awakening each morning.

A & B are a wonderful family Phi, I just so wish you could be a part of all this. Each time I see Tim, Nicola & David, within seconds your name is mentioned. I so hope, you have the opportunity to meet this generous family again.

And, my Phi-Fai-Pho-Fum, that brings me to Monday. Fortunately for Dad, it was a long 4-day Easter weekend, so again, I had the good fortune of entertaining our guests. We jumped on the metro and headed into Old Cairo for a wander among the churches, mosques and synagogues. Then we ventured a little further into the beehive of activity, to C’s favorite part of Cairo, Attaba. From there we walked toward Khan al-Khalili. Unfortunately, its regular medieval souk atmosphere was flat, as most of the Khan had closed up shop for the public holiday. Usually the narrow alleys brim with silver, alabaster, crafts, clothes and souvenirs, but on Monday only a few touts were there to bother us.

Anyway Phi, I’m going to bring my monologue to an end now, and post this to Allan & Brenda, in the hope they’ll fill you in on the rest of the week. I also hope that one day soon, you can sit down comfortably in the presence of C & Dad, Allan & Brenda and their wonderful kids…

Thursday was Ali Hamer’s mega tour beginning with a trip to the Pyramids. After a scuffle at the entry gates with fake guards, we were under the awesome heights of each pyramid. It was far to walk all the way around and down to the legendary Sphinx but so worth it!  The pyramids at Giza are one of the must see things in Egypt. In fact, the pyramid of Cheops is the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World! And they are close to where your Dad and C live. Brenda thinks it is a bit “touristy” to see such things, but I look at them and marvel at how they could have been built so long ago with no technology as we have today…you would feel the same I am sure, if you could stand at the foot of the periods and look at them. Cairo Museum is full of rooms of things found in the tombs Dad talked about above, plus tall statues of the Pharaohs or beautiful jewellery the royalty wore. My favourite room had portraits of the ancient Egyptian’s faces which was put on top of their coffins. I saw faces which looked just like them in the streets of Maadi. Egyptian men are really good looking but please don’t marry one unless they’re a Christian or Atheist otherwise you’ll end up tied to the kitchen sink! I think that could also happen if you marry a Japanese man as well!

C loved the tomb of Mohamed Ali’s family because it was a secret that even Egyptian people didn’t know about. Our driver showed us a special trick where the camera flash picked up the gold decoration on one of the fancy tombs. It was pretty special as in real life it was covered in dusty dirt and just looked ordinary.

Our final stop was in Garbage City where Coptic Christians started living as a group because they were looked down on when they lived in Giza. A Priest built a church in a cave which was huge and deep down so nice and cool. Our guide talked too much trying to get C to believe in Jesus’ miracles. I do so I’m praying that her dream will come true like that guide prophesied. (Allan isn’t sure though). Anyway what a day! I wonder if you’d be a reluctant tourist like I am or probably you’ll just be happy to go anywhere with your Dad and C seeing new sights! Also I’d rather sit and watch couples, groups of young people or families have fun together like we used to in the parks in Itami or Numazu than have to do shopping! C was very patient with Allan and I yesterday and helped us get some neat presents and souvenirs for our home.

What an Egyptian experience your Dad and C have let us have. We loved it and can’t wait for the next chance to visit each other. I wonder where it’ll be and whether you’ll be staying over at their home Ophelia so when we come we can see you again at last!!! One day Allan will put on his Galabeya to show you. He suits it being so dark and swarthy….Yes, I finally bought something very similar to an Egyptian galabeyah in Dubai. In the Emirates it is little bit slimmer in fit to a traditional galabeyah…but still very Arabic. Nicola and Tim had a good laugh when I put it on. They took photos, we will send one to your Father, and it might be in this blog!                                                                                                

Ophelia I hope you can remember us…the Australian family who became a small part of your “family” with your Dad and you in Japan…our camping trips to the river with Rikku and Millie, Mr Donuts and Nicola, the young girl you spent many hours playing with.

Until we are all together, take care our precious friends.

Love Dad & C, Brenda & Allen.

FAST FACT

The Khan has been a bustling marketplace for over 1000 years now!

DAD APOLOGY

Sorry, it’s Easter, and we once again couldn’t enjoy an Easter egg hunt together like we used to… maybe one day soon… XoXo.

 

Friday, May 2nd

How’s my one and only daughter? It’s May already, 2014… can you believe it? It’s fully Spring in Japan and birthdays to Noribaba & Dad. At the same time it’s getting cold back in Melbourne, or it should be, but with global warming, Nandee & Pa, your aunts & uncles and all your cousins are having another long and mild autumn. Apparently, the environment is thoroughly confused, with Spring bulbs sprouting in early May in Melbourne, and the trees holding their leaves refusing to give into such mild Winters. And here in Cairo, well it’s customarily hot, but not too bad. Actually Phi, I prefer the dry heat here than Tokyo’s thick and heavy humidity.

Remember our lovely Canadian friend, Bonnie? We were best mates in Numazu, and then she and her family moved to Tokyo. She actually went out to your house in Kamifujisawa to see you and your Mother before she went back to Canada… but your Mother, according to Bonnie wasn’t too impressed to see her. Anyway, Bonnie just posted this beautiful video on FB of a class of grade 4 students in Japan. One of the students loses a grandparent and writes about his feelings of loss and anguish. His letter empowers his peers to also write, and one little girl writes about the death of her Dad at 3 years of age.

http://blog.petflow.com/working-draft-this-would-never-happen-in-an-american-school-but-maybe-it-should-everyone-should-hear-this-story/

It’s a powerful video to watch… I hope you enjoy it. And I hope you have such wonderful, empowering teachers as this gentleman throughout your education.

DO YOU REMEMBER?

… when we went to visit Bonnie & Phil, May & Cate in Jiyugaoka. We drove up from Numazu with Nandee and Pa and stayed the weekend. You had a ball with the gals and all their toys. The Sunday morning you even ventured out on the new deck Dad had built for Phil & Bonnie, and you picked up the hammer, and proceeded to hammer down a few nails. I can still see you in your cute sky blue nightie (pajamas). That’s my gal! I wonder when we’ll get an opportunity to make another deck together…

 

Tuesday, May 6th 2014

How’s my favorite princess? What are you reading at the moment? Do you have a favorite writer? Oh, how I wish we could giggle together as we discuss Roald Dahl books and his inventive vocabulary, or Michael Murpogo’s underdog author’s craft, or perhaps some of Lois Sachar’s titles… or better still, we could take it in turns and sit in the “author’s chair” and read our own narrative writing to each other. As a teacher, I like to provide my writers with a “real” sense of audience, so we have a special chair that we’ve called the author’s chair. Every Tuesday, it’s free writing day, and some of my students have taken up the challenge of writing an epic story. In other words, they have to plan and write a chapter book. To model such challenging writing, I model “how to” sessions with my own writing. When a student has finished a chapter, and after they’ve made revisions and edited, if they choose, they can sit in the author’s chair and share their writing.

Last week I started to write the 18th chapter of Have Dad, Will Travel. Each time I finish a chapter, I take to the author’s chair and read to my 5th graders. My students sit and listen, and “stop & jot” their questions, predictions, comments, advice, connections, etc. In many ways the story of Bailey and his Dad, and the feelings of the two central characters are my own, and thus the way I feel about you is integral to the story. This chapter in particular, and the next chapter (I foresee) is terribly hard, because it unearths so many truths and underlying feelings that have arisen since your mother took her action. Sometimes I try and suppress these feelings, and other times I use them to fuel my writing. Thus far, the 5th graders seem to be enjoying my narrative. Each week they seem to look forward to the next chapter. Some day, I hope you’ll read my story… right now, I don’t know if it’s right to share with you, but I think given time, you’ll come to understand your Dad more and more.

Tonight, Dad & C went to a Chinese restaurant. We had heard their gyoza was tasty. C’s is better though. BTW, C & Y are planning on a whole day of making gyoza for the next French market, this coming weekend.

Last weekend we looked after Moby the cat, as Wayne et al went to Athens for a conference.

Dad is reading the 5th installment of George RR Martin’s of A Song of Ice & Fire, A Dance with Dragons. The weather has been milder, as Sunday it hit 41 degrees Celsius! Hotto Motto!

FAST FACT

The Australian journalist, Peter Greste has been locked up in a Cairo prison just around the corner from us since December 29th 2013. Shame general El Sisi, shame.

 

Saturday, May 10th 2014

Howdy Cowdy. Nori Baba’s birthday soon, don’t forget to make her a card. Handmade cards are best! And tomorrow, it’s Mothers’ Day. Give your Mother a big hug, and tell her you love her.

So, this morning, what has your Dad been up to? Well, I sharpened the kitchen knives, and in a minute we’re going to head up to CAC library to read some magazines, borrow some DVDs and books. You’d love the DVD kids’ section! What shall we watch tonight??

Uncle Sean just sent us a cool email with results from Luca’s little league Aussie football game. I had a look through Luca’s footy photos. He looks great, running around on such green, green grass. Uncle Sean was a very talented footballer, quite easily the best of us three boys, although Uncle Richie had several successful years with the first team at Aquinas Old Collegians, the high school we three graduated from.

So, what are you up to for Mothers’ Day? My guess is you will be cooking up a storm, taking over the kitchen and creating an awesome lunch for your mother. I wonder if your little sister is able to help you a bit more in and around the kitchen.

In a way, it’s a bummer living here in Cairo. Evidently, the poor postal workers have not been paid for 6 months, so it’s any wonder, they’re not too keen on delivering anything. Needless to say, we are not able to send or receive anything. I miss home on weekends like this… I know Uncle Rich and Sean will get together with Nandee and Pa. Your cousins will be running around, playing on the trampoline, chasing each other here and there through the garden, playing dress-ups, and eating on the run… oh, what fun… just imagine, if the three of us were there now Phi… Dad, C & you…

Yesterday (yes, Friday, because Friday is call to prayer day, and in the Islamic world, the first day of the weekend) we headed into Old Islamic Cairo on the train. C had found online an area called the tent-makers street that she thought I might like. Tents, cool… you and I both love our tents! More of tents later, because the thought of “tents” has given me many memorable connections with you. The tent-makers market took a bit of finding, but once we found it, it was very interesting. KD (your Pa, ‘cause his first name is Kerry, and his middle name is Daniel (same as your Dad’s)) would have enjoyed it, ’cause they use the same material and design as Poppa’s (my paternal grandfather) old scout tent. Just near the tent district, we also found a woodwork area, which was pretty good too, especially the butchers’ blocks, that must have weighed somewhere around 80kg each! C said she would like one as a bar. Seeing the butcher’s block has given me an idea. The design is simple, three sturdy legs pieced together in tripod fashion, and a big thick slab of wood placed on top, like it’s a stool. Someday, you and I can make C’s wish come true… I think we can whip one up as a bar in Tokyo… what do you think chief? Sounds like a plan, right?

Again, missing you kiddo, and our amazing Aussie family too, especially on days like tomorrow.

Love Ged & C… XoXo…

DO YOU REMEMBER

…playing in our tent at a campground near Furano in Hokkaido? You happily played in the tent for nearly two hours while Dad prepared dinner. That evening we watched the fireworks around the lake!

 

Friday, May 16th 2014

Morning Bella. How’s trix in the Land of the Rising Sun? Last night at midnight, Egypt changed to day-light saving time. So we all had to move our clocks ahead an hour. We were up at 7am, which is really 8am, so I took a run in the peace of the morning. Friday is call for prayer day here, so typically the locals sleep in and the streets are relatively deserted. The nasty stray dogs left me alone too.

Last night we watched a US movie about a divorced couple with a teenage son. It’s called Life as a House, starring Kevin Kline. The mother remarries, and has two children with her new husband, but her relationship with her first son falls in tatters, and curiously her ex-husband and she form a special bond as they try and re-connect with their son.

I kept thinking of you, your mother, and our futures. No matter what your mother does to keep our worlds apart, we’re still bound to each other, spiritually if not physically.

There was a scene in the movie that jogged my memory of you and I at the beach at Tsujido, and at Shimoda, and at Enoshima. At each beach you loved the excitement of the waves. You would cling to my neck and wrap your long strong legs around my waist and look at to sea…

“Dad, there’s a wave coming.” You’d whisper excitedly in my ear. “Get ready to jump… it’s coming, NOW!” and we’d jump giggling. I’m sure at times you were scared, especially when the wave would splash up in our faces, and we’d have salt water in our eyes.

“Do want you to go in now Phi?” I’d ask.

“No. I can see another big wave coming Dad. See Dad? Look Dad!” you’d say.

“Do you think we should run to the shore and have a peanut butter sandwich?” I’d respond.

“Nah!” you’d respond cautiously, all the while your eyes were on the wave. “Let’s stay and jump! Here it comes, here it comes!”

I remember how precious you felt in my arms, and your heart beat racing, with your chest snug against my chest. We were so alive, so happy, so full of adventure and spirit. I have never felt more perfectly comfortable than in those precious moments we shared. Nobody can take those moments from us…

Tomorrow is the final French Market. C has made gyoza to sell. The next market will be held at Y’s & Wayne’s.

I miss you bella… and wish we could jump waves today too… XoXo…

FUN FACTS

The Sinai Peninsula in Egypt spans across two continents, Africa and Asia.

 

Wednesday, May 21st 2014

Morning Phi. It’s 6:22am here in Cairo. It still feels like 5:22am because last weekend the authorities decided they would suddenly switch to daylight saving time. I like it, because it’s lighter in the evening, but the kids have been a bit sleepy during the week. Tonight is the 5th grade concert, and tomorrow is student-led conferences. I wonder if you were here beside me, eating your breakfast as we prepare for school, would you have had a solo in the concert… CAC is wonderfully international, and there are even two Japanese songs in the concert. Hisamu, a boy in my class is very proud of his solo; he’s good too. Have you ever been an “expert” in a student-led conference? I’m pretty sure I’ve taken you through such conferences before, when we led our students through them at Saint Maur. It’s a very empowering experience, if the teacher spends quality time preparing her/his students for the big day.

Last weekend was pretty casual. We began planning our summer holiday. Would you like to visit Istanbul, Turkey, and Dubrovnik, Croatia with us? Nathalie, Dad’s x-country jogging mate from Yokohama will host us in Istanbul, and we’ll meet Azarea (the art teacher at CAC) in Croatia. C worked hard last weekend making gyoza to sell at the French Market. She & Yoshiko spent 7 hours hand-making their gyoza last Friday! She sold quite a bit too, but it wasn’t as busy as usual. You would have been a great help, counting the money and explaining what gyoza actually is. Most of the French seemed to think it’s ravioli. So, after the market we took Toro chan to Wayne & Y’s for dinner, left-over gyoza & sushi… Yum-yum!

Time I jumped on my bike and pedaled to school. I’ll miss you today Phi… I’m always wondering about you… always. Yesterday I read the 19th chapter of my Epic Story to my kids. I’ll send it to you. Bailey’s Dad finally told his son about his mother. Of course so much of my story is based around you, and what happened to you… us… I love you.

FAST FACT

  • The capital city is Cairo, which also has the largest population. Other major cities include Alexandria and Giza, which is really just across the Nile, between us and the pyramids of Giza… we can see them from the roof balcony!

Wednesday, May 28th 2014

G’day Phi,

Today I wore that rusty orange shirt-sleeve shirt we bought in Hokkaido all those years ago. I haven’t worn it for a while, so of course as soon as I ironed it last night, my mind flashed back to our trip in the big orange car. All those memories of us sitting out the typhoon at the big Chitose outlet mall, nearby the Chitose airport came flooding back. Our trip from Numazu to Niigata to catch the overnight ferry to Otoro, us camping by gorgeous lakes, watching the fireworks together, you sitting on my shoulders as we walked the streets of Saporro, watching the monkeys at the zoo, visiting the Anpan Man museum, the lavender and the gomi no ie in the hills of Kita no Kuni country. All the photos we took were pre digital, so we took it in turns to use the remote, enabling us both to be in the picture with our big smiles pointed to the camera on the tripod. Fun times with my 2 year old as I toilet trained you that particular summer. Skirts or dresses and just your undies… and just the one accident at the Anpan Man Museum… and in fairness, I think you just got yourself a little too excited and didn’t want to waste any time by having to go to the toilet.

Tomorrow is the Egypt Festival Day. It would have been fun to take you down to the front gate to buy you a costume for you to wear with your friends. Dad bought an Egyptian galabeya (also called jilbab). It is a loose, full-length gown with wide sleeves, often decorated with embroidery along its hems; only mine is pretty plain.

I had another dream about you last night. I dreamed I saw you from a distance, but I was so distraught at not being able to talk with you, the next thing I remember from the dream, I was crying my heart out over the phone with Allen. I miss you so much Phi. There are moments everyday, when I see a student’s face, and it reminds me of you, or I smell something that triggers a memory of you, or I even hear a giggle that might have been you, and my mind and heart reaches out to you… I hope you feel these moments too… but I hope they’re easier for you.

Saturday it’s Dad’s 46th birthday. Can you believe it? Blow me a kiss Phi… it would be the best gift ever, if I knew you were thinking of me.

FUN FACTS

The longest river in the world, the Nile, runs through Egypt, and we’ve sailed up and down it several times in a felucca, cool hey!

 

Saturday, June 14th 2014

G’day Phi. Things beginning to warm up in Japan. Officially I think it’s still classified as the rainy season, but summer can’t be too far around the corner.

CIMG1091Yesterday we went out to Sakkara. It’s just across the Nile and a little south. It’s also the site of several pyramids. They’re not as big as the great pyramids of Giza, nor have they been well looked after, but all the same, it was an experience to remember. We rented ATV (all-terrain vehicles or quad bikes) for an hour and rode out through the desert to the footsteps of the pyramids. At one point, a glorious horse, perhaps Arabian, galloped at full speed between us and the pyramids. It was a Hollywood moment, that seemed scripted so it will be forever etched in my memory. I actually enjoyed the quad bikes, perhaps because the territory was so amazing, so baron, so sparse. It was one of those moments I wished to have shared with you. It would have been dreamy having you on the back of the quad bike with your arms cradled around me, your hair flying in the morning breeze, flying across sand dunes to the Sakara pyramids. Imagine that, hey!

Last night we went to Azarea’s for dinner and Toro had a sleep over. This morning we went to pick up our naughty son, and enjoyed some delicious crepes for breakfast. This evening Dad is cooking a pot of Thai green curry for our neighbor, Jan and his daughter Olivia. Aza will also join us, so the dogs will have a ball.

Last Friday W&Y held a bocci tourney. It was a lot of fun, especially when during one of the really close games, Toro decided to bounce out to the collection of thrown bocci balls. The crowd “Oooed & ahhed” at the cute puppy, but just as the lovely comments about our dog reached a crescendo, he lay a great big number 02! Everyone laughed & laughed, but it was left to Dad to clean up his droppings! As embarrassed as you might have been, something inside me made me think, you would have sprinted out, red faced, embarrassed but so beautiful of heart, to clean up Toro’s mess.

Then last Saturday night, our strange landlady decided it would be a good idea to start pouring concrete up to the 5th floor… oh, the joys of living in Cairo! The pour started at 10:45pm! After much moaning, cussing and complaining from us tenants, they finally finished up at around 2am. Can you believe it… and we all had to work Sunday of course, so Dad was up at 6am… bummer!

This Tuesday just gone, the kids finished up in the ES at CAC. It was a busy half week, because Monday we had a Moving On Ceremony (like a graduation), then took the G5 kids out to the beach at the Marriot hotel. You would have loved it! They had a wave pool, water slides, and adventure playground in a pool, and several other fun pools. At most American school, elementary school finishes at grade 5, then middle school goes from year 6 through to year 8.

Wednesday, I visited the ear specialist again and had my ear vacuumed and then washed. Ah, at last I can hear! Then I raced to W&Y’s for a quick drink before heading home to take Chinami to a Lebanese restaurant. One of my student’s family’s had invited us out. It was great, and the food was perhaps the best we’ve eaten in Cairo.

On my birthday we actually took a felucca down the Nile with Jan, Beth & their daughter who has just arrived from the US. The night before C & Dad had gone to the Blackstone Grill for Dad’s slap-up b’day meal, but C fell suddenly sick. She turned a beastly pale white. She really was sick, but it had been a long day for her, and the night before she was up until 2am preparing for the market. The same morning, C fried gyoza at Y’s market. It was really just in Wayne & Y’s backyard, but despite the heat, it really was a great setting. The temperature however pipped 42 degrees Celsius, so we think C had suffered dehydration. She’s a trooper though, and recovered pretty quickly.

Missing you kiddo… XoXo..

WICKED QUOTE

“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.

Delicious Ambiguity.”

― Gilda Radner

 

Monday, June 16th 2014

Morning Phi. It’s another glorious day in Cairo, albeit we’re set for another hot one. I’m sitting here writing to you in our apartment (Road 12, Building 7, apartment 31, Maadi, Cairo), as the CAC maintenance staff (electricians) fix two of our air conditioners. It’s been hot, but fortunately not the 40 degree plus temperatures we’ve experienced a bit of late.

Unfortunately the power has just gone our again, and I’m down to 2% battery power, so this correspondence is going to be cut short. Last night we watched Michael Murpurgo’s War Horse. I thought of the many times we had watched Spirit and Black Beauty together, and wondered when we might get a chance to sit down side by side and watch War Horse. There’s a little French girl called Marie who befriends the beautiful brown horse with the four white socks. Some of her mannerisms, and her confidence around horses reminded me of you. The book itself, your cousin Luca just loved. In fact, he went to see the stage show/musical also called War Horse and just loved it. Again, I wonder what might have been… you and your cousin discussing the book, the movie and going to the stage show together… sometime soon, hey… I love you Bella… XoXo…

 

Saturday, June 21st 2014

How’s my Princess doing? Last night Wayne came for dinner. His wife (Y) and the kids have gone back to Japan early. Maya must be 14 by now, but Sam is 12. He’s so tall, I find it hard to believe you’ll be turning 12 in October. Their mother is Japanese (Y), and the kids started their life in Sapporo, Hokkaido, then moved to Senegal to attend an international school there, and now, they find themselves in Egypt… what a life, hey!

Last night while C was cooking dinner, karage, miso soup, rice, and a tomato salad with cheesecake for dessert, I got to talking about you. Wayne & Dad had been talking about Hokkaido, which is where Y is from, so I took out the photo albums and showed him our trip to Hokkaido the summer you were 2 and a half. It’s funny, I seem to be thinking a lot about that trip recently.

Today I went grocery shopping with C. We go to her favorite “cheap” street that is two stops on the metro. She haggles for eggs, vegetables, fruit and fish. Actually, I think because she’s a bit of a regular, she doesn’t need to haggle too much any more. Most things are cheap, but not as cheap as you might think, and not always that fresh. The milk seems fresh coming straight out of big vats, and straight into plastic bags for the customers… yes, plastic bags. When we get home, we pop the milk in glass jars and then straight into the freezer and fridge. I don’t think it gets pasteurized, so it seems to go off quite quickly. You also choose your eggs, and they too go into plastic bags, so you have to be extra careful with them… Dad broke one yesterday!

And now, well C has gone up to school to finish glazing a few of her pottery pieces. So, I thought I would take the opportunity to write to you. Last night before Wayne arrived, I penned a letter to you, so that he could post it for me when he meets his family in Japan. And tonight, well, we’re planning on going to watch the world cup at a local café with the LOCALS. Mo, an Egyptian who works at CAC in the technology department is going to take us with him. Should be a bit of fun, although, there’ll be no beer, just tea and hookah (that’s the Middle Eastern pipe that’s extremely popular here)… gotta run, and meet C at Wayne’s… will continue this letter to you tomorrow morning… see ya kiddo!

Continued: that was then, this is now (Sunday morning). So, last night and the World Cup, Argentina 1 : Iran 0, but only just. Messi kicked the winning goal in the 89th minute! Not a bad goal either. Early this morning, around 6am in fact at CAC, I met Mo (from last night), and we went for a run along the Corniche (the main boulevard along the Nile). We ran down to the High Court where General El Sisi was sworn in. Now it’s time to edit some of these letters and think about adding them to my blog to you. Chat again soon Phi, love Dad… XoXo…

We’re off to Istanbul on Wednesday… hope to write to you again before then… or perhaps aboard the plane. Jya ne!

FUN FACT

It’s C’s birthday tomorrow, June XX. She’ll be [top secret], can you believe it! She’s still as pretty as ever! I have some cool French poetry magnets for her. The idea is you piece your poem together, and pop it on the fridge. I thought it might be a novel way for her to practice her French.

 

Saturday June 28th 2014

G’day Bella! We’re in Turkey, on our way from Istanbul to Cappadocia. The flight is just on an hour, so I should get a decent letter penned to you. Thus far, Turkey has been fantastic. We loved our time in Istanbul staying with Nathalie, a French friend from my teaching days in Yokohama. She’s been at an international school here in Istanbul for two years now. We had 3 nights in Istanbul with her, experiencing the outdoor alfresco dining, markets, mosques, underground cisterns, etc. There were many times I wished you were with us wandering around Turkey’s capital. Istanbul, really just has so much to offer. For a start it’s a harbor city, with splendid views, and ferries shipping commuters across the bays. One side, the western side, has a European feel to it, and is actually known as Europe, while the opposite side feels distinctly different, and is commonly known as Asia.

We arrived in Istanbul at about 1pm Wednesday, so we jumped on a bus and headed to Taksim, the neighborhood where Nathalie lives. She was still teaching (not to finish until Friday, poor thing!), so we found a café and had a late lunch. Both of us ordered the fish, because it’s just so hard to find decent, fresh fish in Cairo. Dad kind of cheated ‘cause he ordered fish & chips (remember the fish ‘n’ chips down at Shimoda Phi?). At about 5pm we met Nathalie at Taksim Square and walked back to her apartment… very hilly, so Dad was keen on getting a bit of hill training in during his stay. At Nat’s we opened a bottle of our duty-free white wine and sat on the balcony watching the ferries cross the bay to Asia. That evening, Nat took us for a long walk through and around Taksim, taking in the local streets (so busy and full of life) and sites… Istanbul is really very hilly, but also very picturesque… great first impressions!

The next morning I got up with Nat and went for a run as she headed off to school. I ran back through Taksim down to the Galata Tower. It’s a pretty cool tower standing 66m high, built in a medieval fashion around 1348. I think it was built by the Genoese. It was still early, and only me a few stray dogs were up and about down by the tower.

After breakfast we explored the Topkapi Palace, home to the Ottoman sultans for about 400 years from 1465. It’s a huge complex located a promontory overlooking the Golden Horn and the Sea of Marmara. Great views! The site is hilly, and was another good test on Dad’s calves after the morning’s hill training session, and it’s one of the highest points close to the sea. During Greek and Byzantine times, the acropolis of the ancient Greek city of Byzantion stood here. There is an underground Byzantine cistern located in the Second Courtyard. Chinami raced us through the grounds thinking she had only paid a fraction of the actual ticket price, but when we paused to do the calculations, we realized it was about $15 each, so we slowed down to get our money’s worth! Then, it was onwards to the Hagia Sophia which was originally a church, later a mosque, and now a museum. It was built in the 6th century by the Byzantine emperor Justinian the Great. We had a great local lunch, and then we made our way to the famous Blue Mosque, although when we arrived it was prayer time, so we couldn’t see much of the famous amazing ceilings. That evening, Nat San took us across to Asia on the ferry. We went to a busy restaurant district, where the restaurants spill out onto the narrow streets. Everyone prefers to sit outside and watch the people pass by. Again we ordered a good deal of fish, and again it was pretty tasty.

On the Friday, we went to the Grand Bazaar. It was more like a shopping centre than the bazaars and souks of Cairo. It’s got a long history though; evidently it started during the winter of 1455/56, shortly after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople. We also walked down to Galata Tower and took in the shops around Taksim. That evening after our bottle of wine, Nat took us down by the Galata Bridge, an area renowned for its fresh fish. The gals drank the local Arak. It is a clear, colorless, unsweetened anise-flavored alcoholic drink! 45%! Tastes a bit like ouzo. Dangerous stuff Phi!

And this morning… well we had breakfast with Nathalie nearby her apartment, and then boarded the bus from Taksim to the airport… Cappadocia here we come. We’re staying in a cave hotel!

Love you kiddo… XoXo

FAST FACT

After bringing the Persian Empire to an end, Alexander the Great tried to rule the Cappadocia area through one of his military commanders. The locals sheltered in caves and defended themselves against many incursions!

When are you coming to Cairo Phi??? One more year here, then we’ll move on in July 2015… XoXo…

BTW, just finished The Bookseller of Kabul, written by Norwegian journalist Åsne Seierstad. I guess it’s historical fiction, because it’s about a bookseller, Shah Muhammad Rais (whose name was changed to Sultan Khan), and his family in Kabul, Afghanistan. It takes a novelistic approach, focusing on characters and the daily issues that they face. It was sad and quite depressing to read at times, particularly as Seierstad outlined the plight of the women, and the horrendous discriminatory issues they face.

2014 January – March

You are gone far away, away

Clouds come flinging down the rain

Comes your letter

You are here, singing, with me

Once again

-Tony Johnston

 

My darling Ophelia Hirakawa-Morice,

 

If you’re ever in trouble, it doesn’t matter how bad or how minor your problem may be, I want you to know, that I’m here for you, now and always. Forever. I will not judge you, I cannot. I will not come between you and your Mother. I just want you to be happy, and to know that your Dad, C, and your Australian family are waiting for you with open arms…

 

Here follows more of the letters I write to you…

 

I love you…

 

Dad (Gerard Morice).

 

And if you’d like to contact me, send me a message at: moriceg@hotmail.com

 

Sorry Phi, I know I’m rambling a bit, but I want to get all this down before it leaves my memory… and if that happens, I would never be able to share these experiences with you. I started writing to you on Sunday, March 15th, 2009. Your Mother was making it increasingly difficult for us to see each other… to the point, where she stopped all visitation completely. I found myself thinking, Oh, Phi would love this, or, I wish Phi had been here to see that. There were, and are, so many times a day when I think of you. So, I wanted you to know that you’re never far from my mind, and my heart. Hence the letters. I could think of no other way of keeping in touch with you.

I so wish your Mother could understand the love I share for you… This will be the sixth year I’ve been writing to you. There must be hundreds of pages of letters to you, perhaps thousands. There’s only 80 or so pages posted to our blog: opheliaanddad.wordpress.com thus far, but enough for your Mother to wish I wouldn’t write at all. But what choice do I have? She doesn’t respond to my emails, she never answers my calls, and she never affirms whether the gifts, cards, and letters ever arrive.

Last year however, she sent a demand through the High Court of Japan to have me remove this blog. She claims it’s unfair to her new family. Her opinion, is that the letters I write to you, and the few photos I post of us together are an invasion of her privacy. Regardless, she is barely mentioned at all.

These are letters for the two of us, lest we forget. In any case, C painstakingly translated each and every page that I had posted to the blog, to prove there’s nothing vindictive or accusatory about my posts. We then sent the translations to the High Court. Needless to say, I haven’t posted anything since, but nor have I removed our blog.

Onwards we go Bella! Love always, Dad… XoXo…

 

Wednesday, January 1st 2014

Happy New Year Bella! What a year it will be too. You’ll begin grade 6 in April, your final year of primary school. You’ll turn 12 in October, and just maybe, this time next year, Dad will visit Japan and steal a glimpse of you.

CIMG0742I wonder where you are now… perhaps you’re at home celebrating, or ringing the bells at a nearby shrine welcoming the NY. Or perhaps, you’re up at the snow doing a little sledding and enjoying a hot & tasty nabe in your tummy. Or perhaps a hot chocolate, and a yummy homemade cake, that you made…

C and Dad are in Colmar, France as of today. It’s a pretty little city, or rather village. As you wander the streets, you can see the French have tried to maintain the heritage of the village from yesteryear. It’s all very yesteryear, almost medieval in parts, quaint and pretty. I know you would love to walk the streets, because it has a magic quality about it, almost like you’re playing out a fairy tale.

We just spent 2 nights in Basel, Switzerland. We stayed with Dad’s friend from Saint Maur, Tim Smith who is married to Ilona, a Swiss national. By now, you’ve read a bit about Tim. He used to teach Grade 5 in the classroom next to mine in Yokohama. He also used to come over to the house in Tokyo and help out. He’s a pretty handy friend to have, especially with a power toll in his hand!

Anyway, we had an absolutely classic Swiss experience as Tim & Ilona took us up into the Alps. Spectacular! We marveled at how clean, expensive (!) and efficient everything is. I guess as opposed to France, which at times can seem quite dirty, though much cleaner than Cairo! We even ate raclette, a typical Swiss cuisine on consecutive nights. Raclette is large pieces of cheese that you melt in your own little pan beneath a grill that sits atop the table, similar to how we’d feast on nabe in Japan. You can place mushrooms, sliced potato, bread and other bits and pieces atop too. And on your plate you have an assortment of pickles that make a great contrast to the heaviness of the cheese… especially two nights in a row! Delicious, but perhaps not three nights in a row!

Back to the super clean Swiss train we took out to the base of Rigi, which I think is the name of the mountain we went to. From the station, we strolled through a village at the base of the mountain to a tram that was hauled on a type of a hydraulic cog system. I think you would have been quite excited sitting in that tram next to your Dad wondering whether the tram was really going to make it up the steep slope. It did! Thank goodness! The tram hauled us up 1800m to a point not far from the summit, but to appreciate true 360 degree views, we had to walk, slide, climb up the remaining 200m or so. The skiers and snowboarders off-loaded their gear too. I must say, my first observation other than the perfect blue skies, was that there are many more skiers than boarders in this part of the world. Quite the opposite to the ski fields in Japan. C missed you and your sense of fun, so instead of playing with you, she started a snow ball fight with Dad. Around the summit we hiked around a bit, taking in typical Swiss postcard views. Fresh, astonishing and crispy clear skies. We could see forever!

Next we took a cable car down part way for a spot of lunch. A bit of Japanese curry rice, katsudon or ramen would have been spot on, but the Swiss options weren’t too bad. I think you might have liked the crispy hot chips. From there, we jumped back on the tram to where an awesome cable car met us. From the top we could view Lake Luzern in the distance. I so wished you were standing beside me, because each time the cable car pulled itself over a pylon, the crowd inside the cable car all cheered as we lost our stomachs for a moment of weightlessness.

No, our tour wasn’t over yet. From the cable car we waltzed across to a ferry that would ship us across Lake Luzern. Cold as it was, I knew you would prefer to sit outside and feel the breeze against your cheeks. I just wished you were snuggled up on my lap, keeping both of us a little warmer. After about 30 minutes, C & Dad were shivering and had to go inside the cabin to warm our freezing tootsies. We disembarked right in front of Luzern Station… spectacular trip with the snow capped mountains surrounding us, but a tad chilly on skinny Dad!

Here's the dress you just have to have!

Here’s the dress you just have to have!

Back to where we are at the moment (Colmar, France), because I’m dying to show you something. Colmar is pretty, compact and of course historic. Even though it’s raining, it’s lovely to wander the cobblestoned streets gazing at the shops, churches, bridges, canals, gardens and of course cafes. So, onward to what I want to show you. Last night we walked past this shop with a dress in it. The moment I saw it, I instantaneously thought of you. Then today as we passed by the same shop front, I took a photo of the dress on display in the shop window. As soon as I saw it, even looking at it now, I thought how awesome it would look on you. Don’t you think so?

So, why do I have any time to write to you, considering our busy sightseeing schedule, and the fact that I’m not on a train (which is where I do most of my writing)? Well, we’re doing a spot of laundry at a coin laundry. So we’re waiting for the slow French machines to finish their wash, rinse and spin cycles… then we’ll dry them before some wine and goodies for dinner!

We’re off to Strasbourg tomorrow, and then we’ll wind our way back to Paris. By the way, we’re heading back to Cairo on January 8th.

Wish you were with us,

Love Dad & C… XoXo…

 

TRULY WICKED QUOTE

“You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching,

Love like you’ll never be hurt,

Sing like there’s nobody listening,

And live like it’s heaven on earth.”

― William W. Purkey

Do you remember Dad singing this to you? Weddings, Parties, Anything (WPA) adopted these words in one of their classic songs, and so too did we, as a bedtime song for two… XoXo… I love you…

 

Monday, January 6th 2014

HAPPY NEW YEAR BELLA! How’s 2014 treating you so far? We’re back in Paris and wishing you were walking the streets of this truly amazing city with us. C isn’t really into much sport, except for ice skating (but just to watch on TV), but she is quite a walker. We walk everywhere, which is great by me, ‘cause it keeps us fit, saves us money, we see all the back streets, and it helps build an appetite for big lunches & dinners!! Yeah, fancy some French dining daughter?

This morning, I went for a short run towards Sacre Couer, and then dropped into a boulangerie to buy the obligatory croissants & pan au chocola. Back at the hotel, we ate our breakfast, had some yoghurt and fruit juice, and then it was time to get out and about in The City of Lights. From our hotel, Pavillon Villiers Etoile, we headed for a spot of shopping. C bought some cool jeans, gloves and a pullover all from the same store, but Dad didn’t really find anything he liked. For lunch we went to a favourite restaurant of C’s in Saint Michel, a charming little restaurant, but surprisingly the food and service was quite ordinary. From there, we wandered to the church that featured prominently in The Da Vinci Code (sorry, I’ve forgotten its name – I’ll have to ask C when she gets out of the shower… remind me Phi… I’m getting a bit forgetful in my old age!), and later had another walk through the magnificent cathedral, Notre Dame. When I say another, we were there 2 and a half years ago… I wonder if you’ll be beside me when I walk through there a third time… XoXo…

Sunday (yesterday) we went out to a unique art market that was kind of in the suburbs of Paris. It was certainly very interesting, with all sorts of art. There were sculptures, paintings, sketches, photos, furniture, and everything was old or new, perfect condition or otherwise. The surroundings and local inhabitants however, were a bit dodgy. There were a few police sniffing around, and at one point they gave chase to a group of young men, one of whom was caught and thrown to the ground. He was given a stern lecture in no uncertain terms, OUCH!

From there, we joined C’s friends, JB & G, with their new daughters, A & DE. They’re a charming family, and you might remember reading about them when we visited them in Normandy when we were last in France. At that time we stayed in their 12th century church! Awesome!

In the evening from 7.30pm, we took a romantic cruise along the Seine, freezing, but such majestic architecture and my beautiful wife beside me. And then as promised, C took me to a Belgian chain restaurant that specializes in mussels. Mmm… not too bad at all.

That’s the wrap Gorgeous… hope you’re enjoying Dad’s travel log to you…

XoXo…

 

WICKED MAE WEST

“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”

― Mae West

 

Thursday, January 9th 2014

G’day again Phi. Last night C & Dad arrived back in Cairo. Rain followed us all over France & Switzerland, and guess what? We woke to rain this morning… LOL! Unbelievable hey?! It never rains here!

After some tasty warm porridge with honey, dried apricots & prunes (you used to enjoy your porridge with Dad on cold & frosty mornings in Numz and Melbourne; it was even better when Pa made it, and Nandee was pottering around showing you this and that), we wandered to the Duty-Free Shop to buy our alcohol. You see, in Egypt, being a predominantly Muslim country, alcohol is not widely available, except for the locally produced alcohol, which is rather rude & crude on the taste buds. So, any chance we get, we stock up on something special. In Australia, there’s even a bottle or two I’m saving to share with you some day soon…

Yesterday was a busy, busy day. For a start we were still in Paris. We woke around 6.30am, too early for Dad to go for a run and still pitch black… besides there was no time. Together we headed into the heart of Paris, Opera it is called, for the start of the sales (solde). The sales started at 8am, and the anticipation had even been on the TV over the previous nights. I bought some very French orange-red corduroy trousers and a flashy t-shirt with the queen on it sporting a moustache. Cool hey?! I particularly like the t-shirt, and hope to show it to you some day.

On our last full day, Tuesday, I went for a run and grabbed some croissants for breaky. You know Phi, I found the mornings odd in Europe. It stays very dark until quite late in the morning. I could be running as late as 8am, and it’s still surprisingly dark with just a hint of sunrise.

Anyway, after breakfast, we then headed to the Chinese area to stock up on a few ingredients we can’t purchase in Cairo. Even though it’s a Chinese area, they still have Japanese curry, nori, sake and a few other specialties C was determined to find.

From there we took the metro to Sacre Couer. More than anywhere in Paris, it’s the place I would like to glide around beside you and C. Last time we were there, C dragged me into a cute shop where she bought you some gifts. It’s another moment I’ll never forget, because at the time I didn’t know she was buying the gifts for you. We found the same shop. I smiled, but my eyes were full of tears. I was in Sacre Couer again with my lover, my wife. Everything was almost perfect, but something was missing… you. The cobble-stoned streets are so rustic, artists abound & restaurant aromas permeate everywhere. The sky seems eternally grey, there’s dog shite everywhere, but there’s something particularly majestic about this part of Paris. And to experience the City of Lights, Paris, with you, would be heaven and a dream come true… maybe one day, hey kiddo! XoXo…

From Sacre Couer, we went into Opera to meet M San, a friend of C’s from her Paris days. We had ramen & gyoza for lunch. Yes, ramen! There are Japanese restaurants all over Paris, absolutely everywhere, most serving sushi or ramen, but in the evening, our last night in Paris, we went to the best Japanese restaurant. Actually, it’s French, but the chef is Japanese. Yes, it’s the same restaurant C used to work at, XXX. For entrée we had a pate of duck and an exquisite dish of crab. For mains, C had venison and Dad had a special cut of beef. And for dessert I had an apple pie and C had a chocola something… Mmm! Of course we had the obligatory bottle of wine with our meal.

Back to the present… After some soup for lunch I sat down and finished my latest read: Tuesday’s with Morrie; an old man, a young man, and life’s greatest lesson. It’s a great read that provokes thought, reflection, and even prompts forgiveness. As I read the story of how a university graduate reconnects with his dying university teacher, I, of course thought of you, but I also found myself thinking of your Mother. I began to think that she feels trapped by her actions. At one point, Morrie said, “People are only mean when they’re threatened.” I think, maybe your Mother was feeling threatened that I would take you away from her, if I maintained custody in the Family Court… but I could never do that… even now, as much as I want to see you, I could never deny your Mother… it’s just not right.

Morrie said: “There is no experience like having children. That’s all. There is no substitute for it. You cannot do it with a friend. You cannot do it with a lover. If you want the experience of having complete responsibility for another human being, and to learn how to love and bond in the deepest way, then you should have children.”

And, I guess you, my beautiful daughter ask me, “Would you do it again?”

Yes. Without hesitation. I would not have missed even one moment with you for anything. You are my daughter. My everything. My pride. My joy. You are my only child, and as such, you will always be in my heart, no matter how far away you are, and no matter what hurdles are placed in front of us. I will always love you. Always. Unconditionally. XoXo…

Even though there was, and is a painful price for the love I have for you, I would not give up a single memory of us together for anything.

One final quote from Morrie, that I feel sums you up, because it’s not just me who loves and misses you. You have a special place in so many hearts from the years you spent living with me: “All the love you created is still there. You live on – in the hearts of everyone you have touched and nurtured while you were here.” Morrie

 

Saturday, February 1st 2014

G’day Gorgeous,

How’s life in Japan? Must be freezing cold now. C & Dad have noticed there’s quite a bit of snow in the news in Japan, even in Tokyo and Yokohama. Typically February is your coldest month, so I hope all the other 5th grade girls are sensible enough to be wearing stockings to school these days. Tell me, you are wearing nice, warm, thick stockings, aren’t you?! I never quite understood the Japanese peer pressure for girls not to wear stockings when it’s so COLD! Even here in Cairo, where it’s no where near as cold, the international girls rug up in warm stockings if they’re wearing skirts to school.

So, what’s Dad been up to? Well, today I met Wayne in the design & technology lab at school. It is truly an awesome classroom that Pa would die for. The Middle School kids have the option of choosing design & technology, where they have the opportunity to create all sorts of things with wood, plastics and other materials. They even have two 3D printers! So today, Dad made some legs for our new coffee table. To be true, we bought an Arabic designed door, yeah, a door. Both sides of the door are intricately designed with nails/tacks. I think it looks fantastic, as we don’t need another door, I thought we could manufacture a huge coffee table instead.

So, I’m sitting here sipping a scotch, and my feet are resting on the new coffee table. C just frowned at me, so I think I should remove my feet from the table… soon!

Love you… would you like to hear a chapter from my new book? Game of Thrones. It’s great!

FUN FACTS

The Sinai Peninsula in Egypt spans across two continents, Africa and Asia. We’re thinking of making a trip to the Rea Sea this summer, perhaps to Dahab… wanna come? We might even climb Mount Sinai and watch the sunrise… now wouldn’t that be something!

 

Friday, February 8th 2014

Good afternoon Ophelia. How was your week at school? Another cold week in Saitama, I guess? The weather here is not too bad. It’s not as cold as it was before Christmas, in fact it’s perfect jogging weather.

Today we went into Ataba in search of an illusive piece for C’s sewing machine. A lovely Mexican teacher at school gave us her old sewing machine. It’s an antique, and so beautiful. I’m not sure how old it is, perhaps 70 or more years, but it works very well and weighs a ton. The only problem is that it’s missing the little piece that guides the needle and thread. We’ve looked everywhere, and today we located a sewing district, so we were very hopeful. But alas, after many negotiations, charades and discussions, we could not locate the desired piece.

Time for a little nap on the couch, and then Dad might make some lasagna for dinner. Would you like to join us? I can easily set you a place possum.

Love you… Dad.

WICKED QUOTE

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”

― Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Thursday February 13th 2014

Hey Bella, how many boys are you planning to give chocolate to tomorrow? Anybody special in grade 5 this year Phi?

Tonight, my Valentine & I celebrated Valentine’s Day early and went to the Blackstone Grill. The parents of the kids I teach at CAC (school) had given me a voucher. In fact they gave me 3 vouchers for Christmas, and each one covers roughly dinner for two. Yippee! C looked beautiful, and I felt ever so proud to be her partner. I had duck & C had a scampi/prawn pasta. We shared a huge salad, and my main came with extra steamed vegetables, that together we couldn’t finish. Needless to say, we didn’t need to order dessert.

Last Saturday morning we went to Carre Four and stocked up. It’s a French chain of supermarkets. There was even one in Iruma at one stage… I remember going there with Noribaba and your mother and buying some French cheese. The school organizes a bus for those who wish to go; you meet the bus at the front gate at school, they take you shopping, and then the bus actually drops you off at your apartment. It’s a very convenient system, but as you meet at school at 8:30am, and usually get back to the apartment at about midday, it takes up a good part of the day… so much so, that I can’t remember what we did last Saturday afternoon.

Anyway Phi, time for bed. Good night… I hope you enjoyed a good story being read to you this evening… XoXo…

WICKED QUOTES

“This life is what you make it. No matter what, you’re going to mess up sometimes, it’s a universal truth. But the good part is you get to decide how you’re going to mess it up. Girls will be your friends – they’ll act like it anyway. But just remember, some come, some go. The ones that stay with you through everything – they’re your true best friends. Don’t let go of them. Also remember, sisters make the best friends in the world. As for lovers, well, they’ll come and go too. And baby, I hate to say it, most of them – actually pretty much all of them are going to break your heart, but you can’t give up because if you give up, you’ll never find your soulmate. You’ll never find that half who makes you whole and that goes for everything. Just because you fail once, doesn’t mean you’re gonna fail at everything. Keep trying, hold on, and always, always, always believe in yourself, because if you don’t, then who will, sweetie? So keep your head high, keep your chin up, and most importantly, keep smiling, because life’s a beautiful thing and there’s so much to smile about.”

― Marilyn Monroe

 

Friday, February14th 2014

Happy Valentine’s Day! Who’s your sweetie?

Today we prepared several goodies for the French Market tomorrow. C made all sorts of sweets and desserts. Many of them had a Japanese theme, so there was a sprinkle of matcha here and there. I like them all, because they’re not too sweet, but I guess the test will be tomorrow… we’re just waiting for a batch to come from the oven… to be continued.

 

Yesterday was the French Market (Saturday). It’s really just a house; they call it the French Maison. It has quite a big garden and the stall-holders set up on the grass in the backyard. There are vegetables, curries, cakes, handicrafts, tea & coffee, etc. In the morning around 8am, I walked with C and gave her a hand in carrying all her goodies. Yoshiko was already there with her sushi and peanut brittle. It wasn’t your typical sunny day in Cairo, in fact the clouds were looking quite dark. Just as I was leaving in my shorts and running gear, the first sign of rain fell. I enjoyed a run in light rain, but I was concerned about C & Y setting up their stall in the rain. It was quite cold too. I raced home and took a quick shower, then raced back to the French Market with coats and the only umbrella I could find. Fortunately, just after I arrived, the director of the market offered C & Y a place inside the French Maison, so they weren’t too wet. Fancy needing an umbrella in Cairo!

Despite the rain, and the low number of people who attended the market, C & her friend had quite a successful day. I was very pleased for them, especially my C. She’s a gem, and battling on despite all the hurdles Cairo throws at her. That night we celebrated C & Yoshiko’s success, by eating loads of left-over sushi at Wayne & Y’s. There was even some sushi left for you, Ophelia… XoXo…

FUN FACTS

The longest river in the world, the Nile, runs through Egypt… but you already knew that too. No, I haven’t swum in it yet!

 

Saturday 22nd February, 2014

G’day Phi. How’s trix? On Thursday at Cairo American College, the MS had their Cultural Day. In many American schools, primary school, or what they call elementary school finishes at grade 5. Middle school is then grade 6 through to grade 8, and high school grade 9 through to grade 12. Anyway, because my fifth graders (just like you) are preparing to transfer to middle school, we were invited to attend for the hour before lunch. The MS students performed songs, dances and poetry in different languages. I was amazed, because quite often at this age, kids are self-conscious and not too keen on climbing up on a stage to perform something cultural in front of their peers. There was even a couple of Japanese girls who sang a song in Japanese. I think it was titled, “Let’s go.” But I could be mistaken.

Yesterday was the annual Digla Dash. It’s an annual Fun Run organized by the school. There’s a 2.5km jog/walk, a 5km run and a 10km run. You won’t believe it, but Dad ran the 10km and came second! Actually, I won’t tell you my time because it was rather slow. But I was happy to beat a bunch of high school kids and some American marines.

Then C & Dad went into Old Cairo on the metro (train) to look at the Coptic churches, and to check out the handmade pottery, textiles, art. It’s about the third time we’ve been there, so I’ll pass over explaining the details. C has started doing quite a bit of pottery with Azarea, the art teacher at school… she’s not bad either.

And this morning, we met Wayne at school and made a few things for the Japanese booth for the International Day. Again we met in the design & technology lab. This time we made a wooden box for a luck dip type game. The top of the box has a series of many holes, through which you poke a string that is attached to a prize. And this evening, we were invited to Wayne & Yoshiko’s for dinner, tonkatsu and miso soup, salad, and C made a strawberry cream cake… Mmm. Fancy a piece of C’s cake Phi-Fai-Pho-Fum?

Love you from here to the moon and BACK! XoXo…

MIGHTY IMAGININGS

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”

― Dr. SeussHappy Birthday to You!

 

Sunday, February 23rd 2014

G’day Gorgeous. Just a quick one this evening. I’ve just finished writing a letter to you. It was C’s idea, god bless her for always looking out for me.

Jan, Beth & Aza came for dinner tonight, but the power was out for about 70 minutes so it complicated the cooking process. When the power finally came back on, we had karage, miso soup, salad and fish. After our guests had left I sat up and wrote a letter to you. Tomorrow Cis heading home for a short break. I’m going to miss her, but it’s necessary. She’ll also work on our taxes and settle a few things to do with our house and the real estate agent. She’ll probably spend a good deal of time cleaning up the old house we renovated… and the real estate wants her to move all my tools. When she arrives in Japan, she will post my letter to you from Narita Airport. Hope it arrives safely Phi.

It was hard writing directly to you. There’s a small chance you’ll receive the letter, but I also know there’s another chance that the letter will be prevented from finding you.

I love you Ophelia. It’s moments like these, I miss your presence so much. Good night & sweet dreams Princess.

Love Dad… XoXo…

FUN FACTS

You’re the best kiddo! If it were up to me, you would be the 8th wonder of the world!

 

Tuesday, 25th February 2014

Hey Bella, we missed you today on our Grade 5 excursion. We took the kids out to the local wadi. It’s a fascinating place where we had the Digla Dash (Fun Run) a few weeks ago. 40,000,000 years ago this entire region was covered by a shallow sea some 6-9 meters deep. Can you believe it! They’ve even found whale bones, and sharks three times bigger than today’s great white sharks. The kids loved it. You didn’t have to walk far to find evidence of shells and even crustaceans in rock segments. We had a guest speaker come along too, Dr. Bill, a local geologist. He was fantastic with the kids, giving us all sorts of information about weathering, erosion and deposition. We took the kids for a hike up to the top of the wadi for a better view. You could actually see the pyramids at Giza in the distance, and of course the ever present smog of Cairo.

Normally, every Tuesday we do Epic Stories in my class. Because we teach writing by genre, I like to mix things up every Tuesday. For example, we’ll spend 6 weeks teaching the craft of writing persuasive texts, or non-fiction, or fantasy picture story, or a procedural text. It can kind of get a bit tedious doing 5 consecutive days writing in the same genre. So, Tuesday has quickly become our narrative day of writing. Write what you want kids! Each week, I model a piece of writing by reading my chapter story to the class. I’m already onto my twelfth chapter. Would you like to read chapter one? I’ve got a funny feeling I might have inserted chapter one, two and/or three years ago, because in actual fact, it’s a story I started a few years back. I often think of you as I write, because the main character, Bailey is about your age, and he lives with just his Dad. The story has morphed and lengthened since then, so I’ll be curious to see what you think of the changes, if indeed I did insert chapter one some time ago??? Anyway buddy, here’s the latest draft of chapter one:

 

HAVE DAD, WILL TRAVEL

1

SEAWEED FLOORBOARDS

For the first 4015 days of my life everything was fine, then suddenly my world came to an end. Dad and I were at Nana’s for dinner again when Dad dropped a bomb. I don’t mean the stinky variety. Whenever he did drop a stink bomb he never tired of saying, “Hey Bailey, pull my finger!” When I was younger I used to fall for his joke all the time, innocently pulling his finger only to be greeted by a loud trumpet type boom wafting from the seat of his trousers.

            We often ended up at Nana’s, or at our place. Just Nana & me that is, because Dad usually worked late. He worked in finance, and apparently that meant he had to stay at the office late to see what the markets were doing in New York and London.

            It was a cold and wintery night, and we were just finishing Nana’s famous ham & pea soup, the soup Nana thought was my favorite thing in the whole world. You see, Nana and me are really close. I guess she’s like the mum I never had, so when she asked me what I wanted for my birthday last year, I’d had a sudden pang to please her and said, “Ham & pea soup.”

            So guess what I got for my 10th birthday? Lego? Guess again. Ham and pea soup was alright I guess, actually it was wickedly delicious as far as warm gooey green sludge goes, but it wasn’t chocolate cake with extra chocolate on top. What I should have said was, “Oh Nana, you know you don’t have to get me anything. BUT, if you really and truly want to get me something, there’s a cool lego Star Wars’ kit I’d do my homework for everyday for the next billion years.”

            Nan read books, loads of them. She even read kids’ books and tried to talk to me about them. She always had a cup of tea and a biscuit. She somehow managed to make the biscuit last for ages. She looked happy, even when she started to concentrate. She looked over the top of her glasses. I don’t know why she bothered to wear glasses.

            Anyway, the rain was coming down outside and I had just picked up my soup bowl to lick it clean. Nana was pretending to be angry with me for bad dining etiquette saying she would “box my ears”, when Dad started on one of his guttural coughs. This usually meant everybody out of the pool and listen up. I lowered my bowl with a grin. Nan gave me a wink, and tried to point at my nose by looking down her own nose. A bit of green gooey soup was hanging from my nose. I had put extra cheese in mine. I tried unsuccessfully to sniff it up. Then I tried to lick the soup from my nose, but my tongue refused to extend that far. Dad waited. He looked down at his hands, frowning. Something was wrong.

-How was school?

-Patty got in trouble today.

-Again?

-Yeah, had to stay in at lunch play.

-What did he do?

-Mr. G asked a question about fractions.

-Fractions?

-Yeah.

-So?

-Patty told him hot pies were better than chips.

-What was the correct answer? said Dad when he’d stopped laughing.

-Dunno.

            Dad looked serious like he’d just remembered something. He leaned forward with his elbows on the table. My eyes eagerly hoped Dad was about to tell me that he could take me to the football this weekend instead of going to the office. Instead his voice thick with doubt said, “I’ve taken that job in Japan.”

            Nan nodded gravely in disbelief. Then as she looked at me she started to shake her head. She raised her hand and placed it over her mouth as if she didn’t know what to say. As for me, after my eyes shot out of my head and ended up in Dad’s soup bowl next to his peas, there was a moment of total silence. Then my bottom lip started to quiver. Before the first tear splashed in my empty soup bowl I stuttered, “There’s zero chance of me going to Japan. I’m staying with Nana right here!” My teeth were clenched and I could hear my violent breathing through my nose. Just before my blood boiled I hurled a sting at Dad, “Nana looks after me most of the time anyway!”

            Before Dad had had a chance to explain, I stormed to my room like Mr. Guzzard our 5th grade teacher. Mr. G was always throwing a wobbly with a face like a tomato.

            I sat at the foot of my bed noticing for the first time that the patterns in the floorboards looked like they had seaweed floating through them. Why Japan? Nothing made sense. Why seaweed? Was there a connection? My chest convulsed in pain and questions I needed answering, but not from Dad, not now. I simmered in mega misery. I felt tentacles wrapping around me, suffocating me, destroying all my hopes in life.

I sat there as mad and as helpless as the flies I often captured in summer and whose wings I clipped. The raised voices of Nana and Dad, filtered through the door. By the sounds of their sparring, Nana was in as much shock as me. No doubt Nana Yoda, my protective Jedi knight was taking the battle up to Darth Dad.

            Nan and I are best of friends. We’re each so very proud of each other, and we don’t mind telling each other so, especially in front of other people. When my pals talk about how great their mums are, I always say something like, “Nan makes the best ham and pea soup in the galaxy.” They chuckle, even though they don’t like soup.

            And Nan, usually not too far away, squeezes my cheeks and says, “My dear Bailey gives the best hugs in the world.”

            The voices of Nan and Dad drifted elsewhere, so too my mind. We studied Japanese at school, which was about as much fun as memorizing my times table back in third grade. I still didn’t know them properly. The only good thing I knew about Japan was what Haruka’s mum had told us on Japanese Day at school. Even that learning got me into trouble. She did a talk about Japan and those fat wrestlers that wear diapers in the name of sport. We watched a video of these goliaths with huge bums bumping and slapping each other around a dirt ring. These super fatties were called sumo wrestlers and they were absolutely enormous, which surprised me because Haruka was tiny and we all thought Japanese people were too.

            At lunchtime that day, Josh, Patty and I really embraced Japanese Day. We grabbed our art smocks and wrapped them around our bums like daggy diapers and wrestled each other in the mud behind the art room. It was awesome fun because the 2nd graders thought it was an official part of Japanese Day, and like all good audiences cheered us on dutifully. That was until Grumpy Guzzard heard the raucous and sniffed us out. I swear if I had had a dream where I’d picked my nose he would miraculously find out about it and announce it for all to hear during morning meeting. In any case, when he discovered us covered in mud, he had blown a head gasket and lined us up in front of the principal’s office.

            The weekend after Japanese Day at Patty’s sleepover, Josh had laughed so much about our sumo mud wrestling that his breakfast cornflakes had catapulted out his nostrils. Patty’s mum didn’t think it was as funny as us.

What do you think kiddo? Any future for your Dad as a writer? Would you like to read chapter two? Your cousin Allie, is reading it at the moment. She’s already read the first 10 chapters.

Oh, and by the way, Brenda & Allen are coming to Cairo! It’s going to be great sitting on our balcony, just C & me, Brenda & Allen. They’d love to see you! Fancy popping over for a camel ride through the pyramids of Giza? We could stop for an ice cream too.

See you Gorgeous… XoXo… Dad.

CRAZY BUT TRUE THOUGHT

I would give anything to be with you now. To gently muss up your hair and watch you make a face once more. To hear you finish the sentence with me… I love you more than… from here to the moon and back… just once more, Phi… XoXo…

 

Saturday, March 1st 2014

G’day Chief. How are you? I’m a bit lonely at the moment, because C has ducked back to Tokyo to sort through our rental property, taxes, and empty my shed of its wonderful power tools, before tenants move in. Yes, that’s the good news. It appears the real estate agents have finally found a tenant. Evidently it’s a Japanese family with a dog… sounds like your family… that would be funny wouldn’t it?

Fortunately, I’ve been a busy camel raider of late, writing reports, chairing the science committee (LOL), on the standards based report card committee overhaul, and our school is going through an accreditation process, so on that mob too. So, I’ve been working back late, because there’s no C to go home to. Without C Chan home, I generally get home about 7pm, making it a 12 hour day exactly. I cook a quick omelet, read the third book in The Game of Thrones series, and by 8.30pm, I’m in bed.

Here’s a crazy Cairo experience for you… Yesterday, I had this early 1900s colonial experience, that I’m not too sure what to make of. We went out to an old villa in the shadows of the pyramids, yes, the pyramids were at the end of the sandy street. It’s owned by one of the American art teachers at school, who is married to a rich Egyptian. Behind this huge fence, the polo horses were mostly in their stables. An Arabian mare or filly, with its foal were running around the yard. To see them made me immediately think of you. Half a dozen Cairo donkeys were penned, the rooster was going off… “Kokikoko!” There were chickens pecking here and there, but they were keeping out of the way of the Dobermans, the labs, the golden retrievers and a few other dogs. You would have been in heaven, as Emily, a fourth grader from Sydney had spent the morning riding horses out by the pyramids, and as I arrived, she was grooming the horse she had ridden.

By the pool, the best bar I’ve ever seen (in Egypt) was in full session. The bell was ringing regularly and the servants were bringing ice, snacks and extra bottles of everything. You can’t buy imported alcohol in Egypt, but they were fully stocked. I had the spiciest bloody Mary I’ve ever tasted, because after all, it was only 1pm.

Then the French wine was opened and a BBC journalist arrived. Robby sat down next to me, and I learned that he’d had drinks with the Aussie journalist, Peter Greste around the very same pool on Xmas day! I was in shock, because shortly after that, Peter was arrested and thrown in prison. The police say he had been interviewing the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood members. Unbelievable, arrested because he was doing his job as a journalist, to report on both sides. I incidentally ran around the prison Peter Greste is locked up in this morning. Surreal hey!

In the afternoon, I watched as the carpenters finish constructing a polo machine with wood. Basically, it was a wooden horse that the polo player sits on, and practices swinging her/his club at the ball. The wooden horse is enclosed, so the ball bounces off a net, and the flooring slopes down toward the horse, so the ball returns to the horse.

Then we were invited to the horse yard, for the commencement of donkey baseball. It was a bit of a bohemian dream at this stage, and I wasn’t feeling too comfortable about the idea of riding a donkey around the bases. Teams were formed, but no care given to the Mercedes Benz or armored jeeps in the car park beside third base. The kids were all involved, but were taking it all rather too seriously. If you made the hit, you had to mount a donkey and ride the bases home. I wasn’t sure it was really happening, and nor did I feel too comfortable about it being 2014 and the servants leading the donkeys around the bases, so I drifted back to the bar for a medicinal scotch. I’m not sure you would have liked it either. I felt sorry for the donkeys, and I’ve never been comfortable with having servants/maids/paid help in my life.

The sun set on the pyramids, and billiards with Syrians, French, US marines and some wealthy Egyptians followed. Dinner was served, and then one of the drivers drove us back across the Nile in a monstrous 4WD. Crazy hey!

Time to brush my teeth… love you Kiddo! Dad… XoXo…

WICKED QUOTE

“All God does is watch us and kill us when we get boring. We must never, ever be boring.”

― Chuck PalahniukInvisible Monsters. (I guess today could never be called boring!)

 

Thursday, March 6th 2014

Hello Phi. Well, what a day! It was Kids’ Day today at Cairo American College. Kids’ Day pretty much equates with Sports Day, but this was the best Sports Day I’d ever been a part of.

At 7.50am the kids arrived, excited to see whose design would be proudly displayed on every kid & teachers’ t-shirt. I handed out the purple t-shirts to my 5th graders, and grade 4 had green t-shirts, grade 3 orange, etc. The winning design was by a 5th grade girl, and it looks great. It’s a very colorful, international, sporty design. I’ve got a spare one on my desk… I think it will fit you.

So, with our new t-shirts we walked down to the running track for the opening ceremony. Being grade 5, we are the head of the primary school, so our 5th graders got to lead the other classes around the track, similar to the opening ceremony at the Olympics. Each class had been creating their own banner, so we held our banners proud and high.

After a short speech, the events started. It was fantastic, because each class rotated around different activities every 15 minutes, so at no point were the students idle. Everybody was active, engaged and having fun. I liked it a lot, because although there was an element of competition, there were no winners or points given; it was all about participation, cooperation and enjoyment. Some day I’ll show you the photos and explain the events, because to see the joy on these kids faces, was just awesome.

I just wish, you could also take advantage of such an education.

After Kids Day, as C was out of town, I joined the Wompers, who are a running group of teachers. Each Thursday they go out to the Wadi for a run, then some refreshments and a chat, as the sun sets on the pyramids. Here’s the newsletter Kim sent out about Thursday’s run:

Wompers and the Wannabees,

            Great run last week – as always. Nine people, two dogs, and the Sophie Box, all crammed into one chariot and a taxi flagged down from the street. That will happen NO MORE. We have a new entry into the fleet of carriages, wompmobiles, chariots, or trucks. Meghan is now a member of the four wheeled club, charging through the streets of Ma’adi into the depths of our Wadi.

            There will be a special treat for everyone who brings a truck this Thursday, so if you were on the fence, make sure you drive the Thursday. You will be rewarded with great fanfare. If you can’t make it, you will get great fanfare next week, or the week after………..or……….

            Last week saw Ged eat me up on the run. The guy is fast, so I let him run about two km more than me, and that about evened things up. Why was it just me and Ged, when we actually had four runners on the womp, you ask? Well so did I. It seems that Josiah backed out because he wanted to be fresh for his first half marathon the following day. Joel was nursing an owie (one of many he seems to be getting now that he has turned a year older). So it was Ged and me, and the crows cackling in the sky.

            The weather turned very cold, so we all bailed out early – no fire last week – make mental note to bring wood. We decided to all pile into or on Izzy and go wait for the taxi in a brighter local. Ged thought he would get in a few extra clicks and set off running. First, I must say, that the reflecting tape on his backpack and shorts had us all laughing as it looked like a weak little man darting along in front of us, all legs and arms akimbo. Then he met the dogs. They started growling, he ran faster. They growled more. He turned and took a kick at one of them. I was looking out the other side of the car trying to whack one of the canine wolves with my door. I hit Ged with the car – but only gently. Ged jumped onto the hood of my car and out of the reach of the slobbering fangs. The dogs followed us leaping and clawing the air, trying to reach the desired flesh. It was like the last scene in The Hunger Games, when those hounds tried to eat Katniss on the cornucopia. Evil beasts these feral Wadi dogs are!

            With so much excitement behind us, we were glad to see the ordered taxi show up on time. We departed once again. Roadies in the cup holders, laughter on our lips, and a shot of adrenaline just to make things interesting.

            Can’t wait to see what this week brings. Report cards are done. Time to celebrate (actually mine aren’t done yet, I’m just killing time doing this letter).

 

Wompingly,

Your Pooh Bah

TANTALISING THOUGHT

Wish you could join Dad on next week’s run!

 

Saturday, March 8th 2014

Howdy Cowdy. How’s trix? I’m still a bit shaken up by what happened with the feral dogs out at the Wadi on Thursday. So, it was good to meet up at Wayne & Yoshiko’s at 9am Friday. Yoshiko had this idea that Wayne needed a project. She wanted a basic outdoor kitchen in their backyard that she could make takoyaki, okonomiyaki, etc., for lunch. And being pretty similar to your Dad, Wayne enjoys his power tools too. Seemed like a good project for your Dad to be involved in, so we spent the whole day working on Yoyo’s kitchen. By 7pm, we had the frame up, and perhaps a third of the cladding (walls) were pieced together too. Then in the evening, they kindly took me out for dinner. We had Chinese and it was surprisingly good. It was good not to have to go home too early, and be alone with my book.

And today, well, that was a bit of fun too. I was up early for a run, and then it was time for our yearly fantasy football elite draft. All the 8 boys were online for some banter on Skype. Allen was in Sydney, Uncle Richie & Sean, and one of our neighbors from childhood (Ashley – who you actually met with his son and wife down at the beach house) Skyped from Melbourne, while the Japanese connection of Jamie, Sandy & Evan called in from Japan. It was a lot of fun, but I’m not too sure Dad recruited the best players… only time will tell, I guess.

Around midday I went to Wayne’s to help out with the outdoor kitchen again. It was another beautiful day in Cairo, t-shirt & shorts weather, so we enjoyed pizza on their lawn for lunch. Finished up at Wayne’s around 3pm and went for another run! Did a bit of x-training and even mixed in a bit of shopping into my exercise routine. I bought 12 bread rolls for 2LE (that’s about 30 yen), a big bunch of Italian parsley and a bunch of negi (spring onions) for 2LE also. Soup and fresh bread rolls are on the menu for tonight’s dinner. Want some soup and a movie together? We could watch Spirit!

Love Dad… XoXo…

WICKED QUOTE

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

― Albert Einstein

 

Wednesday, March 12th 2014

Hello Ophelia Hirakawa-Morice. Happy day today, because my C came home from Japan. She had been in Japan for just over two weeks, and I might say, it was a lonely apartment to go home to every night. Plus I missed her amazing cooking, smile and chatter. Before I could wrap my arms around her, I had to put some time in for the G3 – 5 outdoor social. Every trimester, the Student Council organize a social afternoon or evening. This particular social had no dancing, or indoor games, and instead the student leaders had organized outdoor games and activities. Teachers were asked to volunteer their time, just to ensure games went smoothly. I supervised a group who were playing a version of ships & sailors; and another game of sharks and crocodiles, only they decided to call it: i-phones & Samsungs. It was a bit of fun… I’m sure you would have liked it…

Time to wake C up… she’s still napping… a bit of jetlag I suspect. Love you buddy, Dad… XoXo…

WICKED QUOTE

“The only way out of the labyrinth of suffering is to forgive.”

― John GreenLooking for Alaska

 

Sunday, March 16th 2014

Hey Bella. I missed you yesterday. Dad was helping out with the Australian booth at the International Festival. It was a gorgeous sunny day, as usual, I guess. It was marvelous to see so many different nationalities volunteering their time. Your Dad was cooking the Aussie sausages and onions on the bbq. Now, what could be more Aussie than a bbq? We were selling 2 sausages on a piece of bread with lovely golden onions and a bit of dead horse (that translates to tomato sauce). We also sold pies and your favorite, sausage rolls too. We didn’t actually make them, but instead we discovered an Australian woman who has been in Egypt for 31 years, and her German business partner, who have just started an Aussie pie bakery! Amazing hey! They were delighted to help out, and their homemade pies were delicious. We even had lamingtons and pavlova, and for the morning at least (we ran out of supplies), we had the kids decorating their own boomerangs. There aren’t too many Aussie families at our school, so nearly all the Australian teachers volunteered to man the stall.

Later in the afternoon, Dad took the microphone and announced all the winners in the raffles. There must have been about 30-40 baskets with some great prizes. I didn’t win anything.

BTW, do you remember when Dad won one of the raffles at Saint Maur in Yokohama? That day, I won 8 tickets to Disney Land and a night at the Sheraton for you and me! Do you still remember our day at Disney Sea? The day before our big day (and Dad’s first time at Disney Sea), we arrived at the hotel and went straight to the pool. It was summer, but they curiously closed the outdoor pool at 5pm, so we had to switch to the indoor pool. Then we feasted at the outdoor buffet, before heading back to our enormous room to jump up and down on the beds!

And today, well, we had parent-teacher interviews. They were fine. The parents are very supportive and positive. Even so, Dad is a bit brain-dead and needs to go for a run to liven things up inside his brain.

Miss you every day Ophelia. Take care… and sweet dreams… XoXo…

FAST FACTS

There is some cool video footage of the two of us on a rollercoaster at Disney Sea… let’s watch it again soon!

 

Friday, March 21st 2014

Well Phi, what a day. I’ve just been on one of those once in a lifetime trips. We departed from CAC at 7am, in three 4W drives. We headed north out of Cairo, where the guides drove off the highway after about 150km. They said we’d follow a track, but instead they set the GPS for Wadi Zeuglodon (Whale Valley). Desert, desert and more DESERT. The route passed by Gebel Guhannam (Hell Mountain), a huge flat-topped landmark. We stopped at this point and heard that a WW2 German pilot had crash-landed his plane safely within site of Hell Mountain. He managed to walk to the base of the rock, where his uniform & bones were found after the war. It was kind of eerie walking around the base of the rock, and strange to think that in real terms when you think about Egypt and its history, WW2 is not all that long ago.CIMG0881

When we arrived at Whale Valley we were privileged to walk among 40,000,000 year old wale fossils (they actually had legs, can you believe it!) and the remnants of mangroves. It was a stunning landscape, perfect for a Star Wars set. We had a grand bbq lunch beneath a sail cloth, and then we found some enormous sand dunes to do a spot of sand-boarding. Before sunset, we passed by the Lower Lake of Wadi El Rayan. A manmade lake that is fed by the Nile.

1484784_10202306098426305_1028328691_nI’m exhausted Bella, but thought I had better get all this down before my 45 year old brain forgets the names of all the sites we visited today.

Love Dad… XoXo…

“If we teach today as we did yesterday, then we rob of children a tomorrow.” John Dewey

 

Tuesday, March 25th 2014

G’day Bella. Today, we need to send an important document back to Japan. The postal service here is notorious for losing letters, indeed we’ve suffered personally not receiving letters posted to us, nor have our letters arrived at their intended destination out of Egypt. C will use a US courier, though expensive, they have a good reputation. The document will be posted to C’s parents’ place, so she suggested I pop in a letter for you, and her mother will post it to you. What do you think? Sounds like a good plan, hey!? Here’s what I wrote to you:

Hey Bella. How’s your Spring Break? Do you have plans for a special trip? Dad is actually about to attend a conference in Bangkok, Thailand. The conference is all about teaching reading.

 

In April, I can’t quite believe you’re preparing to go into 6th grade. It’s your final year of primary school. I wonder if next year, you will continue at the same school, or shift to a different Middle School. Do you like your present school? What’s your favorite subject, and are you a member of any after-school clubs or activities? If you want to write to me, you can reach me at: moriceg@hotmail.com

I wrote to you at Christmas. I’m not too sure if you received my letter, but that’s okay, because a copy of that letter and hundreds more like them, I’m saving to give to you some day soon.

Next month Brenda & Allen will come all the way from Australia to visit us. Their eldest, David, is actually in Holland at The Hague studying law. Your favorite, Nicola, is working back in Sydney, and Timmy, is now a year 12 High School student in Sydney too. It would be nice for you to join us on the balcony for a special drink and chat. I know Brenda would just love to give you a big hug.

Well Phi, I hope this reaches you, because I really want you to know how much I miss you. I think of you every day, and wish you could visit us for a play.

Love always, your Dad.

WICKED QUOTE

“But better to get hurt by the truth than comforted with a lie.”

― Khaled Hosseini

 

Sunday, March 30th 2014

G’day Phi. It’s 5.12pm, and I’m just finishing up at school. The cleaners are singing an Arabic song that sounds similar to the songs that blare from the mosques, only they’re not so loud, so it’s kind of nice listening.

We had a nice weekend. Thursday, the faculty were invited to Wayne & Y’s for nibbles and drinks. It was good to serve from the outdoor kitchen that Wayne & Dad had created with their tools. Later in the evening we went along to the Seniors’ Art Exhibition. Seniors equals year 12. Phenomenal artists! I was so blown away by the creativity and excellence, I took my fifth graders along today (yeah, today… I’m still getting use to the idea of the working week beginning Sunday). My 5th graders loved it too, and when we returned to the classroom, they silently wrote amazing reflections.

Also last Thursday, C picked up Azarea’s dog. Aza is the Australian art teacher actually, and she’s off on a conference, so we’re babysitting. The dog is tiny and spoilt. It eats penne and toast and croissants! I think you’d probably quite like it, but it’s not Dad’s favorite… at the moment… fancy not being able to go for a jog with your dog! I think this one requires AA batteries!

Friday evening we were back at Wayne & Y’s again (yes, they’re very kind to us). Sushi and Ghengis Khan were on the menu; that’s Hokkaido lamb, only the lamb though imported from Japan, had originated from Australia! That’s quite a carbon footprint! Maya & Sam, Wayne & Y’s kids seemed comfortable speaking in Japanese from time to time, and I couldn’t but help think, that their quiet and calm ways would win a friend in you.

WICKED QUOTE

“When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You know that your name is safe in their mouth.”

― Jess C. Scott. I like that, do you? Dad… XoXo… See you in April Kiddo!

2013 October – December

October to December 2013… another birthday missed… but I’ll be thinking of you… I promise… XoXo…

Monday, October 7th 2013

Hey Phi, how’s trix? It’s your birthday month. Who would believe my darling daughter is turning 11 next week… sometimes, like now, it seems you’re growing up so quickly, and the years just glide on by. All those precious years, precious moments that we’re missing together. And other times, the days pass excruciatingly slowly, just hoping I’ll see you again… soon. It’s been over two years now, since our last conversation, our last time together, laughing and smiling as you held my hand by Tokorozawa Station. It’s kind of lonely sitting here, without you or my C. I would give anything to be with you now. To muss up your hair and watch you make a face once more. To hear you finish the sentence with me… I love you more than from here… to the moon and back… Remember that book we read together, over & over?

Right now, it’s almost Tuesday morning and Dad is sitting at Melbourne airport awaiting his flight back to Cairo. Uncle Sean & Lauren were married Saturday, so I flew in Friday evening for a whirlwind tour of my hometown. Uncle Richie picked me up Friday night and took me back to their home in Camberwell. It was great to see Allie & Chris, and aunty Rach again. Allie was especially happy to see her uncle Ged. She’s a great kid, and I can’t help but think you and your dear cousin Allie would be great mates. It’s almost like Allie senses how much I miss you. She cuddled into me several times this weekend… she misses you too Kiddo… XoXo… those kisses & hugs are from Allie.

Early Saturday morning in Melbourne, Allie & Chris barged into my room to wake me up. I was already awake, thinking of you mainly, and going over my speech for the wedding in my mind. We had breakfast, and then we went out to Croydon to see Nandee & Pa. They’re both well, but they miss you a whole heap. Nandee showed me the Ophelia rose in her garden. It had just blossomed with a single rose, like it knew I was coming. Isn’t nature incredible!

A quick lunch and then we raced back to Rich’s to shower and don our party clothes. I wore the same blue suit I had made for C & Dad’s wedding, minus a tie. The weather held, though it looked like we might get a Melbourne shower or three. The ceremony itself was at the Northcote valodrome! I had thought the idea was that Lauren & Sean would ride their bicycles into the valodrome, but they didn’t. I guess it would have been a tad tricky for Lauren to ride a bicycle in her beautiful wedding dress! The wedding was great fun, and Billie & Luca looked sensational. It’s just a shame you couldn’t be there, but I mentioned you in my opening lines of my speech later in the evening.

Lauren, Sean’s wife is just lovely. I know you’ll meet her one day, and I know in my heart that she’ll make you feel a special part of our big happy family again. Lauren loves animals, especially little beasties. She’s got her own frogs; actually the bigger one ate the smaller one, so she’s got a frog. She’s also a teacher, and she’s just amazing with Luca & Billie. Of course we all miss Cate, but I still got to see Cate yesterday, when she came and picked up your cousins. We gave each other a great big hug, and some day she’ll hold you again, just like that photo of the two of you in her backyard at Northcote.

Yesterday was rather quiet, but busy all the same. We had a bbq in the park opposite Sean & Lauren’s pad, then I dropped into Hadyn’s for dinner and a good chat.

And today, well, just a spot of shopping, banking, visited Ralph at his factory (Nippon Denso), and this evening before Nandee & Pa drove me out to the airport, we had pizza at Sue & Leo’s. Yes, there are still pictures of you on their fridge! Ralph joined us, my cousins Bree & Tristan too, and his wife, Grace.

So, there you have it bud. Time to get some shut-eye on this metal bird in the sky… this afternoon (Tuesday), I’ll land in Cairo.

Oh, I almost forgot, on my flight from Cairo to Doha (Qatar), I flew first class, and from Doha to Melbourne I was in business class… Mmm, luxury! 21 hours and 40 minutes, and that was just flying time and transit in Doha.

Goodnight, goodnight Princess… I love you… hugs & kisses… and loads of bedtime stories…

Your Dad… XoXo…

DID YOU KNOW

-that Memphis was the capital of Egypt from 3100BC?

 

Tuesday, October 15th 2013

Happy Birthday Bella! I’ve been thinking about you all day. 11 years young today. Sometimes it seems like yesterday that I held you in my arms at the hospital of your birth in Mishima… and other days it feels like forever ago.

I wonder how you are celebrating today. I wonder if you still lay awake at night and think, whatever happened to my Dad… I wonder, if you wonder why we don’t see each other any more. I wonder, if you’re wondering what your b’day present and hug from your Dad is. I wonder if you still miss me. I wonder if you have someone you can talk to about what’s happening inside your pure and innocent heart. I wonder about your self-esteem and respect. I wonder how comfortable you feel with your identity as a bilingual, bicultural individual with 2 families that love you. I wonder all these things, because as an intelligent 11 year old, you’re bound to have so many healthy questions about yourself, your Mother, and your Dad.

I never say your Mother’s name out loud anymore. It kind of creates a lump in my throat when I hear someone say her name. I never curse her, or her name, but each time I hear her name I feel a choking deep in my throat, and a sharp hard heavy feeling in my chest.

Thanks to C, I’ve largely abandoned self-pity and embraced a different page. Sometimes however, it’s just plain hard to block out the negativity, especially on days such as your birthday, our Easter egg hunt ritual, Christmas, trips to Australia, camping, bbqs, laughter with your cousins. But mostly, with my wonderful C, I now live every day alert to the discovery of happiness.

When you were ripped from me, I didn’t have faith in love. I couldn’t see myself loving again. Each night I was, if not actually close to tears, in the grip of a mood desolation and grief. I worked long 12 hour days at school, busying myself in my love of teaching, but when I returned home, I was alone with my thoughts. For a short time, R and the gals were there, but once the realisation that you weren’t coming home sank in, my relationship with R quickly fell to pieces. I felt terrible breaking up with R, and still do. She was a generous and giving soul who sacrificed an enormous amount for me, and I let her down. I’m guilty of that, I know. In less than 3 months R and the gals moved on, and in the evenings, the bottle settled my spirits, and the subsequent numbness chilled my bitterness, bewilderment and remorse.

I drank scotch every night. I drank too much. I tried to balance the drinking with fitness, and oh, I was fit, but it wasn’t a healthy balance. I’d run hard, do my pull-ups, and smash out a thousand push-ups every week… and each night I’d drink… alone. Those days are gone… now I jog, not run, but the push-ups and pull-ups are still there… trying hard to maintain a tight strong core. Fight it, live strong!

I love you, more than you’ll ever know… Happy Birthday my beautiful, beautiful girl.

Dad… XoXo…

Phi, do you like the quote below? I do…

 

WICKED QUOTES

“All the world is made of faith, and trust, and pixie dust.”

― J.M. BarriePeter Pan

Monday, November 11th 2013

How’s My Favourite 11 Year Old? Sorry it’s been so long between letters. It’s 4.34pm here in Cairo and I’ve just finished as much of my student reports as I can; I’m waiting for them to be proofread and then I can paste them into the report format for parents to then read.

So, how are you doing? I’m sorry I don’t write as much as I used to. I guess you could argue, I don’t think about you as much as I use to, but that wouldn’t be entirely true. I think about you all the time. One of my kids in my class turned 11 yesterday. Maha is her name. She’s a great kid, and I think the two of you would get on famously. As soon as Maha’s friend told me it was her birthday, in my mind I wanted to tell the girls, “My Ophelia turned 11 just last month.” But I didn’t. Then after school I went for a run. I ran inside our large campus, jogging a few laps of the soccer field, around the athletic track, and then I wind my way around past the kindergarten playground, where I stop to do my chin-ups. Last night, as I do every time I jog there, I thought of you. They have this awesome kids’ cubby house that you would have just loved 5 years ago. I picture you all smiles, beckoning me to come and join you inside the cubby house. You would ask me to take a seat and then you would mime making the tea and serve me a cup. After we had slurped our tea, you would serve us yummy pretend cakes. You see, you’re everywhere in my life… I will never forget you. BTW, I also have a Japanese kid in my class… I just love to practise Japanese with him (Hisamu).

Just last week, I received an email from Allen & Brenda. They’re excited about visiting C & Dad here in Cairo. It’s likely they’ll come for a visit next April. David, their eldest son is doing an internship as a lawyer in The Netherlands next year for 6 months… I wonder if he’ll be working at The Hague. So Brenda & Allen, and hopefully David, will take a flight from Amsterdam to Cairo. As you no doubt remember, Brenda, Allen, David, Nicola & Tim were such an important part of our lives in Numazu, and every time I think of them, I can’t help but think of your connection. C and Dad dropped into to see them last Christmas. They live out of Sydney, in a beautiful location.

So, how’s life as a 5th Grader? My guess is that after teaching Grade 6 Math at Katoh under the Monbusho Curriculum, your classes are starting to become quite complicated. Wish I could help kiddo.

Love Dad.

HANDY HINT

Don’t drink the water in the Nile, it tastes terrible!

Would luv to coach you high jump!

Would luv to coach you high jump!

Thursday, November 14th 2013

Hey Phi, how’s trix? Are you doing any running? Sometimes I join a group known as the Wompers. They’re a running group of teachers who venture out to a nearby wadi (it’s like a canyon) about 15 minutes drive from school. The wadi is an amazing contrast to Cairo, because although it’s equally dry and baron, it’s so peaceful and quiet. It’s also quite spectacular and has some great goat tracks you can run or cycle along (if you have a mountain bike that is). This last week, I managed to convince C into joining us, and guess what, she actually enjoyed herself. She joined the walkers, and hiked around for an hour. Here’s the weekly newsletter Kim writes up each week:

Wompers and the Wannabees,

Last week saw us use a combination of taxis and Izzy to proceed to the front gate of the wadi protectorate. The roof was proffered to the taxi denizens, but they snubbed their noses (led by head snubber, Joel) at this lofty perch and instead elected to run in to the RV. Lemming snubbers, Thomas and Ged, followed.

Once the run got under way, though, all was forgiven. Who can stay mad at those big lunks. Besides, without them, I wouldn’t have anyone to run with. The run was nice. We started up the rocky draw where the old building used to be. There is a bit of a scramble up a chute that always adds a bit of adventure and we were on our way. We were like that band of revolutionary patriots one sees on July 4, the drummer, the fife player, and the guy with the flag, all bandaged up and limping. We, too, were a limping bandaged bunch. Thomas with his tender hammy and Ged still running on one wheel as his achillies is still gimpy. It was all fine with me as I was able to keep up and still breathe.

Running at the wadi

Running at the wadi

We ran a modified horseshoe as our wounded wanted to stay away from hills – imagine – staying away from hills in the wadi. But we did our best and soldiered on. The run took about an hour and we arrived with about 10 minutes left before the sun set. We know this because we can all use our fingers to predict how long before the sun will set.

We waited the usual 20 – 30 minutes before the walkers arrived and bottles were opened and food was proffered. We would lie to mention that C (sp?), Ged’s special woman, had her maiden appearance on the womp and liked it. I think, and hope we will see her again. There was much frivolity and witty banter among the group, and the time to depart came much too quickly. The lemmings ran back to the front gate where we picked them up. They took the roof route as there was no room in the inn…..terior of the car. Turns out they liked the view and the feeling of wind in their hair. Lisa mentioned bolting a couch on the roof rack to make the drive more comfortable. I countered that when they buy my truck, they can do whatever they want with it.

Wompingly,

Your Pooh Bah

  • FUN FACTS
  • The official language of Egypt is Arabic, but others languages such as English and French are also understood by many.

 

Sunday, November 12th 2013

Bonjour Phi-Phi! It’s Sunday and guess what, I’m still at school. I still can’t quite get use to the fact that our school week in Egypt begins on Sunday.

Today I had a guided reading group with 3 of my boys. We’re doing a Migration theme in Social Studies, so we read Anna’s Goat, the story of a young girl who is displaced by the ravages of war. When her family return to the bleak remains of their bombed home, there’s nothing left. Some of the children begin searching for treasures, and because they have absolutely nothing, even a small coin or a broken bit of a blue pottery cup becomes a treasure to each of the children. All the children except Anna find some form of treasure. Anna tried hard not to cry, and her bravery so reminded me of you Bella. It made me think what a wonderful daughter you are. I remember your beautiful manners and the way you tried so hard to welcome children into your play circle. I also remember the times I requested you tidy up your play things. There were only a few times you didn’t or wouldn’t, so Dad gave you a choice, tidy up or lose the privilege of playing with those particular toys. Believe me, it was harder for Dad, as I hoped you’d quickly help Dad tidy up. 99% of the time we’d tidy up together, hug and both feel much better. But there were possibly two occasions when you refused, so I reluctantly took your toys and put them out of your reach for a few days. On those particular nights, you would apologize and we’d talk about what had happened. You tried so hard to be strong, but you sniffled a little, breaking my heart. But it was clear, you understood, and tried ever so hard to be a good daughter, friend, cousin… As much as it pained me, I felt I had to go through with the consequences. Boundaries were set, and you and I both respected them. Those nights alone in bed however, were always difficult for me to sleep.

Years later, your Mother accused me in the Family Court of throwing away some of your toys. She told the court you were emotionally upset as a result of my actions. It’s true, I did tidy up and pass on some of the toys you hadn’t played with for years to Sophie and Helen Parmenter. And some of the 100 yen toys, did probably find their way to the gomi, but they were also toys you hadn’t played with for years. You played with lego and different figures, and together with your Dad we would make castles for princesses and enjoy our imaginary playtime. Sometimes we’d play with the train set, and sometimes we’d just play in the cubby or practice riding the bicycle. Pretty much all those toys I still have… I can’t throw them away… they’re precious to me too. Even so, I’ve lived with the accusation from your Mother that I threw away your most treasured toys, and have wondered ever since, if there was a particular toy that was close to your heart. I’m sorry dear, if I did hurt you… it was not my intention.

Love Dad… XoXo…

  • TERRIFYING FACTS
  • Egypt experiences natural hazards such as droughts, earthquakes, flash floods, landslides, windstorms (called khamsin), dust storms and sandstorms

 

Sunday, November 17th 2013

Howdy Partner! How’s life in Japan? It must be suddenly getting quite cool in Tokyo, but such a beautiful time of year don’t you think? I use to love that first night after the summer, when I could pull a blanket over me because I felt a chill. Autumn, with its break from the summer heat, and the great variety of red, yellow, brown and orange leaves makes for a stunning Fall. Believe me, it’s nothing like that herein Cairo, but it is gladly becoming cooler… there’s even a chance we’ll have to put a light top over our t-shirts in the evening soon.

So, how was your weekend? I bet you didn’t see a real life 4000 year old pyramid! Yes, finally, C & Dad got up close to a pyramid. Funny story though… teachers at our school were invited to attend the Soccer World Cup Lead-up Celebrations out at the pyramids. I thought: free trip, why not! It was quite surreal, because not only did we get to marvel at the enormity and history of the Giza pyramids (3 of them), we were taken to a huge reception area with free cokes and McDonald’s burgers overlooking the Great Giza and it’s historic 3D monsters. We even had a photo with the World Cup Trophy! Cool hey!

How’s your soccer training going? Fancy a kick down by the Nile next weekend? Love Dad… XoXo…

  • FUN FACTS
  • Egypt is bordered by the Gaza Strip, Israel, Libya and Sudan as well as the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea

Tuesday, November 19th 2013

Hey Ophelia,

There was an article in the Japan Times (17/11/2013) on language and identity. I thought you might be interested… show it to your Mother… It also features a short quote from Dad’s friend Mike Bostwick. Remember Mike & Akari with the beautiful Labradors? I can’t remember their names, but you probably do… oh wait a minute, yes I do: Max & Hana.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2013/11/17/general/identity-issues-can-complicate-a-childs-path-to-becoming-bilingual/#.UokU8TyOYXQ.mailto

Emerging identity: A bicultural student stands in a school hallway after hours. While the parents of such children may start out with a scholastic plan to nurture bilingualism, the child’s identity plays a much more important role in achieving such a goal. While much of the identity process occurs away from parents at school, mom and dad can still be involved | ETHAN SALTER

Identity issues can complicate a child’s path to becoming bilingual

BY KRIS KOSAKA                    

  • The pursuit of bilingualism can be something akin to the quest for the Holy Grail for parents living in Japan. It’s also near-universal, affecting expatriates here for an extended period, multilingual families where the parents come from different cultural backgrounds, or Japanese nationals eager to start their child on learning a new language. One thing that is easy to overlook, though, is the importance of nurturing identity on this quest.

Carol Inugai is the language and learning manager for the International Baccalaureate Organization. She worked for more than 25 years as an educator in Japan before taking on her current role at the organization. She is very well informed on the subject of language acquisition, but it’s her role as mother to a bilingual child that reinforces the research on a personal level.

“Language plays an intricate role in the development of a child’s identity as he or she navigates the complexities of various group memberships,” Inugai tells The Japan Times. “All multicultural children must eventually reconcile how to create an integrated identity by harmonizing their ‘other’ identities within the established group.”

While many parents may see formalized language study as the key to biculturalism, it is sometimes necessary to put it aside when issues of identity arise.

Take one typical case in Japan: Peter, Maki and their son, Leo. (For privacy, the family has requested we not print their real names.) Peter is British and Maki is Japanese. Both parents, determined to ensure Leo’s bilingual development, meticulously researched their linguistic options while Maki was pregnant and formulated a strategy many bicultural families employ: Peter, whose Japanese was limited, would speak to Leo only in English and support his son’s English literacy skills, while Maki (although she was fluent in English) would speak to Leo only in Japanese.

Taking his role as minority-language parent seriously, Maki says Peter created engaging home lessons, stocked up on books, music and movies, and worked hard to establish an early, consistent routine of English study built around a need for communication between father and son.

Things went well throughout elementary school and Leo was praised for his language development — not just at school, but also when he visited the extended family in England. He read books in both languages and was a happy, energetic boy. Peter and Maki heaped praise on their son, and congratulated themselves as well.

Then adolescence arrived. Leo lost his motivation to study English. He began to answer his father in Japanese. When repeatedly confronted on this issue, he retreated into silence and negotiated essentials only with his mother. Everything else seemed to be going well: he spent time with classmates online and at school, especially those who shared his interests in soccer and photography. School reports, too, indicated firm academic achievement and social adjustment with his peers. But Leo refused to study or speak English throughout middle school and into high school.

What had gone wrong with the plan for bilingualism? Peter was angry and hurt by his son’s actions and Maki says she became distraught. While their reactions are understandable, Leo’s case illustrates exactly how planning for language acquisition must include consideration of identity development and socialization.

Inugai cautions that identity cannot be cajoled or drilled like language study can, and that reconciliation “can be particularly difficult in Japanese society, with its emphasis on inclusion.” She believes Leo’s Japanese identity needed to be affirmed before he could accept English language study.

“Unfortunately, Leo had been the victim of mild bullying at school for his English ability, and he naturally wanted to align himself more firmly within the group of his Japanese classmates,” Inugai says. “Because his parents resisted his need to assert a Japanese identity, Leo retreated even more deeply into hostility against English.”

Identity can be positively affirmed by both parents and educators. Adam Clark works as a counselor at Yokohama International School and is the father of two bilingual children. He says that while the needs of children struggling with identity issues will change over time, one consistent goal is to support these children as they develop the ability to move comfortably across cultural boundaries.

“As parents we can do a lot for our children by providing them with meaningful experiences deep within the various cultures of their lives,” Clark says. “Consistent time spent within specific cultural settings can help children master the skills needed to move effectively within cultures and also help them to integrate the requirements of that culture into a coherent view of themselves. Specific cultural settings need not be ‘cultural events’. Sports programs, the arts or really any area of interest that the child has can be a great resource.”

Mike Bostwick, director of English immersion at Katoh Gakuen in the city of Numazu, Shizuoka Prefecture, believes teachers play an important role in affirming identity.

“Increasing numbers of children are becoming transnational, with the ability to use multiple languages and identities that transcend traditional ideas of belonging,” he says. “Our role as educators is to assist and support children in developing their bilingual and multicultural abilities as they become transnational citizens — full members of their own country and of the international community. Ultimately, we feel these are ‘gifts’ that should be available to all children.”

The bicultural community is quite creative when it comes to bestowing such gifts on its children. Anecdotes I heard in the researching of this topic included a father in Fujisawa who takes his boys home to England every summer to attend the same local school he attended as a child — emphasizing socialization rather than formal language study. One Fukuoka mother sends her children to an international school, but their music studies are within the local community and the family joined a local church. Parents in Yokohama decided to home-school their daughter in English while she attended Japanese school part-time. However, this changed when the daughter requested she attend a Japanese junior high school full time “like everyone else.” In return, the daughter promised her parents she would study for the English proficiency exams to create the possibility for further tertiary level study in English.

While families and educators pursue the grail of language acquisition, they must be prepared — and patient — as children or students navigate the individual quest of incorporating different cultures into a unified multicultural identity. It may mean allowing one language to temporarily “drop” — but it doesn’t mean your child will never develop fluent language skills.

Citing the work of professor Jim Cummins and other noted researchers, Inugai believes that “language is paramount for children to become socialized and develop a sense of belonging within cultural settings. At a certain stage in acquisition, language becomes a part of identity, and identity should be allowed to emerge according to the child.”

An interesting read, don’t you think? Okey-dokey partner, it’s lights out for me. Love Dad… XoXo…

Sunday, November 24th 2013

Salutations! Now, I know I’m getting old… I can’t remember if I read you Charlotte’s Web. If I didn’t, I so regret not sharing the beautiful tale of the way a young girl, Fern, communicates with the farm animals. It’s written by EB White, and even as you read this now Ophelia, whether you’re 14 years old, or 16 or 22 years old, you’re never too old to share in the beauty of Charlotte’s Web. Anyway, to cut a long story short, Charlotte, likes to say Salutations, which she admits is a showy way of saying HELLO!

Last week, we had a second excursion to the pyramids on Friday. It was organized through the school, and meant to be scheduled during our orientation week in early August, but due to the political situation on the ground, it was postponed. Only this time, C couldn’t come as she was a bit sick. It was a great tour with a very knowledgeable Egyptologist who is actually a member of our Arabic faculty. The tour included the nearby Sphinx, and then back to school for a courtesy lunch and an Egyptian Culture Class.

CIMG0511Sunday, we woke early and met Wayne & Y at CAC for a trip to the desert. It took about 2 hours to get there, and about 3.5 hours to get home in the nasty Cairo traffic. The weather was perfect and the sand dunes spectacular. A group of about 45 MS kids joined us for a bbq lunch and plenty of sand boarding. The petrified wood was surprising, it had a metallic sound to it, and such weight. There were 4 girls from Japan on the trip too. It was funny to hear them chatting away in a mix of Japanese and English in the middle of an Egyptian desert. We had a go at sand-boarding. Quite a bit of fun, however it’s mighty difficult to turn.

Right now, it looks pretty smoky out of my classroom window. They do a lot of burning off here, I’m not exactly sure why, but I guess it’s to reduce the rubbish and to provide the soil with some fertilizer and nutrients. Some days the smog gets so bad, the kids aren’t allowed to go outside and play. Today however, I have no students and instead the parents are here for Parent-Teacher Conferences. So far I’ve had two no-shows, so I’m using this extra time to write to my beautiful princess of a daughter.

Love Dad… XoXo…

  • FUN FACTS
  • In 2012, the population of Egypt was just over 83 million (83,688,164)
  • November 25th 2013
    • G’day Bella, I just found an interesting article in the Asahi newspaper. It’s about Japanese parents who after divorce, are unable to see their own children. In the photo, you’ll notice Nomura San passing a balloon to a child. He’s the inspiration behind the Kimidori Ribbon project, and we’ve helped him out on several occasions. Also in the photo is our friend Matt. He’s the one with a beanie. I hope the link still works when you come to open it, just in case I’ll copy and paste:
  • http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/AJ201311240030
  • Divorced parents take to streets in fight for right to see children
  • November 24, 2013
  • By SATOMI SUGIHARA/ Staff Writer
  • Japanese parents fighting for the right to see their children after divorce are taking to the streets to highlight their plight.
  • In a recent campaign drive, groups of the parents have gathered in front of station terminals and plazas in 16 cities across Japan, including Tokyo and Nagoya.
  • Wearing yellow-green T-shirts and ribbons with the words “Stop child abduction,” they hand out balloons and leaflets to passers-by to raise awareness for their call that all parents have the right to see their children.
  • One of the members is a male company employee in his 40s. The man said it has been two years since he last met his children, now both elementary school pupils.
  • “Four fathers that I know killed themselves while agonizing about the fact they could not meet their children,” he said.
  • Since his divorce, he said he has been allowed to meet his children only several times, each time with his ex-wife’s lawyer present. In initial meetings, his children were their usually bubbly selves, but their relationship became gradually awkward and distant since they could meet only on rare occasions.
  • “I want people to realize that forced separation from children produces tragic consequences,” the man said.
  • The campaign was organized by the “Oyakonet” Parents And Children’s Network and other mutual assistance and awareness groups of divorced parents who are denied opportunities to see their children.
  • In June 2012, the groups formed a campaign network “Kimidori (yellow-green) Ribbon Project,” adopting yellow-green as their symbolic colors. They are seeking legislation to give divorced parents joint custody over children and ensure the rights of both parents to see their offspring after divorce.
  • The Civil Code awards custody over children to only one parent, invariably to the mother, after divorce. This often means parents who do not win custody can no longer see their children when custodial partners refuse.
  • In fiscal 2012, divorced parents sought judicial arbitration and judgment in 11,459 cases for the right to meet their children. The figure was a three-fold increase over 10 years ago.
  • A survey by the welfare ministry that covered about 1,300 divorced mothers in fiscal 2011 found that in 51 percent of cases children had not seen their fathers regularly.
  • Joint custody is recognized in the United States, France and many other countries in the belief that continued exchanges with both parents is essential to healthy growth.
  • In 2012, the revised Civil Code took effect. It requires parents to decide visits to their children at the time of divorce. But it does not outline how this should be done.

Pretty interesting read, don’t you think? I’m sorry if all this embarrasses you, but there’s a reason that people like Nomura San keep fighting… they fight because they know that two loving parents are better than one, and when there is a family that loves their child deeply, it’s wrong to deny that love and support.

Love Dad… Xoxo…

 

QUESTION TIME

Will you join me one day alongside the likes of Nomura San to better inform the Japanese public? It won’t be easy, but your story will be listened to… XoXo…

 

Sunday, December 1st 2013

Ophelia Hirakawa-Morice, can you believe it, December already!? Apparently it’s going to be 31 degrees Celsius here in Cairo today. It’s a little hard to believe because I actually had a light jacket on for part of the morning. My kids are off at PE then onward to Arabic, so I thought I would take the opportunity to pen you a quick letter.

It was Thanksgiving this past weekend, and we had a lovely time. On Thursday we missed you immensely because we went to Wayne & Y’s with many other Japanese families. You would have loved it because there were kids running around everywhere enjoying all sorts of creative games, and not a DS or i-phone to be seen anywhere. I was so impressed with the Japanese kids creative play… you would have just loved it. There was even a boy from my class, Hisamu, the same age as you and a gentle and fun grade 4 girl that you would have just loved to play with.

We arrived at 11am to help Wayne & Yoshiko set up their Xmas lights, the tables and chairs and to start work on the 15kg turkey! It was a lovely day.

Friday, C & Dad went into the Coptic Church area of Old Cairo. There are numerous churches, including a Jewish Synagogue and some Mosques too. We discovered an artesian area with some classic art pieces. We didn’t have enough money, so we’re sure to return and buy something very special. They have some amazingly creative and original pieces that we don’t mind spending good money on, because we know they’ll be keepers. And as keepers, we’ll be sure to pass them onto you when we’re gone.

At 4pm we met Jan & Beth, our Swedish/American neighbors and jumped in a taxi for the Corniche. By 4.30pm we were sailing the Nile on a Felucca with leftover Thanksgiving meat & vegetables. It was just stunning, and oh so peaceful and charming. In the evening we invited Beth and Jan over for a glass of port and we watched Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby together.

Yesterday C went off to a charity Xmas bazaar, and Dad stayed home for a nap then cleaned our grotty windows. The bats make quite a mess with their poop. The windows are so high I could use you up on my shoulders to wipe away the grime in the hard to reach places.

Love Dad… better start getting ready to teach! YIKES!

BLAST FROM THE PAST

Remember the train set you received for Christmas? I think Dad had almost as much fun with it as you!

 

Friday, December 6th 2013

Hey Phi, how are you doing these days? It’s 3.35pm here, so you’re well and truly in bed by now because there is a 7 hour time difference between Cairo and Tokyo. So, if it’s 3.35pm here it’s 10.35pm in Tokyo.

It’s pleasantly cool here, as we prepare for the last couple of weeks of school before the winter break. Nelson Mandela died on December 5th. He was a man, a leader, an inspiration that your Dad held up as a hero for many years. I used to have a poster of him on my bedroom door in Australia when I was at university. There’s also a girl from South Africa who is in my class this year at Cairo American College. She wrote about Mandela earlier in the year, and Thursday, when we heard the tragic news, we watched a memorial video in his honor.

Phi, these are the people who we should model ourselves on. Nelson Mandela had such integrity, and such passion for seeking justice. He’s an inspiration to humanity, civility and our future.

Love Dad… XoXo…

FAST FACT

Your Dad was quite politically active through university, writing letters for Amnesty International, protesting and boycotting Shell for supplying oil to the South African military. At the time, Apartheid was still part of every day life in South Africa, the separation of people according to race… overt racism. Dad used to visit pubs/live houses with African bands belting out Free Nelson Mandela, bring him back home to Soweto.

 

Saturday, December 7th 2014

Fancy a bbq Phi? Wayne & Yoshiko have invited us over for some meat on the grill and a cold beverage or two. They’ve got a great tree-house you could climb up to and eat your sausage and sauce. They’ve got a cool swing too. It’s hanging from one of their big backyard trees, and you could still take your shoes and socks off and run around on the grass. I say still, because it’s still quite mild here. This morning C and Dad walked all over Maadi to find a sewing machine, but we weren’t very successful. All the same, the weather is just perfect for a walk, jeans and t-shirt.

Yesterday we went to the most amazing market near the Citadel. There was just about everything you could imagine including fish, tools, rugs and prosthetic limbs; well one actually, a right leg. Can’t imagine it sold though; bit of a niche market, a right prosthetic leg. Beth and Jan joined us in the 20LE (that’s about $3 for a 20 minute ride) taxi ride. Then in the evening, we were invited to a villa!

Not actually too sure why we were invited, except for the fact that Wayne & Yoshiko were invited too, and the family is from CAC. The father is Japanese and the mother is from Singapore. They have 2 sons at CAC, and talk about RICH. You would have had a million things to play with, in, on, including a swimming pool, trampoline, indoor basketball area, table tennis and a grass area with two goals… interesting to see how the other half live! The food was good too, kind of Malay I guess, a little spicey-nicey as you and I would say, and there was also a nice older couple from Brunei there also. They too have a son at CAC who is in my Fun & Fitness Club.

Okey dokey Ophelia, time for a tidy up. Love Dad… XoXo…

FUN FACTS

  • Egypt is officially known as the Arab Republic of Egypt… actually, that’s not that fun… C’mon Dad, get your act together!

Wednesday, December 11th 2013

How’s my fifth grader, Ophelia Hirakawa-Morice doing these days? Pretty cool name I might add. Did you know that’s your name as it appears on your birth certificate? It’s also recorded as such in your first and second passport, and in all the official transcripts relating to your birth at the municipal offices in Numazu and Tokorozwa.

Here’s a movie I hope your Mother is brave enough to watch. It comes from Japan and pays tribute to a joyous Japanese tale about the consequences of fractured family relations. Written and directed by the Japanese film-maker Kore-eda Hirokazu (who would later go on to make the sweeter, less substantial Like Father, Like Son), I Wish is a story of divorce and its consequences, corralling a set of scattered characters and showing how they are all connected by “a thread you cannot see”.

http://www.theguardian.com/film/2013/dec/10/10-best-films-2013-i-wish

I haven’t seen it… but according to the Guardian, it’s an open and honest portrayal of divorce and its consequences. Do you think we could watch it together?

Love Dad… XoXo…

WICKED QUOTES

“Where there is love there is life.”

― Mahatma Gandhi

 

Saturday, December 14th 2013

Hey Bella? Cold in Tokyo this evening? It’s actually crazy cold here in Cairo. The locals are saying, it’s the coldest Cairo has been since records began, certainly the wettest. It’s rained on and off for 3 days straight now and with no drains, Cairo is pretty much flooded. AND this morning according to the news, Old Cairo had snow! The first ever recorded in Cairo! It’s a little awkward riding to school because the puddles have pretty much joined up and covered much of the road. And as the rain drips from the trees, you can be sure that it’s a lovely brown drop of water splashing onto you below. You see, with so much dust in the trees, and so little rain, when it does actually rain, the dust just turns to mud… not black rain, but brown rain!

Yesterday C donned her long rubber boots and we headed into the electrical district, Ataba, in search of a sewing machine; needless to say, we didn’t find one. Dad was in regular shoes and spent much of the afternoon unsuccessfully jumping puddles that more resembled ever-enlarging ponds. We stopped by the French Institute on our way home because they had a Christmas Market. We bought C a gorgeous necklace from this French artist we’ve met a few times at the French Maison (“maison” means house in French, but you probably already knew that) in Maadi. While we were chatting to her we were introduced to another fascinating lady, who just by chance comes from Sydney. She is a jazz singer. I googled her and discovered she’s semi-famous; Michelle Circles is her name. We think we might go and see her. Fancy coming along with C and Dad for a little dancing? Actually, it’s a tad tricky dancing to jazz, because it often doesn’t have a regular beat… wouldn’t stop us though kiddo… let’s dance!

Anyway, back to the Xmas market… they also had beautiful handmade paper. We bought a card for you. A lovely Christmas card. Street kids & orphans made it in a workshop in Old Cairo. AND, last week I ordered a lovely silver necklace with your name in Egyptian Arabic… Ophelia. It should be ready to send with Wayne & Y next Saturday as they’re heading to Japan for the Winter Break. It was C’s great idea, because if we post it from Egypt, it’s not likely to reach you. So Yoshiko can post it for us when they arrive at Narita. I’ll pop in a few photos too, and perhaps a few old ones of you and me smiling & grinning, laughing & singing!

Then last night, CAC (that’s my new school, Cairo American College) held their Festive Celebration at The Marriot Hotel… OH la-la! Very flash establishment and a lovely buffet meal to match. The wine was even imported and they had a huge dessert table! Guess where C started in terms of food? Yes, you guessed it… at the dessert table! We had a lovely time, and of course with probably around 400 people, C was still the most beautiful woman there. We hit the dance floor but all too soon the buses were ready and waiting to take us back to CAC around 11pm.

With my mate Jan

With my mate Jan

This morning I went to Carrefour on the school bus and bought a few necessities, and a few treats for my lovely lady. This afternoon C and Dad had a long walk in search of a chair for the kitchen and a cheap bicycle for Dad… I think C is tired of Dad riding her bike to school every day! She needs it back.

What do you think? In the future, fancy staying over every now and then? We’ll enjoy bbqs and whip our shoes and socks off, lie down on the grass and gaze up at the stars.

And this week, well, it’s my last week of school before the Winter Break. We’re heading to France & Switzerland. We’ll celebrate Xmas with David, Yoko & Luka. Thinking of them reminds me of the photo of you nursing Luka when he was just a baby. Do you remember going down to the beach to visit them? They lived only about 200 metres from the beach at Tsujido. We visited them at least 4 times and even had a sleep over.

At Xmas it’s time for forgiveness, for giving, and smiling. At school, I’ll read Shel Silverstein’s Giving Tree. It’s not a Christmas book, but it is the perfect text for a discussion about giving. We’ll discuss our wishes. One of my gals, Zein, has a mother in hospital with leukemia, so I can imagine what her wish will be. And we’re all affected by the political turmoil here in Egypt, so I’m hoping for some mature & compassionate thoughts.

On that note, it’s time to close with a bit of wisdom from another Shel Silverstein book… Love always, Dad… XoXo…

 

WICKED QUOTES

“How many slams in an old screen door? Depends how loud you shut it. How many slices in a bread? Depends how thin you cut it. How much good inside a day? Depends how good you live ’em. How much love inside a friend? Depends how much you give ’em.”

― Shel Silverstein

 

Monday, December 23rd 2013

Hey Bella, how are you this morning? Guess where Dad & C are at the moment? We’re sitting down at a coffee shop at Cairo International Airport awaiting our flight to Paris! Little sleepy at the moment, as it’s just gone 6am and we’ve been up since 3.45am.

Two more sleeps until Christmas! What are you expecting this year? I sent a little something to you courtesy of Wayne & Yoshiko. They’ll post it to you from Narita when they arrive in Japan from Egypt. It’s a silver necklace with your name in Arabic. Hope you’re wearing it on Christmas day… XoXo…

Friday had a 40 minute run, 30 chin-ups and 100 push-ups… not bad for an old fella. How many push-ups can you do Possum? Then we went to Wayne & Yoshiko’s with a bottle of champagne. Wayne cooked up some chili con carne. Later in the evening, we stopped by Mel’s to say hello and welcome Jan & Beth’s daughters. Saturday morning, I went for a run with Beth’s daughter, Olivia. She’s young and fit and kept up a good pace. I took her around the Tora Prison and down to the Corniche, that’s the main road that runs along the mighty Nile. Afterward, it was time for some Japanese end of year cleaning. I cleaned all the windows, which turned out equal to a good set of push-ups… how many push-ups again? Look out Phi, I’m 45 and getting older, but I’ll be ready for that push-up challenge with my daughter… when we meet!

Thursday was the last day of school. We had class parties, a school assembly and you won’t believe it, Santa came to school on a camel, an enormous camel! I received some lovely gifts and cards from the kids, including 3 gift vouchers. One of the vouchers C & Dad used Thursday night. We went to the Blackstone Grill where Dad had a huge steak & C had an orange glazed chicken… it was very good. I think you would have liked the steak.

Love Dad… XoXo… and more hugs, because it’s almost Christmas… XoXo…

WICKED QUOTES

“We can never judge the lives of others, because each person knows only their own pain and renunciation. It’s one thing to feel that you are on the right path, but it’s another to think that yours is the only path.”

― Paulo Coelho

 

Tuesday, December 24th 2013

Bonjour Mademoiselle Ophelia,

At the moment C & Dad are aboard a French TGV train bound for Geneva. It’s 1.30pm raining & windy outside. That means you’re tucked up in bed for it’s 10.30pm (or 11.30pm, I forget) in Japan. It’s Christmas Eve and all the children in Iruma are sleeping and dreaming of a happy Christmas. This morning we awoke early and with little to do, Dad donned his shorts and yesterday’s smelly t-shirt and braved the cold & wet morning for a run. I had to actually run, and not just jog, in order to stay warm. It was still dark, but I could see Sacre Coeur on my way back to our tiny hotel room. I grabbed some croissants, and we had yoghurt and grape fruit juice for breakfast… waiting for Paris to awake & rise.

Yesterday we arrived on time from Cairo & went direct to our hotel, dropped off our suitcases and raced to XXX for a slap-up lunch. We both started with the escargo, then Dad had the cheek of the cow in a rich gravy, and C had scallops & fish. For dessert C had a macha crème brulee, and Dad a vanilla-custard toast. The chef is actually Japanese, and as C used to work there, they gave us a complimentary glass of wine and toasted our marriage with champagne! It’s the third time we’ve been there… last time was summer… 2 or 3 years ago.

We’re pulling into Geneva soon… I’ll be sure to say hello to David and his family for you… and to say a special prayer for you this evening when we attend church… love you… Dad… XoXo…

WICKED QUOTES

“No persons are more frequently wrong, than those who will not admit they are wrong.”

― François de La Rochefoucauld

 

Saturday 28th, December 2013

Happy Christmas Bella! Hello, hello, hello! Ho-ho-HO!

C & Dad are on their way to Bern, aboard a train from Geneva. We’ve just spent 5 days, four nights sightseeing, eating & drinking with David, Yoko & Luka, & David’s mother. We actually stayed in the hotel just next door to David’s lovely apartment.

Remember Mr. David Barrett? What a gem!

Remember Mr. David Barrett? What a gem!

David used to teach with me at Saint Maur. In fact we spent 4 glorious & fun years teaching alongside each other. You & I would visit them from time to time in their apartment in Tsujido. Do you remember David’s nephew, Toby? You two were a bit keen on each other!

Three of the four mornings, David & Dad went jogging around Ferney, a village in France just across the border from Switzerland’s Geneva. After a shower we’d join David and his family for a breakfast of croissants & coffee.

On Christmas Eve, David & Luka picked us up from Geneva Station. We went to a local church for a Christmas service & carols, then C & Dad bought some cheese, wine, cidre, champagne, & nibblies to share from the local Carrefour. Yoko had prepared a feast of sushi, so we had our first evening of fine dining.

Christmas Day we exchanged gifts, had a Chrissy nap and then around 2pm started our celebrations with some champagne. During the afternoon David prepared an exquisite roast duck with crispy potatoes bathed in duck fat… magnific!

Boxing Day was wet & miserable, but we took a trip to Annecy, a majestic French village situated around a lake. For lunch we visited a creperie where Dad had the local specialty, a heavy dish of cheese, bacon & potatoes. C had another local dish of salad, cheese & prosciutto. In the late afternoon we visited one of David’s colleagues and then onwards and up to the ski fields for a spot of tobogganing. Phi, you would have just loved it. Luka, who is just four, went down with Dad many times, giggling his head off. For dinner we went into one of the chalets for some great pizza & calzone.

Hasn't Luka grown!

Hasn’t Luka grown!

Phi, the scenery from the train is incredible. Out our left is a huge lake, perhaps Lake Geneva. On our right there are castles, vineyards, houses with centuries old brickwork, fields of snow & expensive European cars.

Yesterday we spent the day touring around the city centre of Geneva, seeing the 3-legged chair (representing the victims of landmines) in front of the United Nations building, the 130m high fountain in Lake Geneva, and the old part of Geneva. We climbed the steps of the largest church in Geneva to high up in the steeple. The views were splendid. And for lunch we had chicken, chips & salad, evidently another local specialty. After an expensive hot chocola, we all went back to David & Yoko’s for another spectacular meal. David prepared a tomato based pasta sauce with prawns.

And this morning, well, we checked out and headed into the local Saturday market at Ferney. The fresh produce, banter and customs are really heartwarming. It was about 11am but the French were standing around the fishmonger at specially prepared benches savoring freshly shucked oysters and washing the delicacies down with a glass or two of wine. David took us to the most amazing fromagerie where they must have had hundreds of varieties of cheese. We bought a lovely stinky variety that David recommended to accompany the sausage & fresh bread we’d already purchased for lunch on our train journey to Bern.

Well Phi, time to say goodbye to another year… let’s hope the next year brings us closer together… I love you, and always will… whenever you need me… send for me… moriceg@hotmail.com

Love Dad… XoXo…

WICKED QUOTES

“My only advice is to stay aware, listen carefully, and yell for help if you need it.”

― Judy Blume

2013 July – September

Sunday, July 7th 2013

Hey Gorgeous, how are you? Still gorgeous, besides the heat? This constant heat is starting to drain my strength and enthusiasm for renovating! There are two gals I call “Gorgeous”, you and my C, and you’re both absolutely, unequivocally, unquestionably GORGEOUS!

Last night my Gorgeous C & Dad went to a super Mexican steak restaurant. It was just like Pa’s favorite in Numazu, you know the one we often went to on a Wednesday evening with Pat after Dad’s meeting? Great Aussie beef you used to just devour! Me too! You would sit next to me and gobble down tender steak morsels, and slurp your “special drink.” You know Phi, we should go back to Numazu one day together, just to visit those special places… it’ll be interesting how much you remember. We could go to Couer and order your favorite, the salmon pasta in white creamy sauce. We could take a stroll down along the foreshore at Senbon, throw some stones into the ocean and check to see if Allen & Brenda’s old rental house is still standing. We could take a stroll up our old street and take a peek at our old home… I wonder if the garden is still there. We could even head up the hill to see if we can find Totoro again. What do you think? Sounds like a plan, hey?

Last night, while we ate our steak, C and Dad had a good chat about Cairo. She’s amazing! She’s with me all the way, despite the military take over last week. Yes, according to reports, General El Sisi has taken over. Initially there was euphoria in the streets and the pro Morsi supporters were barely seen. Probably, and more precisely the pro Morsi groups were probably given less press. It seems the West, and a good many Egyptians want an end to his pro-Muslim Brotherhood stance. Who knows, I guess it’s still too early to tell what is really happening and why.

What do you think? Fancy cooking together?

What do you think? Fancy cooking together?

I received an email from the head at Cairo American College (CAC). His name is Wayne, and he seems a decent sort of chap. Actually, he’s married to a Japanese woman, so I’m hoping that’ll be a good connection for C. He stated that events in Maadi, where the school and our apartment are located remained normal. Neither C or Dad are too perturbed by what we’re seeing on the nightly news. To be honest Phi, we just want to leave Japan. It’ll be two years in September since I’ve seen you on a visitation, and my guess is, if I stay another two years, your mother will do everything in her power to keep us separated. And for me, well being so close to you, and yet not being able to share a book, and a laugh, and a peanut butter sandwich… well, it breaks my heart kiddo.

Anyway, I finished up three weeks of Summer School Friday, so now the renovating really starts in earnest! I could sure do with your help Phi. Fancy taking up a hammer?

Love Dad… XoXo…

TODAY’S FACT

Over 20,000,000 people live in the dusty, sprawling metropolis of Cairo

COOL QUOTES

Howard Carter, who in 1922 was first to peer into Tutankhamen’s tomb, was heard to whisper, “Wonderful things.”

The second driveway is coming together

The second driveway is coming together

Tuesday, July 9th 2013

G’day Phi, how’s trix? I guess you’re at school, and here’s hoping you have A/C in the classrooms! Another day of 35/36 degrees Celsius! I thought I’d write to you on my way back from 4 injections I had today around midday. C & Dad have to have quite a few vaccinations as part of our signing on process with Cairo American College (CAC). I’ve parked my skinny bum in Subway enjoying their club BLT and avoiding the heat of the day before I get back to sweating on the deck. The doctor said, No alcohol, no strenuous exercise and to rest for a couple of hours, but he didn’t mention working on the deck, all the same, I’m making the most of the A/C in here! Three weeks until C & Dad part for Cairo, so today I had the first of my injections: hepatitis B, polio, rabies & TB.

I finished the main part of the deck yesterday, then this morning worked on the garden and the steps down to the grass. Oh Phi, how I wish you could see it, whip your shoes off and run barefoot around the green, green grass! It looks pretty damn good, if you ask me!

Last night around 6.45pm when I screwed the final plank down, C & Dad asked Eric to come over to enjoy a Christening of sorts for the deck. I’ve been meaning to finish the deck for weeks now, but have had so many other things to do, that I haven’t had a chance to work on it. The last two days however, I’ve devoted to the deck and constantly thought of you. I often visualize you with your hammer at Jiyugaoka hammering a nail into Phil & Bonnie’s deck! So Eric joined us, and Elvis and Alice came along for a lemonade (they’re Eric’s siblings). Alice is at Seisen International Girls’ School, and just like you, she’s just finished grade 4… oh, I almost forgot, you’re now in grade 5 as of April! The international schools follow the US, European system where the school year starts in August. Alice is painfully shy, but last night, she showed us her big smile and even spoke a few sentences.

The deck... not far off

The deck… not far off

Sunday I had a bit of a scare… could have done with you patting me gently and reminding me that everything is going to be fine… some day. It was another stinker (hot, hot-HOT!) and I’d drunk about 12 glasses of water and 1.5 litres of pokari sweat and still hadn’t been to the loo (toilet). I went up our very steep stairs (more like a ladder) to fetch some more screws for the deck, and on my way down I either feinted or missed a step; I’m not sure which, but ended up at the bottom all shaky and with beads of sweat all over my body. Luckily C was home and moved me after a few minutes to the floor in the living room where she put ice packs all over my body and elevated and bandaged my aching wrist and thumb. She was magnificent! Phi, I felt so lucky, so privileged, so fortunate to have her as my beautiful, gorgeous partner… and nurse.

Suddenly though, I felt quite nauseous and almost simultaneously couldn’t help but think of you. I couldn’t block you out, and thought how much I miss you, how much I love you, and how much we’re missing out on LIVING the precious years together. I tried to stem the tears but they just kept coming. I tried to suffer silently, because I didn’t want C to think I was whimpering from the pain that had significantly subsided. Your gorgeous face was everywhere, and I just so wished I could see you… why, why, why is your mother doing what she’s doing???

Just need you with a hammer Phi

Just need you with a hammer Phi

At last I picked myself up and tidied up my tools outside… I miss you buddy! Especially as I know you would gladly help your Dad tidy up his toys! C would like that too…

XoXo…

 

TODAY’S FACT

I miss you more than ever…

 

Sunday, July 14th

 

Wow what a day Possum! We’re on our way back from C’s parents’ home in Chiba. What a grand meal of sushi… all my favourites including chutoro, salmon, ebi and guess what Dad has recently discovered, the creamy rich flavour of uni (sea urchin).

Today the moving company came and took 12 cubic metres of our belongings to ship to Cairo. They took more than I expected, which was good, ‘cause it kind of felt somewhat cleansing cleaning out the house. At 8.30am the air conditioning chap came to install 2 air conditioning units. One was a golden oldie I’ve had for about 5 years now, and the second a monster of a unit (20 tatami mat power) for our living / kitchen area downstairs.

Yesterday I finished sanding back the staircase, then I gave it an oil, and a few hours later the deck was oiled too. We then spent the rest of the day sorting our things in preparation for the moving company. We used Nippon Express and they brought 3 workers and were very professional and tidy, taping protective plastic to the walls to prevent any scrapes.

Should we pack you for Cairo too? Love Dad… XoXo…

TODAY’S FACT

  • Cadel Evans’ chances of winning Le Tour de France’s GC (general classification) are remote now after he slipped further back overnight. He was the first Aussie to win Le Tour 2 years ago when C & Dad were in Paris for the summer… viva Cadel!

 

Wednesday, July 17th 2013

 

Morning Bella. Today is quite a bit milder, it shouldn’t be too hot for a play outside today. Last night I dreamed your mother and I had become “naka-yoshi”. It all seemed so real, we were talking, and you seemed so happy. At first you had cried, because you didn’t want to be at Dad’s place, but your mother kind of comforted you, and suddenly you were in the pool giggling and watching mum & dad chat… then I woke to reality…

Here you are with the Sugahara family in Numazu

Here you are with the Sugahara family in Numazu

At the moment I’m on my way out to Kotesashi. I wish it were to see you, but in fact I’ve been in contact with Komaki Sensei from Sayamagaoka High School (your mum’s high school), and the Sugahara family. I used to teach Rie, and over the years I came to know her family well. Mr. Sugahara and I used to practice golf together, and they kindly asked me over for dinner often. Rie even asked me to make a speech at her wedding.

As I opened my laptop carry case, I noticed C had put a sticker from Kimidori Ribbon on the cover. It reads: Joint Custody for Children.

Yesterday I went to the home centre hopefully for the last time. They gave me the 2 ton truck to transport the 3 bags of sand, 16 bags of pebbles (each weighing 25kg), some edging for the deck, some treated pine edging for the garden, and a few odds and ends such as 2m of electrical cable. We had a sliding door put into the main bedroom that had covered an electrical outlet (consent) and a light switch, so I had to cut through the plasterboard and a joist to thread the cable to the right about 80cm. After which I completed the rendering, put up a few architraves and skirting boards, added a bit of matching white paint, and viola, main bedroom is complete (almost… still needs a new sliding window door to the balcony). I also took the old toilet door off, sanded it back and gave it a fresh coat of paint. And this morning before I left, I moved the bags of sand & pebbles, planted about 30 pots of mondo grass (they were only 30 yen each!) and finished off the toilet door.

Here's Dad with the Sugahara ladies & Mrs. Komaki

Here’s Dad with the Sugahara ladies & Mrs. Komaki

So how’s your swimming going these days? Yesterday as I waited for the bus back to Kamata Station from the home centre, there was the wild excitement of a session in the pool from the primary school kids at their school pool. I remembered how the kinder teachers used to tell me you weren’t too keen on jumping in the pool with the other kids, but how you loved going to the Numazu Pool just with Dad. You would even hold tight to my shoulders and we’d porpoise up and down the pool… when I say up & down, Dad wasn’t too fit then and could only manage 2 laps at most!

Wow this new train line running direct to Kotesashi from Yokohama is great… we’re already at Sakujikoen! As I look over my shoulder, I recall I did a 20km road race somewhere between here & Nerima. It was 4 x 5km laps around an enormous park. From memory I just managed to cut 80 minutes, 79 minutes something. 10 days (public holiday) later I ran my fastest 10km ever in 33 minutes, and then the Sunday week after that race I ran the Tokorozawa half marathon in 76 minutes. Does your school have an Ekiden Team? If so, I’d love to coach it!

It’s 3.37pm now Phi, and I’m on my way back to Tokyo. I stopped off in Tokorozawa to wait for the direct train through to Motomachi and half hoped I’d see you on the platform… but it wasn’t to be. It was a lovely lunch with Mrs. Komaki (recently retired and enjoying her new lifestyle), Rie (who I used to teach), her daughter and her mother… so 3 generations of Sugaharas. I was saddened to hear that Mrs. Sugahara’s eldest son committed suicide 4 years ago. It was a great shock, and I could visibly tell that the family has been through hard times. They all put on brave faces, but I could feel their pain. We talked around you, and I showed them photos of you, but I didn’t mention the mess we’re all in.

Anyway Bella, I’m gonna finish my takeaway coffee and do a Sudoku or two… I miss you…

TODAY’S FACT

  • The Sugahara grandparents actually came down to Numazu to visit you and Dad. There’s a great photo of us down by Senbon
  • It was hard coming out to Sayamagaoka to feel your presence, but to not see you… I wanted to wait by your school to say my last “goodbye” before heading for Cairo… but decided with what’s happening with the High Court, it wasn’t the wisest idea…

COOL QOUTES

  • “It takes a village to raise a child” (African proverb)

 

 

Sunday, July 21st 2013

G’day Bella. Guess who came up today for a bbq? Remember Leyla & Aiden, Rie & Scott from Katoh? We had Xmas with them just 4 years ago in their home nestled between the mountains and the ocean. Scott helped me with the lawn, bringing his own lawnmower and lasher to give our turf a bit of a haircut. It needed a trim too! The grass now looks splendid! Perfect for you to whip your sandals off and run around.

Fancy a bbq Phi?

Fancy a bbq Phi?

Around 4.30pm our other guests arrived, Trav & Megumi (from Numz) with their newborn Noah, and Erin all the way from Melbourne. Erin came to visit the two of us in Numz way back when she was a HS exchange student, and now she’s studying out at Tsukuba University. Dad used to teach Erin at Templestowe Park

We're all waiting Phi...

We’re all waiting Phi…

Primary School (Melbourne) when she was just grade 6… amazing huh!? Kei also joined us, so too Milton, and Eric from next door brought his sister, same age as you my dear, and his younger brother, Elvis. It was a great evening around Dad’s new weber bbq with lamb chops, spare ribs and plenty of sausages. You would have loved running around in your bare-feet on our glorious grass in between sausages and charcoaled chicken legs.

Would love to show you around the garden

Would love to show you around the garden

On Friday the lads from school came over for our first bbq, Jamie, David So, Evan & Sandy. C, courtesy of her lost voice (she’s had quite a cold) skipped her English translation class and joined us on the deck for plenty of meat on the new weber! The lads had given us the weber bbq as a wedding gift, so it was only fitting that we launch the hot coals on this evening. Later in the evening we tuned into the AFL, and Dad & Phi’s mighty Blues just beat North Melbourne (the Kangaroos) by a single point… LUCKY!

TODAY’S FACT

  • It’s time we had a hug… XoXo…

 

Saturday, July 27th 2013

Bonjour Ophelia!

C & Dad are on our way back to Nippon. We just spent 4 glorious nights in Noumea, New Caledonia. It’s off-season in Nouvelle Caledonia so we were fortunate to receive a whopping 50% off our hotel/flight booking! We stayed at the Ramada Plaza in Noumea, which was fairly central to pretty much everything. Day one we wandered around the hotel area and found a large patisserie. Dad had a whopping bagette with ham & cheese and a lousy coffee… the first of several. Later we worked out the public bus system and headed into the town centre, did a little shopping for some French cheese, etc. Our first evening we dined at a local tasty Italian restaurant.

Day 2 and we were up at sparrow’s fart (early) to board a ferry to the Island of Pines. It was a 2 hour 45 minute journey, but well worth it, as upon arrival the waters that greeted us were just divine. It was a beautiful sunny day and our luck continued as we met 2 young friendly French lasses who shared taxis with us around the island (nothing is cheap in NC). We spent a grand day snorkeling amongst hundreds of delightful fish, both big and small. We arrived back in Noumea that evening around 7.30pm and proceeded to a French restaurant that one of our new friends had highly recommended. Alas, it was full, but we made a reservation for the 25th. We ended up walking/hiking back to the hotel, a good 80 minute stroll… C is such a trooper, she didn’t complain once!

Day 3 we took a taxi boat out to a small island off Noumea, Duck Island I think it was titled. Again the snorkeling was excellent, though the water was cold and once you were out the wind didn’t help warm us up. C went in twice, but Dad was only brave enough for one swim. That evening we dined at Au Petite Café. It was fantastic. I had the chef’s recommendation, the Aussie lamb, and C had a seafood salad followed by exquisite cheesecake.

Day 4 was rather overcast and a tad chilly, so we took a bus into town to the market. Enjoyed a cake and the very mediocre coffee on offer in NC… similar to France… instant coffee machines devoid of that authentic coffee bitterness. By late afternoon it was time for a run and to fight back against the extra desserts I had been enjoying. My goal was a seafood restaurant in which to make a booking for the evening. Managed to find the restaurant, and made our booking. Upon arrival a little later (after a 25 minute stroll from our hotel), C had the duck (very good) and a sickly sweet, but heavenly dessert that likened itself to a beautifully presented snickers bar! Dad had some fancy French prawns that looked spectacular, but tasted rather average. The bill came to 92 NC francs, just as well, as we only had 95 left… so a taxi home was out of the question, and a walk home in the rain ensued.

This morning as we were leaving the hotel, C found another 100 NC francs somewhere in her purse, so we treated ourselves to a grand breakfast at the airport and C’s mum scored a few souvenirs. And now my dear Phi, we’re on a flight back to Tokyo… see you soon, I hope!

Love always, your Dad forever… XoXo…

TODAY’S FACT

  • Despite being first discovered by Captain James Cook in the late 1700s, New Caledonia was annexed by the French, and remains a French speaking colony to this day

 

Friday, August 2nd 2013

Morning Princess… guess where Dad is now? Sitting down in front of gate B8, at Dubai International Airport awaiting his flight to Cairo & a new life with C. C will follow in 5 weeks after tidying up loose ends on the house, potential renters, tax, utilities, etc. She’s an absolute gem! I feel rather guilty leaving now, as there are so many things still to do, but my orientation with Cairo American College (CAC) starts Sunday.CIMG0161

Yesterday we had a busy but delightful final day. I booked a surprise lunch at 1pm at Le Jue Larisse. It’s the same Michelin star restaurant that C & Dad invited our guests to as a type of wedding reception. It was amazing! The food was exotically presented, and the harmony of the flavours was a taste sensation to behold. We shared a bottle of French Sancerre Chablis (we’ve both always enjoyed wine from the Sancerre region). After a well deserved nap, it was time to add a few finishing touches to the rendering in the main bedroom, then a tidy up of my tools and to lock ‘em away for safe keeping. Saito San (our carpenter/builder) kindly dropped in to say “goodbye” and to let us know he’d be back in the morning to finish off the window frames.

CIMG0163It was an early start which kicked off with the papers / cardboard, and the weekly sorting of cans & bottles… fairly exhausted now, but hope this next chapter in our life is rewarding for both all of us… you, me & C.

Love you kiddo… Dad… XoXo…

WICKED QUOTE

“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.” – Jack Kerouac

 

Friday, August 9th 2013

G’day Phi. Well what a week. CAC has held a warm and inviting orientation week for all the “newbies” (new teachers). But first things first, the apartment. It’s huge! Already it’s filling with Cairo’s infamous dust… I don’t know how we’re going to stay on top of the cleaning! It has three large bedrooms, really large, with cathedral ceilings and enormous cupboard space… plenty of hiding spots for girls and their friends when playing hide ‘n’ seek! There are two toilets, and the school has pretty much furnished it for us, AND the apartment comes with 4 air conditioners. The only things I had to purchase this week, was a washing machine, microwave oven, and a fan… otherwise we’re good to go. We’re on the third floor and have three balconies! I like the balcony that leads off the main bedroom… I can see us sharing a cold white wine and some cheese out there when the temperature drops a little. We can’t see the pyramids, but I’m told from the roof, you can glimpse the great pyramids of Giza.

The new apartment!

The new apartment!

Well Bella, Dad needs a nap… XoXo…

QUESTION FOR THE ANCIENT EGYPTIAN GODS

Should I prepare a bedroom for my daughter, Ophelia, so she can visit us in Cairo?

 

Friday, August 16th 2013

Hello Phi-Fai-Fo-Fum. How’s your summer vacation going? Lots of swimming, matsuris and ice creams? This past week the returning teachers came back to Cairo American College (CAC). I’ll be teaching alongside two Americans in grade 5, Carolyn & Ryan, and perhaps a third teacher, Meg, who is presently back in the US on forced repatriation. FYI, CAC is an American embassy school, so leading up to the events when Morsi was ousted and General El Sisi took command of the country, the majority of embassies sent “non-essential personal” back to their home country. This has meant that our student population has dropped to around half, from 1400 to only 700 students! Wayne, the school superintendent (head) has ensured the faculty that the school will honor all contracts… so I still have a job. In any case, Meg, the fourth member of our team was sent back to the US because her husband worked with the US embassy. If the forced repatriation is reversed, then Meg will join us, and hopefully 15 or so students will also come back into grade 5.

Dad is in Cairo!

Dad is in Cairo!

As a result of all the protests, the school has decided to delay the start of the school year by a week. We were scheduled to begin classes this Sunday, yes, Sunday. Being a predominantly Muslim country, the working week starts on a Sunday, because the Friday is their call to prayer day. So, now we won’t start teaching until Sunday, August 25th. I’m a little disappointed, because I was looking forward to meeting the students, but at the same time, it’ll be nice to have an extra week to prepare.

The protests themselves have come quite close to our apartment. For the most part they look peaceful enough, and I can’t help but think of my university days and the protests I too was involved in. There are women and children involved, chants and song. I protested about Bush’s war in Iraq, Apartheid in South Africa, the Shell oil company providing oil to the South African military, Reconciliation for the indigenous people of Australia… fun times, and such passion!

At the same time, there have been many deaths. I feel quite safe here in Maadi, away from the frontline turmoil, but some of my colleagues have taken a voluntary redundancy package. With so few students, there’s less need for all these teachers. Two teachers in Dad’s building decided to leave after just two weeks, and there are others, that I don’t know them so well.

Anyway Bella, I’m safe, and quite enjoying my time, except for the 7pm curfew… I have a story to tell about that… but maybe another time… you’ll have to ask me in person.

Goodnight, and sleep tight. Love Dad… XoXo…

FAST FACT

Your naughty Dad stayed out past curfew this past week. He was on his way home from Mel & Azarea’s (also new teachers) at about 10pm. In the distance, some 200m away I could see I wasn’t the only one out past curfew, there was a bunch of lads jostling cars as they tried to pass the disused railway line. I walked closer and noticed that they would selectively give the driver and his/her car a hard time. My heart was ponding, and I thought about turning back, but as it was my only way home I ventured forward… I needn’t have worried, they let me pass without a word… chilling!

 

Friday, August 23rd 2013

Wow, look at that, just going over my previous correspondence with you, and it seems Friday is the day I sit down and write to you recently. The kids will start school Sunday, C will arrive early next month, and maybe one day soon Egypt will get its act together. Let’s hope so. This correspondence might be a tad melancholy.

Right now, it’s 8:48pm and we’re in the midst of yet another blackout. It’s the third or fourth we’ve had this week. Usually they last for an hour to 90 minutes. It can get quite stuffy without the A/C on, and without even a fan, damn hot!

Sometimes, but not often I hear gunshots at night, but most of the time I think they’re just fireworks. The other day some hoon launched some sort of rocket on the outskirts of Maadi… that one was around 6am and really rattled the windows. I’ve heard at least one bomb go off, but again it was distant, and it was another police station that was targeted. Foreigners are largely being left alone, except for a few brave reporters that have been assaulted and worse.

I worry what I’m bringing C into… is it right to want to be with her here in Cairo, considering what’s happening downtown? I need her by me, but will she be okay in Cairo? Is it fair to expect her to live here? When I’m at school, I’m so engrossed in what I’m doing, getting my classroom ready, meeting new colleagues, attending meetings, getting my head around the new curriculum; I quickly forget what’s happening outside the walls of CAC. Don’t get me wrong, Maadi feels comparatively safe, so I’m sure we’re under no immediate danger. Sometimes I run down to the Nile. At the entrance to Maadi from the Corniche are two tanks… I took a photo of them the other day, then after I had taken the shot, I thought, mmm, perhaps not such a great idea Ged. How will C feel amidst this mess, home alone, when I’m at school all day???

I better leave it there Phi… I’m making myself miserable. I love you… and miss you, as I miss my C… XoXo…

FAST FACT

Your Dad is a little confused…

 

Saturday, September 1st 2013

How’s life on your side of the world? I had a busy first week with the kids, and I’ve also stayed busy socially too. The students are great… thus far. A bubbly and sometimes noisy group, who need a little extra help with their Math. Your quiet ways would sure be appreciated… fancy switching schools?

In my spare time and on the weekends, I’ve been running with different groups. The first group was the Cairo Hash House Harriers. They took me out to the local wadi (like a valley) for a bit of a run, and then a beer. I also joined a group that call themselves Wompers, and we did exactly the same thing, goat tracks out at the wadi followed by a beer. There’s another group called the Maadi Runners who meet outside the CAC gate at 6:30am Friday mornings. Yesterday I ran 8 miles with them, which rounds out at about 13km. It was a pretty good pace, and I felt pretty good about myself, as I ran with the lead group (younger men of course).

Fancy a run in the desert?

Fancy a run in the desert?

Apart from that, I’ve made some new friends, mostly from among the new teacher group. Beth lives opposite, she’s American, and her husband is settling things on their house in Virginia, so much the same as what C is doing back in Japan. The two of us have spent a bit of time together exploring the local neighborhood, and cooking the occasional meal for each other. There’s also a Sydney family, who have two kids, Emily in G4 and Matt is G3. Mum and Dad are Sarah & Rick. I babysat the kids the other night because Sarah had to go to the hospital with a bout of food poisoning.

Then there’s a couple of fun lasses from Australia. Mel is from Melbourne, and it’s her first international school, and Azarea is from Adelaide, and CAC is about her 8th international adventure. They’re both a bit of fun, and they’re the main reason I missed curfew the other night!

So you needn’t worry about your Dad. He’s surrounded by good people, and he’s excited about his first year teaching in Egypt.

Love you Phi… Dad.

WICKED QUOTE

“All the pathos and irony of leaving one’s youth behind is thus implicit in every joyous moment of travel: one knows that the first joy can never be recovered, and the wise traveler learns not to repeat successes but tries new places all the time.” – Paul Fussell

 

Friday, September 7th 2013

Happy birthday Uncle Richie! Yep, it’s Richo’s 44th birthday today. I think it’s been 15 years since I’ve been able to celebrate a birthday with one or both of my brothers…

So, how’s school going now that you’re well and truly back into the swing of things after the summer break? My guess is, the Math is really becoming tricky. I remember teaching how to calculate speed, distance and time at Katoh to my grade 6 classes, finding the volume and surface area of numerous 3D shapes, MS algebra, and damn complicated word problems. How’s it all going? I don’t suppose you want to talk about school… I guess there’s pressure regarding where you’ll go to middle school… so how about Dad introduces the local Cairo neighborhood?

Well, we live in Maadi, it’s a bit of a green-belt south of downtown Cairo. It’s more or less set beside the Nile, but the railway line, a prison and a huge police complex separate any direct route to the Nile. Considering what lies outside of Cairo, basically desert in every direction, the streets of Maadi are pretty much tree-lined, though the whole area looks pretty tired, dusty and worn.

School is quite the oasis

School is quite the oasis

We live on Road 12, not far from a street of cafes and restaurants (Road 9). It’s an interesting walk along Road 9 in the evening, because the Egyptians (the wealthy ones at least) seem to come alive. On Road 9 is also the local metro stop, Sakanat El Maadi. It’s pretty reliable, and though dusty and without A/C, it’s only one Egyptian pound per trip (the equivalent of about 15 yen).

There are stray cats and dogs everywhere. For the most part the dogs leave you alone, however, I don’t think they are use to joggers (a very uncommon sight in Egypt), so they occasionally give me a scare.

School is a short 10-12 minute walk away. I wish I had sent my bicycle with our shipping company… it would make the commute twice as quick, and the road, despite a few potholes, isn’t un-rideable. Thus far, I’ve been living out of a suitcase… BUT, if reports are correct, our shipment should arrive almost the exact same time as C lands in Cairo.

Gotta run, see ya kiddo! Dad… XoXo…

WICKED QUOTE

“He who does not travel does not know the value of men.” Moorish proverb

 

Sunday, September 29th 2013

G’day Phi, I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to write to you. I don’t have any excuses for not writing sooner. I’ve thought of you every day, and especially during special events at school… my mind can’t help pondering what life with you might have been like.

Now, I’m sitting on our 3 seater grey couch writing to you from Maadi, Cairo. Yep, your Dad & C have made the life-changing move. I arrived here August 2nd, and C followed a 6 weeks later because she was busy tidying up loose ends on the house in Tokyo, dealing with taxes, real estate agents and the rest of our belongings.

So, we’re here in Cairo. Summer is dissipating and curiously even during the hottest spell of summer, it didn’t seem as ghastly hot and humid as Tokyo sometimes feels. In fact during the evenings it was and continues to be quite pleasant.

The School, Cairo American College (CAC) is a huge establishment, with a swimming pool (and diving pool), two soccer pitches and beautiful grass areas, an awesome gym with weights, running machines, etc., and even a 6 lane artificial turf running track! I have 19 kids in my class, the main group being Egyptian, but I also have a Danish kid, South African, British, Swedish, Indian, American & Pakistani student(s). It’s interesting because our school week starts on Sunday and finishes Thursday. Being a predominantly Muslim country, Friday is a holy day and hence a holiday. We even have a mosque not more than 80 metres from our apartment. At first it was a little hard to get use to because the “call for prayer” starts at about 4.30am, but these days I seem to sleep partly through it.

Last week we celebrated International Peace Day, I think it was supposed to be September 21st internationally, but as that was a Saturday, we held our Peace Assembly on the Thursday.  It was an amazing assembly of dance & song, of poems and wise, gentle, inspiring speeches. I couldn’t help but picture you and wish you were with me, with flags from over 80 countries held by HS students serving as the perimeter. The wisdom and hope the students displayed, made me feel proud just to be in the audience. Watching these brave international kids campaign for peace made me wish you were a part of CAC too. The assembly was particularly poignant considering the times we live in here in Cairo.

On July 3rd this year General Al Sisi took power from President Morsi. Depending on which side of politics you lie, there was either jubilation or protest. We arrived in Cairo when there were still tens of thousands of protesters in the capital’s main square, Tahrir Square. But there were also many (maybe more) that were glad to see the back of Morsi. One of the most interesting and memorable articles I read about Morsi, was posted in the UK’s Guardian Newspaper. Paraphrasing, it stated that the majority of Egyptians were upset with the West for condemning Al Sisi and the overthrow of Morsi. They, the Egyptians believed the military acted on behalf of the people, hence a people’s revolution. They were also upset that the West in condemning the coup, had conveniently forgotten the erosion of the people’s rights under Morsi after just 12 months in power. There were many that believed Morsi and The Brotherhood had come to power using democracy, but had dismantled it behind them.

Anyway dear, my C has put dinner on the table… teriyaki chicken, rice, miso soup, Spanish omelet and even fresh bread from our bread maker… how lucky am I? Fancy a bite Phi, there’s plenty for three.

Bon apetit! Love Dad… XoXo… Check out the quote below… I still have your horse pillow handy, just in case you wish to rest your head on Dad’s shoulder…

WICKED QUOTE

“No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.” – Lin Yutang

2013 April – June

Monday, April 1st 2013

Konban wa Phi. What do you know, another Japanese school year begins. This evening I’m contemplating my beautiful Ophelia beginning grade 5 this month. In October you’ll turn 11 years old. Last year I could hardly believe you had left single digits behind, going from 9 to 10. As we age together, and I see you less and less, my memories of you are of a child, not a girl who in two years time will become a teenager. What are your thoughts about grade 5? What goals will you write for yourself? In what academic areas are you motivated to improve? Ensure your goals are attainable, achievable & realistic. If your goals or the goals set by your Mother or Teacher overwhelm you, chunk them into manageable pieces. You can only do your best, and be proud for that…

Last Friday, March 29th we moved the bulk of our stuff from Myorenji to near Tama. Fortunately Jamie, Evan & Craig helped out. I picked up a 2 ton truck at 8am, and 2 trips later I dropped it off at 7pm, thoroughly exhausted, but happy to have the move behind us and Dad’s back still in good shape… I think.

On Saturday we were up early and I took KD (my new nickname for Pa) to the big home centre (Conan) near Kamata. They have several courtesy K-trucks that you can borrow for an hour. I think I’m pretty much a valued customer because each time we purchase the equivalent of a K-truck full of renovating bits & pieces. We thought the home centre opened at 8.30am, but we had to wait until 9.30am for doors to open, so we had a coffee at a convenience store and chatted about our plans. Pa enjoyed his visit, comparing prices to Australia. It’s interesting, because quite a few things, for example plaster board and plywood are cheaper in Japan.

Pa the foreman working in the main bedroom

Pa the foreman working in the main bedroom

Love you to pieces Phi… XoXo…

GRAND VIDEO

Here’s a clip you can watch together with me some day. Or better still sit on your lover’s lap and marvel at its imagery. It follows a simple paper dart:

http://www.wimp.com/romanticshort/

 

Sunday, April 7th 2013

Hey Bella. How’s your first week of grade 5? Do you have a good teacher? How’s your English class? I imagine you can write quite a bit in English now. Do you read any of the books I gave you? What about in Japanese, who are your favorite writers? I guess you’re reading a good many chapter books by now. Shall we start a story this evening? We could continue Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree, or an adventure of Jack & Annie’s in The Magic Treehouse, or perhaps Charlotte’s Web.

Sonya & Yuki

Sonya & Yuki

Yuki & Sonia joined the renovating team today. Yuki’s Japanese, and Sonia is Spanish. We were trying to level the floor upstairs before putting the flooring down in the main bedroom. Fortunately, Ogura San’s mate came up yesterday with an amazing laser level that spins 360 degrees. He made a mark along each of the walls showing the exact level we had to bring the floor to. He started at the highest point. A house of 40 something years of age in Japan is going to move around quite a bit with the earthquakes. We discovered that I have to bring up the floor 19mm in certain places. So yesterday I played with a big jigsaw puzzle. I had tens of boards of differing thickness, varying from 2mm to 12mm in order to set the floor as level as possible. Today Yuki drilled the boards down and Sonia helped Nandee in the garden. Then we sat around a door that KD had turned into a table-top and had some drinks and nibblies

Yesterday I once again took KD to the Conan Home Centre. Another productive trip. I’m so grateful I’ve got Pa for company and advice. He misses you, I know. He’ll never say so himself, but you and he shared something very special, but I guess I don’t need to remind you of that bond… you know in your heart.

I’m missing you too Phi… I missed seeing you yesterday, missed you today, and I’ll miss you tomorrow… XoXo…

TERRIFIC TRIVIA

Did you know E.B. White originally had chapter 3 as his introduction to Charlotte’s Web? Chapter 3 describes the setting of the barn, but was passed over as the introduction in favour of some dialogue surrounding the planned slaughter of the runt (Wilbur) by Fern’s father. I often use this fact when I’m teaching a mini-lesson on exciting/captivating introductions. I read them both and ask the students to decide which is the better lead.

 

Friday, April 12th 2013

Living area taking shape

Living area taking shape

How’s it going Phi-Fai-Fo-Fum? You would have enjoyed today’s excursion. Today Greg and I took our Grade 3 kiddies to Shinkin no Mori Koen. It was fantastic. We’ve been researching habitats, so the natural surroundings lent themselves perfectly for some micro-habitat studies. Shinkin no Mori Park also has the most tremendous slide that Dad went down 3 times and the kids about 10. Hurt my bum a bit, so I’m sure the kiddies will be nursing bruised and battered bums this evening too.

Have you been to Shinkin no Mori Koen? I think you would really like its open spaces and forests. In a way it’s kind of unkept which helps it maintain its rugged, rustic, natural beauty. We asked the kids to rule a square metre and challenged them to find as many beasties and creepy crawlies as they could; without harming or taking a single thing! They sketched their target area and listed the bugs and described the flora too.

The park reminds me of the park we used to go to together to look for Totoro. Do you remember? I think we spied Totoro once or twice too. We took your little mate Masako along a few times too. It’s the perfect park to encourage imaginations to grow, for creativity and free play to flourish.

Let’s go back there some day Phi… just the two of us… I’ll prepare a picnic and bring the photos… Love Dad… XoXo…

WICKED QUOTE

“All travel has its advantages. If the passenger visits better countries, he may learn to improve his own. And if fortune carries him to worse, he may learn to enjoy it.” – Samuel Johnson

Tuesday, April 16th 2013

Evening Ophelia. Tonight Nandee & Pa departed. Once again it was difficult to say goodbye. I’m not sure if it gets any easier, there’s always such silence when they’re gone. A gap that you can’t quite fill, and of course they once again missed seeing you despite travelling almost 10,000km to see their first grandchild.

The good news is that my high school friend Michael Tarulli arrived. He’ll stay with his judo coach in Ibaragi until Thursday, then join us in Tokyo. I’ve been at him for years to come, and he’s always said Japan is on his wish list, and now here he is. I’m sure I’ve told you about Michael before. We ran x-country and athletics together at high school (6 years), although for all but one year he was a year ahead of me in terms of age group. He was a great athlete, and always kind, gentle and smiling. Michael was also Australian champion in his age division in Judo, and that’s another reason he has always wanted to travel to Japan; to once again meet his judo coach.

Some day I’ll introduce you to Michael… and someday I hope you meet Nandee & Pa again… before it’s too late. Love Dad… XoXo…

WICKED QUOTES

“No one is born hating another person because of his skin, or his background, or his religion.  People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” – Nelson Mandela

 

Wednesday, April 17th

Hey Gorgeous, you won’t believe what happened today. We learned that our infamous lawyers are seeking extra money from your Dad based on the success of the case through the Family Court. Success?! How do they define success, because I’m still no closer to seeing you, and during the time they represented us, they didn’t manage to organize a single visitation. I’m totally bummed and penned this letter to them:

While the previous adjudication was revoked, the new clauses regarding counseling, indirect contact, and participation of school events are clearly accepted based on our requests…

Actually Phi, I think I can spare you Dad’s miserable problems. If one day you’d like to read about your Dad’s fight to see you, all these letters are documented. Instead, let’s look to Harry Potter for solace.

“It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be.”

Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire

 

Sunday, April 21st 2013

G’day Possum! How are those trees in Iruma? It’s Spring and time for any adventurous child or adult to climb a tree and take in the view at the top. Everything looks different, more interesting, smells better, feels unique and there’s always something new to discover.

This evening we were invited to D’s apartment for dinner. His partner is Japanese and she had cooked a lovely fusion meal. It was quite a tasty dinner that included couscous and several spicy sauces. Before David’s we took Michael into Yokohama to visit a 100 yen shop so he could shop for his 6 nieces & nephews. Of course most of the day Dad was renovating.

Fixing the downpipes before starting on the driveway

Fixing the downpipes before starting on the driveway

On Friday, Michael came up to school to give a personal speech to my class about his accident, life and the power of positive thinking. He also spoke to the Fifth Grade Class who have gone off the rails a bit this year.

Well Bella, time for bed… fancy a story? Love Dad… XoXo…

MEMORABLE MOMENT

I can still see you & Luca in the front garden at Cate’s house in Northcote. You’re both up the tree giggling and planning like pirates, all rugged up against a wet & windy Winter day in Melbourne.

 

Monday, April 29th 2013

The new vege patch

The new vege patch

Genki Phi Chan? How was your first month of Grade 5? I wish I could chat with you, and sit down beside you and guide you through the Math. Then later, after your bath, we could read a chapter book together to help you relax before another day at the chalk-face. We could read Louis Sachar’s Holes, or The Neverending Story, or Michael Murpurgo’s Kensuke’s Kingdom; actually you might prefer Murpurgo’s Warhorse instead, because it’s all about the most magnificent horse during WW1.

Today was the Saint Maur Food Fair. Another beautiful day with such a grand choice of international food. Michael joined us late in the afternoon. He had a good chat with some of my students, then he went his own way.

Last Friday Michael made hamburgers, not bad either and together with Eric we watched the footy. All the way from Oz. Go BLUES! It was great! We hooked up the live stream to the TV and cheered on the Mighty Blues. Erick quite enjoyed it. He’s still awaiting his student visa to return to Canada, so now his mother is talking about continuing his studies in South Australia. I’m not sure I’ve introduced Eric. He’s the handsome young neighbor from Tanzania. His mother works at the embassy, and his sister, Alice attends Seisen International School. She’s the same age as you, but twice as shy.

The lawn starting to take shape

The lawn starting to take shape

Yesterday C began a week with the French Under 14 soccer team. Last year she was with the NSW (Australia) team and had a lovely time. Evidently they were very cute and well behaved, but she’s worried the French lads won’t be quite as disciplined. Saturday we met Michael at Tokyo Station after his trip to Kyoto, Nara, Nagasaki & Hiroshima, and headed for Funabashi. We met C (the lovely child psychologist who has been helping Dad get his head space right in regards to dealing with your Mother) and her husband (for first time). They were recently married in a small ceremony, so we helped them celebrate their marriage in an izakaya of their choice.

Sleep well Bella… Dad… XoXo…

FUN FACTS

  • We’re off to Egypt in August, so here’s a Fast Fact neither of us knew: Mount Catherine is the highest mountain in Egypt, standing 2,629m high. Higher than the highest mountain in Australia by about 400 metres!

 

Saturday, May 4th 2013

G’day, g’day Phi. Oh, there’s not enough hours in the day… do you think we’ll ever finish renovating this house??? I could sure do with a hand, especially with your hammer skills! We could visit a home centre together and find the perfect hammer, not too heavy and one that balances nicely in your soft hands.

Exif_JPEG_PICTUREThis morning Mick took me up to the fancy bakery by Denenchofu Station for a lovely breakfast. Very nice, and the coffee wasn’t too bad either. Then he went off for a date with Y, one of C’s single friends from HS. Oh Phi, I’m not sure it’s such a great idea. What if it’s a disaster? They’ll both be complaining, or worse still, just one of them complaining, and the other one thinking this is okay. What then? I guess we’ll find out soon enough…

Yesterday was a school holiday for us as part of our Golden Week; more like Golden Weekend! Anyway, it was nice to have another day to crack on with the renovating. Instead of joining Jamie, Evan, Baysar & David on Le Tour de Zushi, I decided to try and get ahead on a bit of renovating. This afternoon, Ogura San will join us, and we’ll buy a few things for the deck. I’m just waiting for him to arrive now… Can’t wait!

Last Wednesday (May 1st) I had a second appointment at a Notary Office in Yokohama. The first time I went, the correct official was absent, so I had to make an appointment. I need to get my employment record at Saint Maur International School verified, and my marriage to C verified for visa purposes in Egypt. Anyway, it all went kind of smoothly, and I kind of enjoyed having our marriage officiated. The notary official was a real gentleman, who took a genuine interest in C & our trip to Cairo. He had a lovely smile…

You still smiling kiddo? I hope so… XoXo…

WICKED QUOTE

“I’ve got nothing to do today but smile.” Paul Simon

 

Friday, May 10th 2013

What’s up Phi? What are you thinking as you’re reading this? Have you contacted me? Please do so, it’ll be quite simply THE BEST EMAIL I’LL EVER RECEIVE. There’s no denying that… I just can’t wait to reconnect with you. I can understand you being hesitant… what will you say, what will I say… so much has happened. We don’t have to say anything, just sit down next to one another and enjoy a coffee, or you might prefer a hot chocolate, or a cold glass of homemade lemonade with a slice of lime in it… Just seeing you will be the most wonderful experience… something I dream of again, and again, and again… and again. I figure by the time you’re reading this paragraph; you’ll be sipping coffee yourself… but I hope not… I hope you’re still a hot chocolate and marshmallow gal. How do you have your coffee? I still enjoy a cappuccino with half a sugar.

Today a group of mothers visited Mighty 3M in the library as part of teacher appreciation day. How wonderful is that? They even gave me chocolates (handmade), 2 bottles of wine, and wine kit (it features a sparkling wine special seal/cork, and a wine pourer! Cool hey?! It’s so great to be a teacher when you’re surrounded by supportive students and parents; they make every day a good day. And next Tuesday they’ll prepare a special lunch for all the teachers. It promises to be great because every year it’s very, very tasty!

Last Monday (May 6th) 2013 Michael Tarulli left. He’s a brave soldier our Michael. Left a paraplegic in his early 20s after a horrific car accident that nearly took his life. He’s battled a good many obstacles, and at the same time given the world so much. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, apparently the date he had with Yoko went very well… it must of, because they spent about 12 hours together. I raced home from school Monday arvo and then we went up to the station to say our farewells. He loved Japan and is thinking about returning for work. He could teach English until he finds his feet. We’ll see, I’m not sure how serious he is about it all. But he’s had a memorable trip, with Japan-esque experiences.

And last Tuesday, C came home from her week with the French under 14 representative soccer team! She spent a whole week touring around, with by all reports, quite a demanding, loud group of lads. She said the boys were particularly charming saying farewell at Narita, but the parents had been quite a handful. Anyway, she’s back now and life in Tokyo is back to normal… just the 2 of us.

I’ve included a quote that my mate Michael espouses. I hope you get to meet him one day… he’s an inspiration. XoXo… Dad.

WICKED QUOTE

“Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.” H. Jackson Brown Jr.

 

Monday, May 12th 2013

Evening Bella Hirakawa-Morice,

Guess what happened to today in our new house? The new kitchen was taken out! “What!?”, I hear you ask. Yeah, it’s true, the left drawers wouldn’t open properly, so we asked them to fix it so that we could open the drawer beneath the sink. According to the architect, after much umming & arring this morning, he finally admitted their mistake. There was no way to adjust the drawers to enable them to open-shut smoothly, so they pulled out the whole kitchen, and started again! Baka ne! I think even Dad would have measured everything before connecting the cupboards to the floor and wall… Pa always says: measure twice, cut once.

That was once a door! Wanna help?

That was once a door! Wanna help?

Anyway, with no kitchen, we had no choice but to go out for dinner. So we jumped on the bicycles and rode up the hill for some ramen & gyoza. Not bad either, and tonight, I’m having a night off renovating and enjoying a glass of calvados with my lovely wife.

Yesterday we started the rendering for the first time. It was kind of therapeutically satisfying, wiping the off-white render onto the wall. As we got better at it, we slapped on bigger amounts of the heavy render. It was really nice working alongside C. It felt right. In the afternoon we cycled to the OK supermarket. It’s a 25 minute cycle, but it’s the closest cheap supermarket, and now we have a huge mortgage in Tokyo, we must save! Everybody around here is quite wealthy and doesn’t mind paying a lot extra for their fruit and veges… but not us! We both like a good bargain!

And Saturday it was raining, which was a bit of a bummer because I planned to reclaim my title as the King of the Mountain on Le Tour de Zushi. So, the cycling lads cancelled and instead I finished up a second layer of puttying plasterboards.

I’ll buy you a good bicycle one day, if you promise to do some touring with me. I was thinking it might be nice to cycle down around Shimoda… what do you think Phi? Love Dad… XoXo…

WICKED QUOTES

“All parents damage their children. It cannot be helped. Youth, like pristine glass, absorbs the prints of its handlers. Some parents smudge, others crack, a few shatter childhoods completely into jagged little pieces, beyond repair.” Mitch Albom

 

Thursday, May 16th 2013

Dear Ophelia, I’m not quite sure what to write this evening, what to think, or how to respond. When I came home, I knew something was wrong straight away. C sat me down, and translated a formal document. It seems your mother is determined to erase me from your life. We’ve been informed that your mother has taken our case to the High Court of Japan, that is, beyond the jurisdiction of the Family Court of Japan. I don’t know what to write Phi… I don’t know what to think, and I don’t even know how to feel. It just doesn’t seem right. It doesn’t feel fair. I don’t understand… already, she has denied me and you our visitation rights, and has watered down our visitation contact to the absolute minimal. She’s achieved everything she set out to do… distance me from you… but evidently, it’s still not enough. I really don’t comprehend the lengths she’s prepared to go to, to extinguish the bond we share. I need time to think through this next hurdle for us, but I also need to keep my mind active with positive things to avoid depression and stress… so, let’s not stress you with the latest chapter in your mother & father’s soap opera… what else is happening in your Dad’s life?

Well, we did have some good news. The reform company finished for the second time today. Actually, they’re not quite completed, they have to finish the ceiling in the bathroom. It’s still got a great big hole in it, so big, you can see all the electrical wiring. Just now in fact, I had a wander to free my mind of your mother’s next court appeal, and unfortunately Dad & C discovered all sorts of incomplete bits of pieces, including re-wallpapering, edging around window frames that’s non-existent, an untidy splash-back set of joints… bummer… that’s a bit depressing too! Most of it needs a pro, otherwise I’d have a go myself.

But tomorrow is a new day, a new start, and fortunately it is also the Elementary School Spring Concert. It’s always a grand event, with a great selection of songs and sketches. It’s well supported by parents, and because it kind of signals the beginning of the end of year, there’s always a sense of excitement about the concert.

Then Saturday, it is your Sports Day. I should be excited, and I had every intention of attending with C, but after tonight’s letter, I’m not sure whether I should attend. There’s a knot in my stomach just gnawing at me… oh Phi, what would you like me to do? Should I run, or should I stay? Should I lay down and roll over, or stand and fight? Should I shout & scream to the world, or should I clam up and remain silent? I just want to cry… but I can’t… tomorrow, I’ll wake early and run, run hard, and every hill, I’ll run for you!

Sleep well, my Princess… I love you, no matter what… XoXo…

WICKED QUOTES

“Please believe that things are good with me, and even when they’re not, they will be soon enough. And I will always believe the same about you.” Stephen Chbosky

 

Saturday, May 18th 2013

G’day Phi. How’s trix today? Dad will be 45 later this month. Can you believe it? Sounds old doesn’t it? Luckily, however I don’t feel too old. I feel it most when I’m running. Actually I should say jogging, instead of running, because I no longer move too quickly. The cadence and endurance just isn’t there anymore. I guess, physically and mentally my jogging standard makes me feel older. Physically it hurts more sooner, and mentally it’s so frustrating when I see the times I’m running.

Anyway, this morning I was up early to finish digging out the concrete in the backyard. Could sure have used your muscles to sift through the soil for all those blocks, pieces of concrete, and brick. There’s just so much of it, but if we’re to have a decent garden and lawn area, it’s fundamental that we sift through the soil for the rocks & concrete. I’ve scattered loads of gypsum over the top and dug that in it too. The gypsum will help break up the clay soil. I’ve probably emptied close to 200kg already.

Last night, C was late with her French class, so I chose to work until 9pm, digging up… Yeah, you guessed it, I was grinding away at the concrete & ceramic red pipes again in the garden… one day, you’ll be proud of me… this garden will look great!

At 8.45am this morning I ran across to Tamagawa Station to take a train to Kamata. From there I grabbed another train and headed to the Home Centre, it’s called Conan. I love it there. I can lose myself in all the tools, wood, plants, etc. I love the smell, the variety, and the people all planning different home & garden projects. Reminds me of the times we shared out at Mishima home centre, and of course the huge home centre at Fujinomiya, Cainz Super Home Centre. I bought 28 loads of grass (each load has 10 pieces of turf measuring about 33cm x 33cm), some indoor wood to frame a new wall, and a bit more render. I had to buy a few odds and ends to finish off the drainage pipe, and for moving the front tap that the demolition squad cracked. Big job that, not sure if I should get an expert plumber in, or give it a crack myself…

Then tonight, I met C in Shibuya and we went to a dark drama featuring S, C’s friend from France. It was quite weird, but strangely wonderful. It was all in Japanese, but as far as I could follow, it was a play that challenged the establishment. After the play we presented S with a gift and then we went to an upmarket izakaya-fusion restaurant. It was very cool, featuring oishi sashimi & a good wine selection.

Tomorrow C has organized a Buddhist priest to drive any evil spirits out of our new house. Should be interesting! You’re invited! See you at 10am…

Love Dad & C… XoXo…

MEMORABLE MOMENT

When we were in Numz, you & I planted the turf together one early Spring. We’ve got a classic photo of the two of us displaying our tradie-cracks (the tops of our bum)! You’ve got your cool Kathmandu vest on and a lovely pair of corduroys.

 

Sunday, May 19th 2013

G’day Mate. We missed you this morning. It was a lovely celebration/ceremony, and it would have just been grand having you next to me. The Buddhist priest who blessed our home scattered confetti in each and every room! The idea is we’ll scoop it up and send it flying/swimming at the Tama River; I hope it’s biodegradable. He was quite nice, and sang the usual deep-humming songs; he even took a couple of photos of C & Dad… I’ll be able to show you some day soon…

Exif_JPEG_PICTUREAnyway buddy, time to get out of my clean clothes and jump into my dirty work clothes… time for some rendering and to finish off building a wall where there was once a door upstairs; probably put up a few pieces of plaster board up too. Fancy helping? Love Dad… XoXo…

FAST FACT

Fish! On average, each person in Japan eats about 68 kg of fish a year.

 

Thursday, May 23rd

Hey Phi… do you think we’ll see each other again before I leave for Cairo? It’s just over 2 months away now, and I’ll be off… sometimes I just want to take a day off school and go to Akitsu Station to see you… is that the right thing to do, when your mother won’t let us see each other? Today Masako from Left Behind Parents Japan again lobbied parliament from 4pm – 6pm. C was going to join her to bring attention to our cause, but she wasn’t feeling too well. Article 21 from The Hague Convention on Child Rights states that parents with visitation rights such as myself, will be allowed to see their children… we’ll see… I feel a bit depressed thinking about what’s happening, and what your mother is trying to conjure in the High Court… so how about some cheering up? Here’s a couple of whacky video clips featuring your Dad… Oldies but goodies! Check ‘em out:

Saint Maur teachers dancing behind students:

Recognise your Dad?

 

Atarimae Taiso:

Hope you enjoyed a laugh Phi… see you soon! Love Dad… XoXo…

FAST FACT

Comic books have been popular in Japan since the 1700s. Comics now account for about 40% of all published material in Japan.

 

Saturday, May 25th 2013

G’day Bella. I’ve been thinking a good deal about you recently, wondering how you’re doing socially… do you have an honest and open, trustworthy friend to confide in. I wonder how your home life is, and hope you fall asleep each night with ease. You see, I’ve been piecing together a letter to the High Court with C’s help. Here’s the letter of rebuttal I’m working on:

To whom it may concern,

My name is Gerard Morice, the loving father of Ophelia Hirakawa-Morice.

When Ophelia was just 17 months of age, her mother left our family home. The truth of her departure will torment Ms. I…a and her family forever, and admittedly it took me a long time to forgive Ms. I…a.

For more than the next 4 years, Ophelia lived with me, attending first Ooka Kindergarten, and later Katoh Kindergarten. During this time Ophelia’s paternal grandparents came to Numazu for extended visits and formed a very close bond with their very special first grandchild. Also during this period, as the primary carer of Ophelia, I ensured Ms. I…a and her family had access to our daughter. For me, it was plain common sense to allow Ms. I…a to see her daughter, as I believe it is in the best interests of a child to have equal access to both parents. This approach though difficult at times, involves a good deal of communication between separated parents, and puts the best interests of the child first.

In the summer of 2008, Ophelia was abducted from me by her own mother. For the better part of the past 5 years, Ms. I…a has used Japan’s archaic sole custody system to prevent me and my family from seeing our Ophelia. The Family Court of Japan acknowledged that I was (and still am) a good father, however “possession” of the child in Japan overrides the criminal act of abduction.

Just recently, Japan has finally signed the Hague Convention on Child Rights. In the same week as Japan signed the Hague Convention, I received word that Ms. I…a is appealing the Family Court’s decision. Having signed, the Family Court of Japan is now supposed to protect my daughter’s rights to see her father, her cousins, her aunts & uncles, and her loving grandparents. Theoretically, as a signature to the Hague Convention, the Japanese Family Court will now look after the interests of the child, and not the wishes of individual parents.

Over the last five years since Ophelia was abducted from me, I have diligently documented every conversation, every piece of correspondence and every effort I have made to maintain contact and a relationship with my own child. Each attempt has been thwarted by Ms. I…a and the passive inaction of the Japanese court system.

I believe that the highest court is conscience, but without doubt, the person whose heart is scarred more than any other, is Ophelia. Children are innocent of their parents’ crimes. My daughter has been tormented and monstered by her parents’ demands enough. One day my daughter will know the truth. For this reason and in view of Ms. I…a’s ongoing animosity toward me and my family and her desire to create dramatic scenes in front of our daughter at public events, I am going to temporarily withdraw from my daughter’s life. My reasoning is not to abandon my daughter, but to allow her some peace.

I love my daughter, as do her paternal grandparents, as do her cousins, her aunts & uncles, and the many friends she made at Ooka Kindergarten & Katoh Kindergarten, and in so doing, we, and the 76 people who wrote letters to the Family Court in support of Ophelia and her father are prepared to wait. Ms. I…a is trapped by her lies and accusations that have twisted over time, and one day soon her conscience will become overpowering… and then, Ophelia will seek the truth.

In contravention to all of the Family Court’s requests to Ophelia’s mother over the past 4 years, Ms. I…a still denies Ophelia access to her father. As such, without any access to my daughter, I write to her two, three or more times each week. I can no longer read stories to my daughter every night before she sleeps, sing songs with her, go camping, teach her swimming, or cook together. For me, my letters to my daughter have become a type of therapy. My mind conjures images of the happiness we once shared, and I write about our experiences, to remind me, and for my daughter as a keepsake. If you take some time to read the few letters I have posted on the blog, you will notice the nuance is one of positivity, hope and love. Ms. I…a is barely mentioned, for I would never wish to undermine her as a parent. In any case, I am prepared to remove the blog for time being, for in the words of our daughter:

Here I’ll copy the letter Ophelia wrote when she was living with me; basically it was full of hope (that her parents would be good to each other)…

What Ms. I…a doesn’t realize is that what appears on the blog is but a fraction of the letters I have written to my daughter. One day, when I am ready, and Ophelia is ready, I will give the 100s of letters to her. When she reads them, she will discover that her father never, ever gave up on her. This evening I will pour my heart out to my daughter again. I can write with a clear conscience because I am a happy man, with a loving wife, and caring family & friends, and I live with the hope that I will one day be reunited with my daughter.

Yours faithfully,

Gerard Morice.

Well that’s the wrap Phi… take care and see you one day soon… Love Dad… XoXo…

WICKED QUOTE

“Passion is contagious.” Stephanie Harvey

Wednesday, May 29th 2013

How’s my daughter doing this Wednesday? You’re not making a birthday card for your Dad are you? I use to always make homemade cards for my parents’ b’days, and C still often receives a homemade version… shows you care I think…

Last Saturday, 25th May, I worked on the deck with Ogura San. He’s such a nice chap, so giving and generous, and knowledgeable. He even returned on Sunday to give me a hand, but that was only after I met him at Viva Home Centre. He had the big 2 ton truck, so I bought 12 half sleepers from Oz (yes, Australian railway sleepers), some plants, extra skirting board, a good deal of red cedar decking, and plenty of sandpaper and other bits and pieces… Oh, how I love a good home centre!

Laying the sleepers with Big Tim

Laying the sleepers with Big Tim

And today, well, we were supposed to escort the kidlets to Heiwa no Mori Koen as their end of year excursion, but with rain predicted we changed plans and took them to Disneyland. My grade 3 students were actually a bit disappointed, because I had told them all about the adventure ropes course… much better than Disneyland, and the students get to collaborate to achieve success. You would love it Phi. There are about 40 different rope courses you can challenge, some of them over water, and several of them rather tricky! Shall we give it a go one day? Make sure you bring a change of clothes… it can get quite muddy.

Love Dad.

I BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW…

Japan was to host the 1940 Summer Olympics, but many countries decided to boycott the Games because of Japan’s aggressive military action throughout Asia. So the Games were cancelled, and it wasn’t until 1964 that Japan hosted the Summer Olympic games. Japan also hosted the 1972 and 1998 Winter Olympic Games.

AND…

Here’s an article I found in a Japanese newspaper:

Japan ratifies the Hague Convention, Wednesday, May 22nd 2013

Japan is the only member of the Group of Eight major industrialised nations that has not ratified the 1980 Hague Convention, which requires nations to return snatched children to the countries where they usually reside.

Hundreds of parents, mostly men, from North America, Europe and elsewhere have been left without any recourse after their estranged partners took their half-Japanese children back to the country.

Unlike Western nations, Japan does not recognise joint custody and courts almost always order that children of divorcees live with their mothers. US lawmakers have long demanded action from Japan on the issue, one of the few open disputes between the close allies. In February, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe promised action after White House talks with US President Barack Obama.

The upper house of parliament on Wednesday voted unanimously for Japan to join the treaty, following a similar move by the more powerful lower house last month. But Japan must still clear various governmental and legislative hurdles before the Hague Convention can take full effect. The government has said it aims for final ratification by the end of this fiscal year – March 2014.

A central authority will be set up in the foreign ministry to take charge of locating children who have been removed by one parent following the collapse of an international marriage, and to encourage parents to settle disputes voluntarily.

The newly enacted law will, however, allow a parent to refuse to return a child if abuse or domestic violence is feared, a provision campaigners say is vital, but which some say risks being exploited. If consultations fail, family courts in Tokyo and Osaka will issue rulings.

 

Monday, June 3rd 2013

Thanx for the birthday wishes Phi… 45 years old last Friday. I don’t feel too bad, and I hope it’s got something to do with all the riding and running. On Friday night, Dad came 2nd for the 3rd time in 4 years at our Saint Maur annual quiz night. We raised 250,000 yen for Neville King who is suffering from a brain tumor. Neville is a custodian, who is a bonza chap, and good for a chat. He’s gone downhill quickly however, so let’s hope our little fundraiser brings him some cheer.

Saturday, C took Dad out for Italian in Shibuya. Pasta was cow cheek, roasted lamb shanks and a fresh warm asparagus salad with generous shavings of parmesan cheese… scrumptious! A perfect bottle of Italian merlot / cabernet sauvignon and the charming Italian owner, brought us a large glass of lemonchello each to top off our meal.

Sunday Big Tim Smith came over, and together we created a second driveway with railway sleepers. Before Tim arrived I had to move the piping that would fall under the second driveway. So I woke at 6.30am to turn the water off, but strangely, the water kept flowing from several areas. Left it an hour hoping it was just the pipes draining, but even after an hour and with the mains well and truly off, the water still flowed. Took a gamble and cut the water pipe… heart pumping as the water just kept coming, but with C’s help, we connected some extended piping and a new tap beside the now driveway. Oh, Phi, I was a little panicky when the water just kept flowing… hope it’s going to be okay!

And today, well Ogura San & Saito San finished up the wallpapering and flooring in the entrance and stairwell; actually they contracted the wallpapering out to some nice young chap whose name I can’t recall. The tatami room downstairs, which will probably become your room one day, still has the new window to be installed and the wallpapering to go.

Say a prayer to Totoro for me Phi about those pipes! Love Dad… XoXo…

HORRIBLE FACT

  • Due to gases produced by power plants, Japan sometimes suffers from acid rain.

 

Tuesday, June 4th 2013

G’day mate! I’m still at school just finishing up a few things. The Student Council organized a great day today. We designated it Teachers ‘R’ Us Day, with the students & teachers switching roles for a day. After much planning and cajoling teachers to go along with our plans, it was a tremendous success. Here’s a letter I just finished penning to parents:

A big thank you to you all for making Teachers ‘R’ Us day such a great success. Thank you for being generous with your time and giving our student-teachers time to plan & prepare over the past week.

Personally, I had a grand learning experience in G3, and escaped a spanking from Ms. Thomas (in fairness I didn’t throw an eraser at Mr. Yuta like my friend Greg did). My day started with being told I shouldn’t be in the classroom before 8am, so I was sent to the library. Several teachers gave me a hard time about my shirt sticking out, but at least I wasn’t caught picking my nose like Greg.

When I was allowed to enter the classroom Ms. Zack & Ms. Seki got us straight to work with some reading comprehension and a story. Thereafter I learned some Spanish: “Hola coma stas” and was even awarded a certificate for my effort. I was then taught long division, area & perimeter, and the tricky concept of adding fractions. Mr. Kellam & Mr. Ikesue presented us with a battle between a komodo dragon and a king cobra. Great discussion followed, and eventually the cobra was the victor. In Art I created a shield, and in another session Ms. Noumi wiped my tears of frustration away and very kindly showed me how to create an origami crane.

Mighty 3M, thank you for a memorable day.

Mr. Morice.    

  • DID YOU KNOW…
  • Almost three quarters of Japan’s land is either forest or mountains and is difficult to be made into farms, industrial or residential areas.

Wednesday, June 5th 2013

Hey Partner. What you up to? I was waiting for our dinner guests to arrive, and thought better of continuing to tackle the mosquitoes outside digging up that soon to be garden… So here I am writing to you. It only takes a moment to let you know that I’m doing okay. I was working in the garden, pulling a few weeds, shifting a few stones, planting a few seedlings and watering the garden… but without mosquito repellant, the mosquitoes were getting the better of me.

Tonight Sonia & Yuki will apparently join us for dinner. Being Spanish, Sonia is ritually late, but we had anticipating them coming early because Yuki seemed keen on doing a little extra renovating with us. Yuki is pretty handy with power tools and evidently has an electrical license. C has made an awesome dinner, and the lovely aromas are making Dad very, very hungry. Might pinch a few chips… here they are… gotta pour the wine. See you soon Phi. Love Dad… XoXo…

WICKED QUOTE

  • “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” Anne Frank

Saturday, June 8th 2013

Konban wa Ophi Sama! Genki de gozaimasuka? Guess whose birthday it is today, it’s Pa’s b’day! Happy birthday Kerry Daniel Morice! I wonder what Nandee did for Pa today… My guess is they went out for a yummy Italian dinner tonight. I called this morning, but they weren’t too sure what was going to be on their dinner plates this evening.

You know Phi, recently I started to call Pa “KD”. It’s because his middle name is Daniel, just like Dad’s; yep, my full name is actually Gerard Daniel Morice, and Pa’s full name is Kerry Daniel Morice. It’s kind of nice to call my Dad KD. I feel a real bond between us. It’s like we don’t even have to chat, the bond is always there, there’s no uncomfortable silences, and I always know I can depend on my Dad. He’s just the best there is… I hope you feel like that some day about your Dad…

This afternoon C & I went to Shimbashi to watch a second screening of From the Shadows, the documentary that focuses on left behind parents in Japan. It was only a small theatre and a fairly small audience this time around, but it was nice to see some familiar faces and to feel the solidarity behind our purpose.

It was pretty damn near impossible not to think of you today, and to wonder “what if…?” On our way back to the Shimbashi Station after the screening, we passed by a toy store, and again a simple image such as a toy store had me wondering what I could buy for your 11th birthday this coming October… what would you like Phi… I wish I could hear your response, your wish, your hope and to hold that beautiful smile in my mind forever.

I love you… Dad… XoXo…

FAST FACT

  • Japan sits along the “Pacific Ring of Fire”, so has many volcanoes and experiences many earthquakes, but of course you knew that…

Tuesday, June 11th 2013

G’day Tiger! How’s your running going? Still running like Spirit, that amazing horse we both so admired from that animation movie? What a ripper movie! I think I watched it at least 20 times alongside you, and I never tired of watching you run amok when Spirit scares the mountain lion away, or when you snuggled into me when the nasty army officer was hunting Spirit.

Today was the final day of regular school for the year, although next week I start Summer School for 3 weeks. After those 3 weeks, I’ll have 4 full-on weeks of crazy renovating to our dumpy house before C & Dad make the big move to Cairo. I wish you were coming with us; by all reports it is an amazing campus and has a very good reputation. Tonight was also the Sports Presentation night at the YCAC, so I’m taking the opportunity of writing to you as I head back on the train to Tokyo. It was a good night, presenting trophies to the MVP, Most Improved and the Coaches’ Award for x-country. I loved coaching… I’m going to miss my fellow coaches, Maggie Li & Yannick Crespy… and the kids… they were brilliant! It was especially grand because we were once again Division Two Champions in the Far East X-Country Championships against schools in Japan, Korea and Guam. Cool hey!

I BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW…

  • Japan is made up of 6,852 islands!

Friday, June 14th

Howdy Cowdy! How’s trix? It’s the weekend! What shall we do together? Fancy pruning a tree with your Dad? Or you could pick the cherry tomatoes from our vegetable patch… we have 100s of them.

Now, now now, brown cow, what has your Dad been up to… Well Wednesday my teacher friends and I had drinx at the 300 yen bar down opposite Yamashita Park. There’s a great bar at the bottom of Marine Tower. Not too many people know about it because it is tucked around the back. Between 5pm and 7pm most of the drinks are only 300 yen! You’ll have to take your girlfriends there, or better still treat your boyfriend (just don’t tell him the drinks are 300 yen), then make him take you out for an expensive dinner! Anyway, after a few celebratory drinks, we all headed to an Indian restaurant called Sitar. It’s actually owned by the parents of Jay who was in our champion x-country team.

Yesterday (Thursday) I actually took a day off school to get a full medical for Egypt. At 8.30am I was ready and waiting at the hospital in Tokyo, but by 11.30am they still weren’t finished pushing, prodding and testing me. I had to leave, because I had an appointment at the Egyptian Embassy regarding visas, work permits and some education documents. By 12.40pm I was racing back to the hospital. Fortunately the doctors weren’t much longer and I finished up pretty quickly.

After a quick lunch (I had been mighty hungry all morning as I hadn’t eaten anything before the health test!), it was time to tick another thing off my list of things to do. I went to the local police station and renewed my gold license. Yes, GOLD that is Phi! Not too bad huh?

After finishing a video and a few questions with the officers I hit UNIQLO for some bargain hunting shopping for Cairo. I bought some premium cotton sox (I figure it’s going to be ghastly hot in Egypt most of the time, and the last thing I want is to have smelly, sweaty feet… especially if my long lost daughter should ever ride out of a horizon on camel back to greet her Dad!), 2 pairs of snazzy 70s shorts, and 3 polo shirts for summer school & Egypt.

And today, well it was my last official day with all the staff and faculty. And being our final Friday, it was time for speeches. Usually it’s me giving a speech or two and saying farewell to Craig, David et al, but today Greg, my teaching partner took a turn. He started by saying that he remembered your Dad saying something profound. Mmm, I wondered, where was he going with this; no doubt a joke at Dad’s expense, But no, he seemed to remember something Dad had said: “… teaching brings me an inner smile,” I evidently said at one of our faculty meetings. Shortly afterward, he passed onto, no other, than David Barrett, in Switzerland, no less, who gave a beautiful speech on behalf of your Dad. It was very touching, and no doubt took a good deal of time and effort to put together… ah, Phi, your Dad is lucky to have friends such as he has. I just wish you could be a part of my life with them… maybe one day soon, hey honey…

For lunch we went to the Rose Hotel in China Town, and a few drinx at Yamashita Park thereafter… but not too many ‘cause I had to come home and begin renovating, renovating, renovating! Right now, I’m taking a break because my wrist is a tad sore, and besides, it’s a good time to communicate with you.

I love you! XoXo…

TODAY’S FACT

  • As of July 2012, there are over 127 million people living in Japan (127,368,088), which is the tenth largest population in the world… WOW! I wonder how many less people there will be when you’re actually reading this…

Sunday, June 16th

G’day Gorgeous! How’s trix in your neighborhood?

In the morning I sure could have done with your help in cutting up the rest of the branches from the tree we lopped yesterday. I was up around 6am to finish bagging the tree branches (just next to the driveway) C & Dad lopped on Saturday. We had bagged most of it ready for moeru gomi Tuesday, but there was still about another 8 huge bags to cut up into finer pieces and throw into bags. Good job too, because it looked like it was going to rain.

Yesterday (Saturday), C & Dad started to trim the tree in our front yard. It was quite funny because our neighbor K San came out to see what all the fuss was about and saw C halfway up the tree. She had a good laugh and then she decided to join us. At first we were just trimming here & there, but after 2 hours, the tree had had quite a haircut!

At 5pm I jumped on a train for Yokohama to meet the gals from school (& David) for Sonia & Yuki’s farewell. Maggie was there, Gaby & Marion too. Yuki & Sonia are headed to Vietnam for the next chapter in Sonia’s teaching. We all went bowling and then C joined us for dinner on the 28th floor of the Sky Building (Phi, it’s so cool up there! You have to go! It’s the east exit of Yokohama station) for a course meal of… tofu! And guess what? It wasn’t too bad.

Late this morning Dad did the grocery shopping with C, not the OK supermarket this time but Supa Value. Funny though, I think it’s what you call an oxymoron, because it is not really super value, more like mediocre value. Anyway we bought all the necessities and even some strawberry ice cream for you… just in case you drop in and see your Dad this week!

After some yummy somen for lunch we did 2 hours of rendering to the main bedroom before Big Tim arrived. The main bedroom is really starting to take shape. The rendering is actually quite therapeutic and surprisingly heavy to lay on… if you’re not careful a good deal can end up on the floor. When Tim arrived we tinkered with the bicycles. I’ve been wanting to fix C’s brakes, but couldn’t figure out exactly how to do it. Tim is quite a wiz, and it didn’t take him long to figure it out. Then we sat down for a delightful last meal for Tim. He’s a sushi and sashimi fan, and he’d been shopping in Yokohama to buy some choice cuts of fish: chutoru, salmon & uni. Do you like uni (sea urchin)? It’s funny, because over the years I didn’t think I liked uni, but WOW, the quality of the uni that Tim bought was OH, so rich & creamy… mmm. I positively loved it. Shame you weren’t there to sample some too.

After dinner we presented Tim with a going away present, and he gave us a sharpening stone. He’s right into knives, just like Pa. So after some fresh fruit for dessert, Tim showed me how to sharpen knives properly. It’s quite time consuming, but a fine art to learn… I hope I remember the basics! He gave us a dual sharpening stone 800/6000… should come in handy!

I love you buddy… and can’t wait for that eventual hug… the hug of a lifetime! Dad… XoXo…

FAST FACT

One time when you were back at your mother’s I took Riku for a swim down around past Sea Paradise. I was snorkeling and suddenly I heard Riku yelping. The duffer (baka) had been playing in a rock pool and stood on a sea urchin (uni)… ouch!

Monday, June 17th

How’s Phi-Fai-Fo-Fum doing? My guess is you’re into swimming sessions about now. How are you doing with your swimming? What are you learning? Do have a new swimsuit this year? You’re getting so tall, you’ll be stretching last year’s bathers, that’s for sure.

Saint Maur has finished up for the year. Can you believe it? I’ve been here 5 years… in some ways the time has flown, and in another ways it seems like a long time since you were enrolled here to start school.

Summer School started today. It’s pretty easy from a teacher’s point of view because there are no assessments or anecdotal notes to take about the kids’ learning. That, and class sizes are pretty small. I have only about 15 kids in each of the four 80 minute classes I teach. Your Dad is teaching Grade 5 Language Arts, Maths & Science in the morning, then in the afternoon he’s teaching G2 – 5 IT, then I finish up with Middle School IT. MS IT is presenting a few challenges, but I’m pretty lucky as Jamie leads and I’m more of a supporting role. The students are creating their own music video using i-movie. It’s a wild ride so far with most kids being more competent on the Mac Airs than your Dad!

And tonight, C & Dad booked a little birthday present for C. It’s her birthday June XX and we’re off to the French-speaking island in the Pacific, New Caledonia. We have 4 nights booked and a day trip out to The Island of Pines. It’s supposed to be sublime. The only setback is it’s pretty much winter, so average daytime temperatures hover around 20 degrees Celsius. I don’t think that’ll stop C snorkeling, she just loves the little fishies. When we were in Saipan in February 2010 she use to stuff bits of bread down her bikini top and feed the fish! So, this time next month, we’ll be packing our suitcases for New Caledonia!!! Yippee! Fancy a quick getaway in New Caledonia Phi? You’re welcome to join us… Love Dad.

HANDY HINT

Never forget your mother on Mother’s Day. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, be it Melbourne, Paris or with Totoro, give her a call, and a hug if you can.

 

Sunday, June 23rd 2013

G’day Phi. Do you like oysters? You know, I’m not really sure that you do. We must have had them on our dinner plates several times, because Dad loves his kaki fry, and they were readily available in Numz… I don’t think you like oysters actually… right? I LOVE them, C too, so today C took us back into Shimbashi for a special treat. Big Tim Smith joined us and we dined on all you can eat oysters for only 3000 yen! Unbelievable hey?! Two years ago the three of us had feasted at Bay Quarter in Yokohama at a different all you can eat restaurant. On that occasion, C ate at least 2 dozen, Dad perhaps 3 dozen, and Tim most likely slid 48+ oysters down his throat. Today they didn’t have raw oysters, perhaps because of the humidity of June, so we tossed back and forth between fried oysters and those we bbq-ed right in front of us. Today’s restaurant had a special offer that for only 600 yen per person, you could BYO alcohol. So we had a bottle of sparkling and a bottle of chardonnay with our scrummy oysters.

This evening I don’t feel too bad, so I don’t think I overindulged on the iron in oysters. What do you love to gorge yourself on? You use to just love scooping a finger-full of creamy (not crunchy) peanut butter straight from the jar. Skippy peanut butter it had to be, not the sweet Japanese variety. I must admit, spread over fresh bread straight out of our bread maker, peanut butter is pretty hard to beat.

Let us know when you want that peanut butter sandwich… it’ll be ready, whenever you’re ready… Love Dad.

WICKED QOUTES

“Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand.” Chinese Proverb

2013 January – March

Ready for a laugh? JP Mama-chari day:

Happy NEW YEAR Miss Ophelia Hirakawa-Morice! 2013… let us hope… let us stay positive, and let us dream. XoXo…

Thursday, January 3rd 2013

So, Phi, Dad returns from Australia, hoping that the Japanese Family Court will come to its senses in 2013. Two weeks to refresh and to recall the wonderful times we shared together in Australia. Perhaps I should have escaped the trap your mother set in motion when she took you from my arms on that August night in 2008. I could have avoided the heartache of fighting a battle in the courts that had already been decided, from the moment your mother decided she wanted sole custody. I could have spared C all this mess, and all the nights she works through to prepare documents for court.

Each time I spy an Ophelia-like child, or even a gesture, a book, or a single word that reminds me of you, I still take a deep breath, and a wave of emptiness washes over me. It still blind-sides me, and brings a sudden unbearable longing to hold you in my arms and comfort you.

So, let’s continue my story, so that one day, you’ll know your Dad never gave up on you…

Your Aussie family

Your Aussie family

G’day Missy Higgins! Happy NY! How are you on this cold clear day in Tokyo? I’m flying high, on my way back to Japan from Australia. The pilot said it’s only 6 degrees Celsius in Tokyo. I wonder if you’re happy planning ways to spend all the otoshidama you received for the Japanese NY. C and Dad left Melbourne at 12.50am this morning, a little disappointed ‘cause silly Dad left all the cheese we purchased in Sean’s fridge… BAKA ne! We had a lovely last night all the same, surrounded by your Australian family, all your cousins, aunts & uncles. We met at Sean’s around 5.30pm and quickly headed across to the enormous park directly opposite for a game of basketball… Dads versus cousins; the cousins could have done with your teamwork & leadership, not to mention height. In the end though, I think the cousins won 3 – 2.

Cousins Chris & Luca

Cousins Chris & Luca

For dinner we went to a lovely authentic pizza restaurant, just a short walk from Sean’s. It would have been complete, had you been there running through the park with your Aussie cousins. Your cousins, Luca & Billie, Allie & Chriso ate a few pieces of pizza, then quickly set to work on their art. Later they decided to sell their pictures, 4 small pieces for 40 cents, or 1 large artwork for 40 cents.

We said our farewells to my brothers and their lovely families, and then Deirdre & Kerry took us out to the airport.

Uncle Rich &Aunty Rach

Uncle Rich & Aunty Rach

On Tuesday January 1st, I welcomed the New Year with a 30 minute run, 40 chin-ups & 100 push-ups. Gotta stay strong, and can’t let this beat me. Gotta stay positive, and do what is right… so while the rest of Australia slept off a hang-over, I took the opportunity to exercise and think of you. Just before lunch we went to Doncaster again to see if C’s handbag was on sale… NY sales! But no such luck…

Then later, we dropped into Robert Munro’s to say “thank you” for the two reports he’d written on our case for the Family Court of Japan. Robert is the Australian child psychologist who also worked as a mediator for the Australian Family Court. When he heard about our case through his daughter (my high school friend), Jenny Munro, he kindly penned his first of two reports. He’s an amazing man, and I so hope some day you get a chance to meet him.

Tad exhausted after the early start to NY’s day, so we took a quick nap, then we went up to Belgrave to watch Les Miserables, and much later, a late bbq with Nandee & Pa.

Monday C and Dad visited Mick at Saint Kilda (he promised he’d visit us in Japan later this year), then a spot of shopping on Brunswick Road, and onwards to Cate’s and a tour of Billy’s magical kingdom. You would have loved the imaginary play area Billie has carved into a part of the backyard. Your cousin, Billie was like a delightful pixie telling us what everything was. I am not sure I’ve yet told you that Sean & Cate broke up… it was about 3 years ago. Cate’s still very much part of our life, and there’s no doubt she’ll always be your aunt. She’s always very generous and warm, welcoming C & Dad into her home. She even gave us smashing Chrissy gifts, Bran Nu Life, it’s an Aussie movie, and it came with the soundtrack that your cousin Billy loves to sing along to. And can she sing! Billie, or as I call her Bill-Star can really hold a tune and has an amazingly strong voice for a child of her age. Together we looked at photos of their trip to Western Australia, 6 weeks in a small campervan… imagine that Bella Phi, C you & me driving off into the sunset each evening across Australia. Before we took our leave, there was still time for a game of snap and 2 puzzles with Billie, then some shopping in the nearby Northcote shops and some fish n chips too.

Arrived back at Nandee and Pa’s and there was an invitation to join Diana & Ralph for a glass of wine. Did you know that Ralph & Dad have known each other since we were 12 months old… that’s 44 years! Ralph and I were enjoying a good chat and of course sampling some of his wine collection, when the music from the living room threatened to wake Japan! Diana, C & the kids were going gangbusters! Oh, Phi, you would have loved the dancing, and Ralph has this amazing laser system, so it feels like a disco. So we finished the evening dancing at Ralph’s.

Wish you could have joined us… You know you could have, if only your mother had kept her word. When she took custody, she signed off on a visitation contract from The Family Court that included trips to Australia to see your family… only she denied you that right too.

Love Dad… XoXo

CRAZY QUESTIONS

How did your Dad ever get mixed up with Dem Crazy Baldheads from Saint Maur:

 

Or this one… There really couldn’t be a finer example of Algorithm Taiso than this…. http://vimeo.com/38611105

 

Sunday, January 6th 2013

G’day Phi. A bit cold jogging this morning, what did you think Skinny Morice? Below, I’m going to attach a few links you might like to browse:

 

Geoffrey Morehouse posted this in Bring Back Our Children:

http://www.bachome.org/wordpress/2013/01/parents-speak-out-in-japan/

 

Anatomy of Kidnapping from ABC Australia:

http://www.abc.net.au/pm/content/2012/s3656198.htm

 

And this one from Kizuna Child-Parent Reunion (CPR), which was set up by friends of ours (John Gomez). You might even spot a photo of Dad, and perhaps another pic of C holding up a photo of you and me:

http://kizuna-cpr.org/chronology

It’s a lot to take in, so I might just leave you with your thoughts… XoX…

AMAZING TRUTHS

  • January 4th and the world’s most expensive tuna was sold for 1.7 million Australia dollars at Tsukiji Fish Market!
  • It was 41 degrees Celsius a few days ago in Melbourne!

Saturday, January 12th 2013

Hello Ophelia. While C & Dad were in Australia we met with the Australian Family Court psychologist Robert Munro. He informed us that Japan’s refusal to sign the Hague Convention on Child Rights, and its discriminatory sole-custody system was receiving considerable attention in both the media and diplomatic sector. He suggested we tune into a Current Affairs Special – Anatomy of an Abduction. If you’re interested, the link is: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/currentaffairsspecials/radio-current-affairs-documentary3a-anatomy-of-a-kidnapping/4431870

I can forgive your mother, after all, what she did, was out of a warped sense of love, but I’ll never forget…

WONDERFUL WISDOM

The ultimate source of a happy life is warm-heartedness. This means extending to others the kind of concern we have for ourselves. On a simple level we find that if we have a compassionate heart we naturally have more friends. And scientists today are discovering that while anger and hatred eat into our immune system, warm-heartedness and compassion are good for our health. – Dalai Lama

 

Tuesday, January 15th 2013

G’day Phi, this past weekend C & Dad went to Chiba to visit C’s family. Dad left Mrs. O’s present from Australia on the train heading into Shibuya! Baka ne! We changed at Naka-Meguro and, again, I just foolishly forgot the gift… baka ne! I’m hopeless like that Phi; I’ve forgotten my red bag aboard buses & trains about 4 times now, once on our way to Haneda with my passport, camera, etc., inside!

Anyway, when we eventually arrived, and Mrs. O had a lovely dinner prepared; karage, sushi, miso soup and of course I had a couple of beers with Mr. O. Sunday morning, I braved the cold Chiba morning and went for a run with Ponta. He’s a bit like Riku, fast as a Ferrari over the first 3 or 4 km, then he falls in a heap and has to be dragged home.

On another note, I’ve been following the case of Yasuyuki Watanabe ever since we saw him speak at The Diet. As a lawmaker, he has clout and power, so his fight against the Family Court and its archaic laws grabs attention. Here’s an article I read recently:

Child custody injustices hard to fix. Joining Hague may curb parental abductions if legal mindset evolves.

 

By MASAMI ITO, Staff writer

 

Playing catchup: Yasuyuki Watanabe, deputy mayor of Nasushiobara, Tochigi Prefecture, speaks during an interview at a Tokyo hotel on Dec. 11. SATOKO KAWASAKI

 

On May 6, 2010, Yasuyuki Watanabe, an internal affairs ministry bureaucrat, came home to find his wife and 2-year old daughter gone, along with their clothes. His wife had spirited away their daughter near the end of Golden Week, just days after he was enjoying the holidays taking her on hikes and to local festivals, recalled Watanabe, 40, now deputy mayor of Nasushiobara, Tochigi Prefecture. He recounted how he carried his daughter on his back and how they sang songs together until she fell asleep, snuggling against him.

            His world was turned upside down that fateful day. Last month she turned 5.

“It is so important for children to feel loved by both parents, especially when they are growing up, and I think that my daughter feels abandoned by me, that I left her because I didn’t love her anymore,” Watanabe told The Japan Times during a recent interview in Tokyo. “The most painful thing about my situation is when I think about how my daughter must be feeling.”

            Watanabe is one of many parents in Japan who have been torn away from their children after a falling-out with their spouse in a nation that grants only sole custody, usually to the mother, and where it is customary for parents not living with their offspring, to have little, if any, contact with them.

This has also been a widely reported harsh reality for foreign parents, including those living overseas whose children have been taken to Japan by estranged Japanese spouses.

            These so-called parental child abductions are behind growing calls for Japan to join the international Hague treaty to prevent such cross-border kidnappings.

“These two problems are actually closely related because the domestic and international situation is the same — your children are abducted one day out of the blue and you are forbidden from seeing them,” Watanabe said.

For Watanabe, what followed was a long legal battle with his wife, and divorce proceedings, which continue.

            Initially his wife let him see their daughter a few times, but that stopped abruptly when he was slapped with domestic violence charges — which he branded a lie. His wife alleged he had threatened her with a large pair of scissors while she was pregnant and told her he knew yakuza who would be willing to help him out with the situation by pushing her off a station platform in front of a train. The violence charges were later dropped. “There is nothing more terrifying than receiving an order to appear before the court over ‘DV’ allegations. I was completely distraught. The judge, however, recognized that much of her claims were questionable and warned she could be charged with false accusations, so she dropped the charges the day before the ruling was to be made,” Watanabe said. But his wife then filed a lawsuit, demanding custody of their child and, again, adding allegations of abuse.

            Last February, presiding Judge Tatsushige Wakabayashi at the Chiba Family Court granted Watanabe’s ex-wife custody of their daughter from the viewpoint of “continuity,” ruled that Watanabe had committed domestic violence and rejected his demand that his daughter be returned. The Supreme Court finalized the ruling in September.

            While his legal battles dragged on, Watanabe asked lawmakers to address the issue and his case was deliberated on in the Diet.

            Given his public profile, Watanabe originally wished to remain anonymous. But to garner public support for his situation, he recently came forward to tell his story to the press. “I’ve been labeled a DV husband, and the judge completely ignored the facts and the law in my case. I had no choice but to stand up and fight,” he said.

            Watanabe has solicited the help of a special group of lawmakers who are trying to get Judge Wakabayashi fired from the bench. Among the so-called left-behind parents in Japan, Wakabayashi has spurred widespread ire, especially when in 2011, he criticized then-Justice Minister Satsuki Eda for telling the Diet that priority should be placed on the welfare of the child rather than the “principle of continuity.”

“There are many people in similar situations. I cannot give up for their sake. It is not just about me and my daughter. This is a battle for all children and their parents,” Watanabe said.

            According to data compiled by family courts, there were 409 parents seeking the return of their offspring from an estranged spouse in 2001, whereas by 2011, there were 1,985 parents seeking to get their kids back. The numbers, however, reflect only the legal cases filed by left-behind parents that were officially accepted by the nation’s family courts. Experts speculate they constitute only the tip of the iceberg.

            Masayuki Tanamura, a professor of family law at Waseda University, said various factors are behind the increase in parental child abductions, including Japan’s sole custody principle and the current legal framework that generally grants that right to mothers. “Times have changed — fathers are more involved in child-rearing, and the legal system — including the principle of sole custody — makes battles over children more likely to happen. I think this part of Japan’s legal system is outdated,” Tanamura said.

            One major difference that makes Japan’s legal system peculiar is that when an estranged spouse initially takes a child, it isn’t considered a crime. This is because it is common for an estranged parent, generally the mother, to take the children to her parents’ domicile if a divorce is being contemplated.

            But if the left-behind parent then subsequently tries to retrieve the offspring spirited away from their home, the action is considered kidnapping. Tanamura claimed there are many cases in which parents who spirit offspring away are unaware such action could be construed as abduction. From their point of view, they are merely considering a divorce or fleeing an abusive environment. “It is hard to label all parental kidnappings as illegal . . . but at the same time, there are many cases that could constitute a double standard. It’s OK for mothers to first take the children away, but when the fathers try to get them back, this is illegal,” Tanamura said. “This is based on the longtime concept that children belong with their mothers.”

            To prevent children from losing access to both parents after a separation, Article 766 of the Civil Law was revised in 2011 to specify that visitation rights, child-support payments and other matters be determined during nonlitigated divorce proceedings, and that the welfare of the child be considered first. But even this change can’t help people like Watanabe because his case was ruled on after the amendment. “The aim of the revision is to promote forming agreements (over child care) when getting a divorce. But there is nothing that guarantees compliance,” Tanamura said.

            Tanamura and other experts thus agree that if and when Japan signs the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, it must at the same time institute fundamental changes in the legal system, and the public mindset must also be overhauled, or joining the convention will lead to naught.

            John Gomez, chairman of the recently founded Kizuna Child-Parent Reunion, a group of Japanese and non-Japanese parents, friends and supporters advocating the right of children to have access to both parents, emphasized the need for left-behinds to cooperate because simply joining the Hague Convention will not solve anything in Japan if it continues to take a one-sided approach to domestic custodial rights. “The problem of international cases and in-country cases has the same root cause — Japanese family law and the courts,” Gomez said.

            “The abduction issue affects all people in Japan — mothers as well as fathers, Japanese as well as non-Japanese.”

            The Hague treaty aims for the swift return of children wrongfully taken out of the country of their “habitual residence” by a parent to prevent cross-border parental kidnappings. Of the Group of Eight countries, Japan is the only nation yet to sign the convention.

            Japan has been under pressure from member states, including the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada, to join the convention, but it has been reluctant, given strong domestic opposition, especially from Japanese mothers who claim they fled to Japan with their children to protect themselves from abusive ex-spouses.

            Facing severe criticism from the international community, however, Japan finally reached the point of submitting a bid to sign the treaty and Hague-related legislation to the Diet during the last session presided over by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s Democratic Party of Japan. But the politicians instead spent most of their time bickering over internal power struggles related to other domestic issues, pushing the Hague Convention to the sidelines once again.

            And it remains unclear whether the issue will move forward under the new government led by the Liberal Democratic Party.

            Government officials have expressed confidence that once deliberations begin, the Hague bid will be approved by the Diet. But parents, including Gomez, a longtime Japan resident who himself is separated from his Japanese wife and is having difficulty seeing his daughter, say joining the Hague treaty is only a step in the right direction, not a silver bullet.

            Gomez explained that on the legal front, parental kidnappings must be stopped, visitation rights made enforceable and the idea of joint custody introduced. But he added that public awareness must also be raised at the same time so the public understands the benefits of the changes to ensure the rules are followed.

            “The Hague is only one tool. The ultimate goal for us is a social and legal transformation of Japan . . . a complete transformation in terms of mindset and practice,” Gomez said. “We firmly believe, Japanese and non-Japanese alike, that the social and legal transformation is for the betterment of Japanese society and children and improvement in the quality of life.”

 

Wednesday, January 16th 2013

            Hey Phi, sorry I haven’t been able to write to you recently. In actual fact, I’ve been thinking of you a great deal… I’ve been working on a rebuttal to your mother’s latest accusations. Here are a few snippets (if you want to read the document in full, let’s wait a while):

 

“What is honored in a country will be cultivated there.” Plato

 

“The highest law is conscience” Les Miserables, Victor Hugo.

 

…The truth is in the 76 letters of support. They speak of the truth of my relationship with Ophelia, a beautiful relationship where Ophelia often spoke of marrying her Dad, because he was her prince…

 

In regards to the Sports Festival & School Bazaar, my family and friends could all write letters to outline… the truth… But to what avail? Would the letters be read? No. Would their signed letters be taken seriously? No. The voices of the 76 people who have already written letters to the Family Court of Japan have been ignored. The Family Court is not interested in truth, merit & equity… its only interest is protecting its archaic sole-custody system…

 

… Ms. I…a still claims that there was no agreement that Ophelia would attend Saint Maur International, and yet a letter signed by the entire administration of the oldest and most respected international school in Japan states that Ophelia was in fact enrolled; conveniently ignored by the court…

 

 

… It was a dark period in her life. Depression is a sickness that can be treated. While we were living in Australia, together, we visited Doctor Winnie in Montrose, Victoria on a regular basis to better enable her to cope. At the time of our divorce, Ms. I…a acted responsibly by acknowledging that she wasn’t mentally or physically well enough to care for Ophelia. She acted with integrity and respect by granting me custody, and by doing so I began to trust her again…

 

… In regard to Ophelia’s photo being on my blog, there is nothing I will do. Ophelia deserves the right to contact her father. My blog represents letters to my daughter over the past 4 years. My audience is Ophelia, and Ophelia alone. The letters don’t blame Ms. I…a, in fact she is barely mentioned at all. In actual fact, the letters thus far posted to my blog represent but a small percentage of the letters I have written to my daughter. Because the court and Ms. I…a deny me any contact with my daughter, they are my way of sharing my life with her, so that one day she will have a window into my heart…

 

… Further, Ophelia’s photo is in the bedrooms of her cousins, on the fridges of her aunts & uncles and in photo frames in so many households. She is cherished by family & friends who constantly ask how she is doing in Japan. For every photo I post on social media, another 9 photos are posted by family & friends in her remembrance. She will never be forgotten and my family will continue to visit Japan in the hope of this court discovering the truth, so that they may see her again.

 

Regards,

 

Gerard Morice.

 

FAST FACT

Worked until 12.45am on my final rebuttal with C.

 

Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013

Phi, here’s some good news: Hague pact on fast track, Abe to tell Obama – Kyodo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will tell U.S. President Barack Obama when they meet, probably in February, that he wants to speed up the procedure for Japan to join the international treaty on settling cross-border child custody disputes, sources said Wednesday.

            The previous administration led by former Democratic Party of Japan leader Yoshihiko Noda had already made participation in the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction an international commitment.

            The Abe team is aiming to submit a bill to the Diet early this year to endorse the convention, which sets rules for the prompt return of children under 16, taken or retained by one parent following the failure of international marriages, to the country of their habitual residence.

            Domestic legislation is necessary to join the convention, but a related bill was scrapped when the Lower House was dissolved in November.

            Among the Group of Eight nations, Japan is the only one yet to join the convention and has been facing calls from the United States and European countries to get on board soon.

 

Let us hope Phi… Love Dad… XoXo…

Monday, January 21st

How’s my horse-loving daughter… friend to all things great and small. I wonder if you were horse riding up in the snows of Nagano over the weekend…

Dad had a good weekend that kicked off early Saturday morning. Dad left the apartment in Myorenji in the dark at 5.30am, and rode to meet the lads at Honmoku, Yokohama. Evan, Jamie, Bayser and David were all gloved up and ready. It’s a great feeling riding with a group, and although the lads aren’t too trusting to enable a proper peleton to power along, at times we ticked along at about 33kph. Once again, your Dad, the grandpa of the group, took out the King of the Mountain title. Each time I ride, I ride that hill for you, with you in mind, you my angel are my inspiration & power… unbeatable we are… we’ve always won the battle of the hill!

We arrived in Zushi just on 8am, but our favorite pancake place wasn’t open, so we ended up at a family restaurant… not bad though, because it has a great view of the ocean and Enoshima in the distance.

The same evening, Saturday, C & Dad watched Saint Maur’s performance of Amadeus. Later Dad joined a party of 8 at Green, a very cool tapas restaurant, to celebrate Nicholas’s success as director of the play.

I wish you were sitting alongside C & Dad… I would have loved to introduce you to some of the members of the play, who also ran x-country… Dad… XoXo…

FAST FACT

Climate scientists swear there’s nowhere drier than Chile’s little-known Atacama Desert. Funny I always thought it was Dry Valley in Antarctica

 

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/travel/activity/great-outdoors/driest-place-on-the-planet-a-nice-spot-for-a-drink-20121002-26wh9.html#ixzz2H3vIvSWZ

 

 

Friday, January 25th 2013

King of the mountain

King of the mountain

Good evening Phi. Did you know it was Nandee’s 70th birthday on the 22nd!? She’s doing alright too. Nandee teaches yoga, does quite a bit of gardening, walks everywhere, and even joins Pa on his 35km cycling tours. I woke up a little earlier than usual, and called her before school. It would have been nice to sing her happy birthday alongside you… maybe next year. I also made a digital card using imovie, you can check out the link:

We also sent her a lovely top that of course C found for her.

Today, your old man ran to & from school, 18km in total, but I was rather tired jogging home as I went considerably harder in the evening. It took me 40 minutes 29 seconds to get home, but almost 43 minutes in the morning. I’ve been running to/from school at least once a week recently, in fact I ran on Nandee’s birthday and set a personal best of 39 minutes exactly on the homeward leg. Fancy joining me next time?

Tyson, my former student

Tyson, my former student

On Wednesday, Dad’s former student from his days at teaching at Templestowe Park Primary School arrived. I used to teach Tyson when he was in grade 6… he was tall then, quite a good high jumper, but now he’s an enormous 193cm! He was and probably still is a great athlete. He was also an awesome kid. He’s now 23, and traveling around Japan. I met him at the Oguchi Station and we waltzed up the hill to home. C posted a message that she’d be a tad late, so Tyson & Dad went up to the OK supermarket and bought a few things for a seafood nabe. It was a great evening of banter, and C was just charming. On Thursday morning Tyson popped into Saint Maur at about 11am to meet my class, before heading off to Kamakura. The kids were rapped to see him.

When are you going to pop into my classroom? The door is always open… Love Dad… XoXo…

 

SCARY FACT

We were both in the world’s 4th biggest earthquake on March 11th 2011! It measured 9 on the Richter Scale

 

Tuesday, January 29th 2013

How are you feeling kiddo? There’s something being passed around at school this week. I hope you’re genki and healthy, running, skipping, climbing, playing hard! Today I had a few more kiddos absent in G3 with colds and viruses. At the moment we’re in the midst of the closing stages of paper work on our home purchase in Tokyo. C needs a big hug from you my Princess. I’m a big believer in your hugs curing all manner of ills.

It’s funny how certain memories stick. You weren’t often sick, but you did have vomiting spells that are ingrained in my mind. As morbid as it sounds, I sometimes think of these days and nights, because we were so close. You were so strong and stoic. Your smile weak, but clearly visible, your hug barely noticeable, but the way you snuggled into me melted my heart. You are truly something very special Phi. No matter what the courts take from me, they’ll never erase the most vivid and beautiful memories we have shared.

Fortunately C wasn’t unwell over the weekend. She was ready and willing to exercise… besides she’s keen on saving money. So Sunday & Saturday we cycled all over Yokohama & Shin-Yokohama looking at kitchen showrooms for our new home. It would be good to know what the existing kitchen looks like, at least the dimensions… but I guess we’ll have to wait. I’m sure I’ve mentioned the fact that the present owners of the house we’re purchasing, won’t allow a soul on the property… so it’s all going to be one big whopping surprise! We even cycled out to Ikea! Amazing huh?! Most impressed with my C’s cycling and determination; all up, I figure we probably cycled around 25km, and C on the mama-chari. We didn’t buy much because we knew we had to cart it back to Myorenji by bicycle. Still, it was nice to be out in the sun, cold as it was later in the afternoon… glad I remembered the gloves!

Saturday evening C made her best okonomiyaki yet! It was superb and Matt Wyman came over for din-din and ended up sleeping over. Matt’s another left-behind parent I’m sure I’ve mentioned in my letters to you. Sometimes, I can’t help but think, he doesn’t realize how lucky he is to see his two boys as often as he does. Yes, it’s not fair that his visitations with his boys are cut short, or even cancelled sometimes, but at least he gets to breathe the same space as his sons pretty much monthly. He’s a funny man Matt, makes me laugh, but it’s a one-way street when it comes to talking about the injustices of the Family Court in Japan.

Then Sunday evening after all our cycling, we were invited to Yuki & Sonia’s for a lovely Japanese seafood theme meal, smashing! It was the first time C had been back in our old neighborhood near Honmoku. Sonia has found a new job in Vietnam, so Yuki is thinking she’ll try and get her Japanese teaching license.

Love you more than from here to Sonia & Yuki’s station, Yamate Station! Dad… XoXo…

WICKED QOUTES

Only passions, great passions elevate the soul to great things (Denis Diderot)

 

Sunday, February 3rd 2013

Morning my beautiful, beautiful Bella! What are you sipping this cold Winter morning, hot chocola? It’s a lovely sunny Sunday morning in our Sky Lounge at Myorenji. The sun is streaming in, so we don’t even need the heater on. Dad’s just finished his second cup of coffee, checked a few school emails, and had a quick read of The Age, Dad’s favorite Aussie newspaper.

Remember...

Remember…

I’ve been looking for meaningful Wicked Quotes to include in my letters to you. Trouble is, it’s so interesting reading entire passages, I haven’t copied down too many, but those I have, are truly wicked (wicked in an awesome sense). Some quotes are inspirational, others reflective, and others just plain wise. Each quote in some minor or major way brings me a connection to you. I hope you enjoy them. When I started this journal to you, I only included FAST FACTS, because there were so many bits & pieces, knowledge &

I love your Kathmandu jacket

I love your Kathmandu jacket

skills, memories & reflections I wanted to share with you. I wanted you to somehow relive, rekindle the bond we once shared. Now my closing lines include these WICKED QUOTES and even HANDY HINTS for you to take or leave… it’s all from me to you, because I always have you in mind when I’m writing to you.

Yesterday was a pretty tough day for your Dad. I spent hours and hours sorting through your clothes and toys… again. I know I shouldn’t give up on the court system here. I know I should believe in the fact that only the truth can win. But I’ve somewhat resigned myself to the fact that the judge will side with your mother and officially prevent me from seeing you. It was a very emotional few hours but in some ways a cleansing experience. Some of your clothes were from Grace or Nicola, your old mates from Numazu; some of your toys too, including several cherished

Some of your videos

Some of your videos

boxes of Sylvanian Families. There were loads of clothes and toys from Nandee, other pieces from Aunty Rach & Cate, and plenty of things you and I bought together. Such wonderful memories, such wonderful times, such laughter, such joy… your spirit is alive and everywhere my dear Phi. The clothes and toys, puzzles, shoes are too good to throw away. A few I have kept as mementos, many I took photos of to one day show you, and many we’ll pass onto loving families with daughters like Craig & Akiko; their daughter, Aya, has already written me a thank you card for some cuddly teddy bears we passed onto her just before Xmas. So, I’m passing on Aya’s thanx to you, Phi, because they were your toys and clothes… I hope you don’t mind… Love Dad… XoXo…

FAST FACTS

The only thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience… I really like this quote, but I don’t know who first said it.

Aya was very, very happy to receive your old toys today!

Wednesday, February 6th 2013

Hey Phi. How’s your book on this chilly February evening? Still a bit of snow scattered about in Iruma I guess.

I’ve just read the following blog:

http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/03/japanese-man-vacations-on-syrian-front-lines/

It’s quite disturbing, and I really worry about this guy’s sanity, but at the same time I kind of understand this guy. He’s holidaying in Syria and deliberately risking his life, perhaps hoping he’ll be killed and then his 3 daughters will receive his life insurance money. As you read further, you discover that Fujimoto is divorced, and says: “I have no family, no friends, no girl friend. I am alone in life.”

But he does have three daughters, whom he hasn’t seen for five years, “not even on Facebook or the Internet, nothing. And that saddens me deeply,” he said as he wiped away a tear. I can relate with him, empathize with his plight, but I wish he’d join us in our fight against the system in Japan.

Love Dad… XoXo…

AUSSIE FACT

What do we associate with Australia, FOOTBALL, meat pies, kangaroos and Toyota cars? After decades of sparring over their Holdens and Fords, Australian car buyers have embraced an unlikely local hero. Toyota has just celebrated a decade at the top of the new-car sales charts, outselling its nearest rival, Holden, by almost two to one, and leading the overall market to an all-time sales record of 1.1 million cars.

 

Monday, February 11th 2013

G’day Princess. How are things with you today? It’s Hot, hot, HOT in the Southern Hemisphere at the moment! Sometimes it’s hard to imagine the rest of our family are sweltering in Summer at the moment in Melbourne, but they are, while we enjoy hot, hot, hot baths before jumping into cold beds here in Japan.

Today I heard from Daniel Wass, a left-behind Australian father who rode his bicycle to Canberra to encourage our government to strongly persuade the Japanese government to sign The Hague Convention on Child Rights. And guess what, our dear friend Allen Hamer from Numazu rode out to Bowral with a page of signatures to meet Daniel and encourage our plight. What a gem hey! It gives me strength to know that beautiful people like Allen & Brenda Hamer are still fighting for our relationship. It would be so easy to forget the fact that we no longer see each other, but these wonderful, compassionate people remember the times you & I shared with them… thank you friends for keeping Ophelia & I in your hearts.

Here’s part of what Daniel Wass presented to the Australian Government:

“The physical harm caused to the child who is abducted by a stranger may be greater, the long term psychological harm caused to the child who has been abducted by a parent is greater. This is partly because the child has been taken by someone who is meant to protect them and who they trust. It destroys their sense of trust in the world around them. It is also because the child has been torn from everything and everyone the child knows. They are taken from a father or a mother, from grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins. They are taken from their pets and toys, and from their school friends and many people who are highly significant in their lives.

Many of these children are forced to live as international fugitives. Their names are changed, they are sworn to secrecy, they are forced to lie, and they are told lies about the other parent in a way that often begins with, “Mummy or Daddy doesn’t want to live with us anymore.” It often ends some time later as the child grows older with a lie, “Mummy or Daddy is dead.” This is designed to prevent the child ever looking for the other parent.

Can anyone imagine the affect on the child or an adult when they eventually learn the truth. Is it any wonder that many of these children develop serious and in some cases lifelong psychiatric disorders. Once discovered, these children will often develop strong negative feelings towards both parents. They will resent one of them for abducting them and the other for not finding them quickly enough.

International child abduction is recognized as a form of violence towards a child. It is also recognized as one of the most extreme forms of emotional abuse a parent can inflict upon their own child. It is a gross violation of a child’s rights under the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child. The internationally recognized psychological profile of a parent who abducts their own child is cause for great concern. It includes the descriptors “paranoid delusional” and “sociopathic”. In the vast majority of cases the child is used a weapon by the abducting parent. They also use the child as a shield to hide behind to justify their own behavior to the rest of the world.

Unfortunately Japan and its judicial system still fails to recognize the serious mental and emotional affects that international parental child abduction has on the child.”

Anyway Phi, time for a hot bath. See you some day soon, hey?

Love always, Dad… XoXo…

 

WICKED QUOTES

I wonder if Einstein was referring to Japan’s Family Court when he said, “Insanity is continuing to do the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

 

 

Wednesday, February 20th 2013

Hello Phi, and to any family or friend who may be reading along. Thanx for your thoughts one & all, we really appreciate your energy and positive goodwill. Needless to say, our case in the Family Court is strenuous and stressful, and at times demoralizing… but with C beside me, we won’t give in.

I’m a lucky Dad for so many reasons. I have Ophelia, and the memories I cherish safe inside my heart. I have my health, and an ability to see the best in people… my problem is, I don’t often see the worst in people.

In any case readers, thank you so much for your letters of support. It’s moments like these I often have a little listen to Tim Minchin’s White Wine at Xmas.

 

“…You my baby girl… you won’t understand

But you will learn someday

That where ever you are, and whatever you face

These are the people who make you feel safe in this world

My sweet [blue] eyed girl

And if my baby gal, when you’re 21 or 31

And Christmas comes around

And you find yourself 9000 miles from home

You will know whatever comes

[your cousins, your uncles, your aunts and your friends]

We will be waiting for you in the sun…”

 

A golden oldie, that always brings a tear, and definitely worth another listen or 2…

 

Tim Minchin’s White Wine at X’mas:

Thank YOU everybody… Luv & licks, Ged & C… & Ophelia… XoXo…

 

Tuesday March 5th 2013

G’day Phi, here’s an article on Parental Alienation you might be interested in:

Domestic Violence vs. Parental Alienation: Who’s right and who’s wrong

 

Ever since the term “Parental Alienation” was defined by Richard Gardner in the 80’s, and it began being used in child custody disputes, advocates for Domestic Violence and women’s groups and some family lawyers purport that Parental Alienation is junk science and is damaging to the family court cases.

 

Father’s rights groups on the other hand, advocate for its existence and claim that women are the majority of perpetrators. Who is right, and who is wrong?

 

According to Statistics, Canada it is currently estimated that the divorce rate is at almost 39% with 40% of children under the age of 18 residing in non-traditional family forms, such as, one parent, step parent, blended family homes, etc.

Also according with Statistics Canada, 47% of all family related homicides are committed by a spouse. Between 2000 and 2009, 26% of female victims and 11% of male victims were killed by a partner from whom they were separated.

 

Undoubtedly, research shows that Parental Alienation is as real as Domestic Violence and both-women and men’s groups-are right to a certain extent; despite their arguments they are in fact saying the same thing only expressing it in different ways. Courts wouldn’t hand an angry man a gun. Yet innocent children are taken from a loving parent and sent to an abuser on daily bases by our family courts, due to false accusations of Parental Alienation and Domestic Violence. Why is this happening in today’s society, where we have all sorts of technology and access to information on a variety of media sites?

 

It is a very fine line between Domestic Violence and Parental Alienation; in fact in divorced and separating families, the bridge between Domestic Violence and Parental Alienation, is Hostile-Aggressive Parenting and it can be easily crossed either way.

Abusive husbands obsessively pursue control over their partner by alienating the children from their ex-wife. Angry, vindictive mothers who act out on their abandonment rage, are systematically alienating their children from a father with no history of poor parenting. Both will bend and twist facts, to avoid accountability and shift blame. Accordingly, claims of Parental Alienation and Domestic Abuse become high powered weapons for them in family courts. What can we, as a society do to prevent this from happening?

 

An old saying “It takes a village to raise a child” applies to these cases. Professionals in the field and in the legal department have to be trained to recognize and differentiate between the story of a friendly parent who has suffered years of domestic violence and is now trying to protect herself/himself and the children from an extension of control and abuse from her/his former partner, and the story of a parent who screams Parental Alienation to cover up his/her violent behavior. In contrast false claims of Domestic Violence could cast a shadow over a genuine Parental Alienation case. The only way of preventing children from being hurt by an angry parent is if everyone gets involved and sends a strong message of disapproval to such hostile parents.

 

Hostile parents try hard to keep their behavior from being noticed by friends, family, and others in the community. Deep down they know that their behavior is wrong, but they want to be seen as the better parent. Members of the community can play an important role in eliminating the harm done by hostile parents to their children, by learning to identify the behavior and refusing to participate in the hostile parent’s campaign against the other parent.

 

Schools and child care agencies are on the front line when dealing with issues associated with families, divorce and chronic conflict. Many teachers, daycare providers and other officials will undoubtedly have to deal with children coming from broken homes, where chronic conflict is noticeable. They most likely have to deal with a hostile parent who attempts to drag the school in the midst of his campaign against the other parent. The most common situation is when the hostile parent attempts to restrict the other parent from participating in their child’s school activities. They should also make parents aware that hostile behavior is not accepted and that there will be no discrimination against the other parent unless a court order states otherwise.

 

For, extended family and friends to support a loved one through divorce, is a natural thing to do. Unfortunately far too often, many families and friends support an unfriendly parent. Most often they offer their support without ever questioning how their support may affect the children involved. Hostile parents are typically good at hiding the truth, therefore they are often mistaken for a “caring and concerned parent “. One sure sign of hostile parenting is when a parent who never before complained about the other’s parenting during marriage, but after separation he/she doesn’t seem to agree or like anything that the other parent do.

 

Doctors and nurses, social workers and police officers, are also in the front line when it comes to hostile parenting and chronic conflict. They should be careful that they don’t get involved in the hostilities between parents. Hostile parents present themselves quite well before authority figures such as doctors, police officers, nurses, parenting coordinators, etc. Hostile parents will often feed these front-liners misleading, one sided stories with the sole purpose to extract information, opinion, and recommendation, which will be later used to block the friendly parent’s access time. Failure by police officers and child protective workers to identify the signs of hostile parenting, could have devastating consequences for the children involved. The most common tool used by the hostile parent is to claim abuse on the child, as well as various unfounded allegations against the other parent.

 

High degrees of conflict during custody settlements and litigation are also sure signs in these affected families. Another red flag should be raised when a parent with no history of bad parenting is accused left and right of bad parenting, abuse, etc., soon after separation.

 

One thing proven by various experts is that Hostile-Aggressive Parents are unable to separate their acrimonious feelings for their former spouses from their parental responsibilities and they will not appreciate the needs of their child.

Chilling hey… love Dad… XoXo…

 

Monday, March 11th 2013

Evening my dear Ophelia. March 11th… etched in our memories forever. Two years to the day. How did you and your family, your community, your school commemorate March 11th?

Today at school (Saint Maur International School) we had a minute’s silence at 2.46pm; the moment the earthquake hit Tohoku triggering 3 catastrophes: the earthquake itself, the subsequent tsunami and the resulting nuclear meltdown at Fukushima. I’ll never forget that moment and the Monday following. I was in a meeting at school on March 14th and my phone went off. Surprised because no one ever really called me except my colleagues or C, I checked and found it was your mother. It was nice of her to finally return my many calls and to hear that you and your family were all well.

Anyway, back to present day… We got the committee back together a few weeks ago and organized a few reflective commemorations. We all wore our Pray for Japan t-shirts and posted poems (mostly haiku) up around the school. One of my students, Noa, who is from Switzerland found a beautiful song that reflected on the events of that tragic day 2 years ago. She uploaded it to our class wiki and we watched, hummed and swayed to the moving video on our class smartboard. I sat there and took it all in… 17 kids from all corners of the world sitting quietly on the carpet, side by side, reflecting, discussing, empathizing… just beautiful… only wish you could benefit from such diverse friendships, and an open-ended, multicultural and evolving education…

All the work, we as a committee did organizing our community to help out in Tohoku still brings a smile. In the end, there was over 7.5 million yen raised, 3 trips to help out in Tohoku, over 220 Pray for Japan t-shirts sold, 100s of community-building events to reflect and raise funds. We even appeared in a Jasmine Richards international video clip. Here’s a memorable video:

Here’s the FB link:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Saint-Maur-Earthquake-Tsunami-Relief/118227604924250

and the blog:

http://stmaurrelief.blogspot.com

 

and here’s a BBC link:

Big Tim Smith lending a hand

Big Tim Smith lending a hand

Back to the renovations… got your tool kit and a safety helmet Phi? Yesterday I knocked down the wall between the small tatami room and what will become the main bedroom for C & Dad upstairs. At first I was a little hesitant, fearing there might be some supports for the ceiling, but when I determined it wasn’t a weight-bearing wall, I had a bit of bash & crash fun, tearing it all down. Now it’s down, it seems so much more open and of course larger. I could have done with you there cracking the hammer too, and then helping carry the leftovers down to the dump site (beside the granny-flat). I think I’ll build a walk-in closet for C, what do you think about that idea? I think she’ll be pretty happy! A good hiding spot for you and your mates when you want to play hid and seek.

Milts & Erick helping out

Milts & Erick helping out

We’re still living in Myorenji, as the house in Tokyo has a long, long way to go before we can live there… but, the clock is ticking… I’ve only got to the end of March to make something of it, because that’s when the Myorenji contract expires… wish us luck… or better still, bring all your friends and come and HELP!

Love Dad… see you soon… XoXo…

WICKED QUOTE

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

 

Sunday, March 17th 2013

G’day, g’day, good day… my precious daughter.

Ripping up the tiles

Ripping up the tiles

Well, well, well, things are getting exciting. Today C & Dad rented a K-truck to haul 2 loads of belongings to the bomb site in Tokyo. It was a dull, grey day, but not too cold, and we were lucky it didn’t rain. I’m certainly excited and C is putting on a brave face. I say brave face because the house is freezing, has no heating, kitchen is pretty much inoperable, and we can’t take a hot shower either.

Pulling down the ceiling... wanna help?

Pulling down the ceiling… wanna help?

On the way back to Myorenji we stopped by a second hand store and bought a bread maker for only 2000 yen! The chap said it had been a wedding gift that was never used. I wonder though, because in Japan we don’t normally give gifts at a wedding. I also wonder if it still works???

Tad exhausted Phi, so I’m going to have to jump into bed… another busy week at school. But for you, it must be, or almost your Spring Vacation… end of Grade 4 and ready to start Grade 5, WOW! I’m not too tired to read you a story however, what would you like to read together this evening? What about a chapter classic? We could start Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist… I just love doing the voices in Oliver, there’s so much wonderful expression to wrap your lips around. There’s the villain Fegin, and the rascal, the Artful Dodger, and there’s the violent Sykes with his thundering voice too.

Milton & Dad getting dirty!

Milton & Dad getting dirty!

Love Dad & Chinami… XoXo…

FAST FACT

Dad put his foot through the floor at the new house today… not a good sign! Hope all the floorboards aren’t rotting!

 

Monday, March 25th 2013

The granny-flat we'll demolish

The granny-flat we’ll demolish. Can you picture a garden here???

Hey Phi, you’ll never guess who arrived this evening?! Kerry & Deirdre, your dear Pa & Nandee! I picked them up at the YCAT terminal at Yokohama Station. Would have been grand standing with you in my arms as the bus pulled in… it would have melted their hearts. I guess you’re not as light as you used to be, and Dad’s muscles aren’t as strong and young either. In any case, they look well. We went straight back to Myorenji where it’s a good deal warmer than Tokyo; besides there is nothing to sleep on and the hot water doesn’t work… yet! Chinami had prepared a yummy stew and there was a cold beer to share. We’ll stay at Myorenji until this weekend.

The old kitchen. The wall on the left will be demolished

The old kitchen. The wall on the left will be demolished

Tomorrow the reform company starts… it’s all happening! Our goal is for me and C & my mates (and you) to renovate all of upstairs, and all of outside (driveway, downpipes, plumbing & garden), and the reform company will do the kitchen, bathroom and living area. Hopefully I’ll find time somewhere to finish off the entrance and tatami room downstairs too… but we’ll see. It’s a tight schedule and the pyramids are on the horizon… Egypt here we come!

We missed you tonight, and I know there’ll be moments every day over the next 3 weeks while your Australian grandparents are here, when we’re all going to wish you were beside us laughing, smiling & sparkling… I love you Phi, and miss you ever so much… XoXo…

MEMORABLE MOMENT

Walking out of immigration at Melbourne airport with you in my arms when we first went back to Australia without your mother. You hugged me sleepily. You were wearing your bright blue knitted jumper, and you smiled shyly at seeing Pa & Nandee excitedly waiting to embrace us both.

 

Thursday, March 28th 2013

Phi, Phi, Phi… something happened this evening. I was sitting on the couch with Nandee and Pa and suddenly C left her computer and came and embraced & kissed me. It was beautiful, memorable and comforting. She then told me/us that most of your mother’s demands had been rejected by the Family Court in a document sent to my lawyers today, and that the court, could not see any reason for visitation not to continue. Great news, hey? But I don’t think anything is going to change in your mother’s mind. I have 10 days to appeal the decision, but for me, it’s unexpected good will and common sense finally being directed by the Family Court. I kind of expected the court to once again ignore joint custody rights, international research & conventions on child rights, and to side with your mother’s blind logic… but they didn’t… can you believe it! I can’t…

Demolition site

Demolition site

I’m not too sure how I feel because nothing has really changed. I still won’t be able to see you, nor will Nandee & Pa, even though they’re here in Japan, hoping to see their first grandchild. The court’s decision won’t pave the way for you to receive counseling, or enable you to contact your cousins, or bake a cake with Nandee, walk to the park with Pa and visit the 100 yen shop with C. You and I won’t be able to share stories, books and songs together. How can it be, that we have been denied a visitation since September 2011???

Even so, the result brings a certain calm because one day you’ll be able to read the court’s findings.

Almost done. Look who's driving!

Almost done. Look who’s driving!

At the same time, all the work that C did as my true legal counsel has paid dividends. The 100s of hours translating over 75+ letters (I’ve lost count), translating court documents, my statements, Bob Munro’s reports, etc., has proved fruitful and purposeful. In a way the court’s decision gives me strength and a certain conviction that a loving Dad and his cherished daughter are entitled to see each other.

I love you…

WICKED QUOTE

Look who's here! Nandee & Pa!

Look who’s here! Nandee & Pa!

“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.” Louise Erdich

That's your Pa

That’s your Pa checking out the kitchen!

2012 October – December

 

Here follows Ophelia, a gift of my memories, a gift I hope you can trust… I miss you…

            “Do we ever realize what a far-flung web we weave by our actions?” Samia Serageldin

IMG_1536

I’m sorry for all the pain your mother & I have caused you…

Wednesday, October 10th 2012

Hey Phi. How are you doing? Guess who arrived in Myorenji today… Nandee & Pa have arrived in Japan! We had a stuff up meeting them, so Kerry & Deirdre had a little wait at the YCAT lounge… but they didn’t seem to mind. Hopefully you’ll get to meet them at your Sports’ Festival this weekend… they’ve even got a few birthday presents for the birthday gal! I wonder what you’ll receive… do you want to know what Dad has prepared for you? Probably, as a teacher, something educational & boring! Love you Champ! Dad… XoXo…

WICKED QUOTE

“…the purpose of education is to enhance understanding.” Howard Gardner

 

Saturday, October 13th 2012

Hey Bella… another sad day in the history of your mother and I. I’m sorry Phi, sorry it has to be this way, sorry, because you have done nothing wrong, sorry because I can’t stand to have my mum & dad demoralized like they were today.

I’m also sorry your Dad couldn’t make it to your Sports’ Festival until after lunch today. Today was the Kanto Plans X-country Finals at Tama, so as head coach I boarded the bus with my team at 6:40am at Saint Maur. We ran well, I was mighty proud, but the whole time my mind was on you, with you, and the fact that Nandee & Pa had headed out to see you at your Sports’ Festival.

I’m sorry to say that, the treatment Nandee & Pa received was inhumane. When I arrived I could clearly see that Nandee had been crying. She had brought with her the presents from Australia for your 10th birthday. I found her seated on the ground, her shoulders hunched and Pa rubbing her back. She had approached your mother and requested that your mother give the presents to you. Unfortunately your mother turned her back and walked away.

It was an ugly afternoon. When I arrived, we tried again and again to seek a moment with you. But each time we were told “dame”. They shielded you from us and hurried you away, so that we couldn’t spend even a moment with you.

Nandee & Pa are both mentally and physically exhausted and will return to Australia having seen their first grand daughter from a distance of some 30 metres. They’re pale and silent Phi, clearly not prepared for the animosity that greeted them today… I wish I could do more to ease their pain, and bring us all closer together.

I love you, and hope you sleep with a clear conscience this evening, because though those around you share some blame for what has happened, you my angel are pure and blameless… Dad… XoXo…

WICKED WISDOM

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain I hope in time I don’t regret my actions today, but if I do, I hope I’m brave & bold enough to apologize…

 

Sunday, October 13th 2012

Good evening Phi. Pa & Nandee are in our bedroom, tired after a big day of shopping and walking, and probably a sleepless night last night. This morning after our coffee, and after everyone had pitched in to tidy up, we headed into downtown Yokohama. We strolled around the Kannai area taking in the sales and assorted odds & ends. Pa bought a pair of New Balance running shoes for only 4400 yen; he was a very happy shopper, but not as happy as Nandee inside the big four story 100 yen shop! I’m not sure everything will fit in their two suitcases! Later Dad went to pick up his custom made suit for his wedding next Sunday… looking very dapper, your Dad is! Fancy seeing a photo?

Well Bella, everything seems a little better today… but we still miss you and know there’s only the faintest hope Nandee & Pa will get to meet you this trip… sorry Phi… I love you… good night… XoXo…

WICKED QUOTE

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” – Jawaharial Nehru

Exif_JPEG_PICTURE

Dad & Uncle Rich.

 

Friday, October 19th 2012

G’day Phi… just a quick letter, ‘cause Dad is ready for bed! Dad has been working all week, so Nandee & Pa have been chaperoned around by C, and doing their own thing. Weather is perfect… and Dad is getting excited… he’s getting married!

Uncle Sean arrived last night. It would have been good to have Uncle Sean’s cool head alongside us last weekend at the Sports’ Festival. He’ll stay with us in our apartment until Saturday (hope he doesn’t snore!), then we’ll take him to Milton’s, where Ralph will also stay.

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Uncle Sean & your Nandee.

Yes, your Dad is a lucky family man… Nandee & Pa are here for the wedding, Sean has arrived, and Ralph flies in this weekend with Uncle Richie & Aunty Rachel. This afternoon (Friday) C brought Kerry, Deirdre & Sean to Saint Maur to meet my students. Then after school, Uncle Sean came running with our x-country team. It was such a magic moment to have my brother run with the team. I think he really enjoyed it, and my top boys really relished the challenge of running alongside Sean… he’s really quick… much quicker than Dad! We ran steps and hills, and I think Uncle Sean had a pretty good workout… although he took the train back to Myorenji… slacker! And I rode my bicycle home!

When are you gonna join Dad for a jog? XoXo…

CRAZY QUESTIONS

Can snails kiss?

How much is in a handful?

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Dad, Ralph, Uncle Rich & Uncle Sean.

 

Monday, October 22nd 2012

Phi… I’m married! Whoopee! Feels great, and our honeymoon is showing my family around Japan this week… poor C!

But before I forget, let me tell you what we did Saturday. Sean, Kerry and I took a tour around our new house in Tokyo in the morning. It’s still standing, but the granny flat that I had planned to knock down myself, looks monstrous! Again we couldn’t enter the property, but we managed to snap a few photos and take a good luck. From the house we walked straight down to the Tama River. It’s only about 300m away. It’s going to be great for running & cycling!

We had a bit of a lazy afternoon trying on shirts to match the suit, then Ralph, Uncle Richo & Aunty Rachel arrived at 9pm. Picked them up right on 9pm at YCAT, Yokohama.

Sunday, October 21st … the BIG day! C & Dad were married at Okusawa Jinja in Jiyugaoka at 3.30pm. The mosquitos were out and they made a meal of Rach, but we said our vows in the late afternoon sun. It was an old temple with beautifully polished floorboards and big heavy beams. Strength & beauty.

I have so many reasons to thank C. So many reasons to be grateful. So many reasons to love, respect and cherish her forever. From the moment I heard her exquisite French accent, she became my Parisian Geisha. Unfortunately in my presence her accent has taken a tour Down Under, to a more robust Aussie accent. So much so, that I now see her as My Little Aussie Battler. And battle she has on my behalf. Though you couldn’t be with us today, I know that in years to come, you too will come to respect and admire C’s strength, wisdom and grace, just as my family now see her as a daughter and sister. Though C will always be my mademoiselle, and hence my eternal youth, I hope you’ll some day join me in a toast to Madame Osato-Morice… a toast to love, family and friends.

It was a beautiful Autumn day reaching a high of 24 degrees Celsius. Unfortunately Nandee left her beautiful red handbag on a bench at Jiyugaoka Station, but when we returned to the station some kind soul had handed it in, so there was a happy ending after all. Before dinner in Daikanyama, we went to Eataly, for a couple of white wines. C had to change into a second kimono, but her family joined my family, Milton and Ralph. Then C and Dad went to set up at the Michelin Star French restaurant. We were joined by C’s work colleagues, Y & Mr. BMW (MSan), and her HS friends, Y, Y and C. There was also Y and Megumi. Just a small party of 19. The food was out of this world… magnific! 12 courses, and each presented so perfectly. The wine was damn good too!

See ya Kiddo… XoXo…

COOL QUOTE

“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Wednesday, October 24th 2012

Oh Phi, what I would give to have us with you this week… to meet C properly, and to be surrounded by your uncles & aunt, and your grandparents. Let’s see what we’ve been up to. Monday we went to the new Chiba Outlets. I think Aunty Rach quite enjoyed the bargains, but Dad didn’t buy anything. Then in the evening we were off to Milton’s for a dinner of 3 different pastas prepared by Ralph. Very tasty too.

Tuesday we went into Ginza to a lovely stationary shop, a little shopping in Uniqlo, and then C directed us to a cool set lunch at a fish restaurant under one of the JR stations. After lunch I took them all to my favourite bicycle shop to show them a dream bicycle or two. They had a beautiful, sleek time trial bike for 53% off (don’t you think it’s weird that it’s not 50% or 55%???), at just under 500,000 yen, how tempting… the frame is probably too small if I’m really honest with myself!

We waved goodbye to the main gang and sent them in the direction of a big toy store in Ginza. My new wife & I took Nandee & Pa back to Myorenji, had a cup of tea, grabbed their bags and took them to the YCAT terminal to wish them a teary farewell.

C then went to a meeting at the Diet offices, organized by Yasuyuki Watanabe, an official in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, who just like me, would like to see his daughter. He maintains that there is disconnect between the slowly changing line of the government and the outdated, weakness of the Family Court of Japan in protecting the rights of children.

Then last night, Richo & Rach, Sean & Ralph all joined us for a little wining & dining at apartment 406. At about 7.30pm, we headed into Yokohama to scout out an izakaya for Rachel’s last supper. C arrived shortly afterward from The Diet, and we had a great evening of laughter & banter, raw horse, sashimi and quite a few beers.

And this morning, C & Dad met Rach & Rich in World Porters, then we strolled around Akarengakan and onwards to the Kannai area. We found a nice coffee shop and rested our legs before walking back to their hotel, the New Otani in Sakuragicho. Very flash! We sent Rachel off at YCAT, Yokohama, then Richo came back to apartment #406 Myorenji. A little later, Ralph & Sean came out for some curry rice that C had prepared. Mmm… Time to sleep…

Love Dad.

FAST FACT

Your Australian family misses you…

 

Saturday, October 27th 2012

Good morning sweetheart. Just sitting down to a coffee and a letter to you. A quiet day to reflect on a momentous week. So much has happened, so much excitement, and now, it’s all very peaceful, just the two of us.

Thursday, I dragged Uncle Richo out and we went for a run, a few sit-ups, chin-ups and push-ups. Then we met the boys for lunch in at the French Quarter, Iidabashi. Delicious savory gallette and dessert crepe followed. I think we all ended up having the set menu… just perfect. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this gem of a café / restaurant in my letters before… some day Bella, we’ll be sitting down to lunch together. Fancy a cidre with your meal? It’s the perfect accompaniment.

After a hearty lunch we headed for the retail / wholesale cooking utensil district; kitchen shops of all varieties, knives, & plastic replicas of food dishes. Around 7pm the boys headed to a wine bar in Shibuya to meet Milton. We ended up in a Spanish bar for another bottle of wine and a few tapas. Ralph & Sean went back to Milton’s to grab their bags and then they came out to #406 Myorenji for a big sleep-over.

Friday Sean & Dad went for a run, then we wandered down to the electrical store in Oguchi, and grabbed some gyoza & tempura for a take away lunch back at #406. A quiet afternoon of packing and then we escorted the boys to YCAT, Yokohama for a final farewell.

Tomorrow, it’s your school’s bazaar… after our frosty reception last time, I’m not too sure what to expect… hope to have a chat tomorrow… love you, Dad. Can I get a selfie (photo) of the two of us together??? Please…

MIGHTY MESSAGE

“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

 

Sunday, October 28th 2012

G’day Gorgeous. Well, sadly, I was shielded from saying “hello” to you today. C & Milton Miltiadous bravely joined me at your School Bazaar. At 12.20pm, C & Milton entered the school to personally pass the birthday presents we’d brought for you. I deliberately didn’t enter the school because I had a suspicion (due to experience) that somebody would be waiting to sound the alarm that I had arrived… suspicion confirmed.

About 10 minutes later I entered the school and spotted Jiji who didn’t return my greeting , and instead telephoned someone.

At 12.35pm, I entered the school building with C & Milton to see if I could personally say hello to you. C had gone on ahead, and I met C on the 2nd floor outside the 4th grade classrooms. She informed me that you had entered the bathroom. I waited some 5 metres from the entrance to the bathroom hoping I could see you… my guess is, you had a stomach ache, much the same as Dad.

Suddenly you sprang from the bathroom with your mother in pursuit. I waited a moment, gave Milton a wry smile, and then casually left the building with my friend. We noticed your mother at the front gate, so we went to her to ask if we could see you. Almost at the same moment, we noticed you and two of your classmates run out the gate. Oh, Phi, what have they told you about me… Why do they do these things…

With a heavy heart, Milton & I approached your mother and tried to engage in a conversation. Almost unsurprisingly, she shouted that she would call the police. Milton was dumbfounded. He had been a friend of your mother’s. Milton & I then took a short walk away from the school.

At 12.55pm, Milton & I returned to the school to find C. At the gate we were approached by Jiji. Shortly thereafter, two uniformed police officers arrived and took my details. Not long after that, four detectives arrived to quiz me. There was nothing to say… we had come to the bazaar to pass on our birthday wishes. C was firm with the police, and for the most part they seemed embarrassed to be involved. They told us, that a member of your Japanese family had telephoned to tell them that I was at the bazaar to kidnap you. We asked the police to pass on Ophelia’s birthday presents.

Your Dad, Gerard Morice.

SORRY, NO WISDOM TODAY PHI…

 

Saturday, November 3rd 2012

G’day Phi, it’s a new day, a new month… so let’s put the nightmare of Sunday, October 28th behind us.

C & I are on our way to Chiba to show her parents our wedding photos. Last night we celebrated for David So, a colleague of mine at Saint Maur, he too secretly married over the October break. It was a bit of fun dining at an izakaya in Yokohama and then a couple of hours of karaoke. Tomorrow I leave for a three day camp with my x-country team. We’ve been invited to compete at the Far East Championships along with 17 other schools from Japan, Korea & Guam. We have a strong squad, so expectations are high.

Love Dad… you running? XoXo…

CRAZY QUESTIONS

Why did kamikaze pilots wear helmets?

 

Monday, November 5th 2012

Morning Princess,

It’s 8.03am, and I’m on a bus to Camp Fuji, up near Gotemba. I’m sitting next to Yannick who coaches with me; he’s from France. Maggie who is from New Zealand is in front of us, and our squad of 5 HS boys and 5 HS girls are quietly nestled behind us. They’re a great bunch of talented runners from all over the world… France, Australia, America, Korea, India and of course Japan. We had them up around 5.40am, so some of them are taking the opportunity to take a nap before their big race, later today. It’s the 2012 Far East X-Country Finals. 17 schools are in a convoy up to the start of the race. Excitement and anticipation are high. We’re in division two, small schools, and stand a real chance of finishing in the top 3. For your information, we’re the smallest school of just 400 students K – 12. Having said that, our team is super strong and made up of 50+ middle & high schoolers.

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Coach Morice.

Last night we stayed on the US Base at Atsugi. It’s very surreal, at times you feel like you’re in America. We took the kids to an Italian restaurant last night on base, but it was actually more American than Italian, with huge servings of pizza and pasta. The base is huge, with its own supermarkets, cinemas, bowling ally, and airstrip… and hotels! The roads are wide and the footpaths are as wide as a one way Japanese street.

I’ve just been chatting with Yannick about you… I guess he spied me writing to you. We wonder if you’ll some day be running, and if so, will your Dad be there to cheer you on. I certainly won’t be able to keep up with you, maybe in the next 6 years, but then of course Dad will be 50 and it will be a downward spiral for Dad in terms of pace, endurance and cadence.

We’re driving up the Tomei Expressway now, not far from Gotemba, where we both spent many weekends exploring Hakone & Yamanakako and their lakes. Ah, the memories Phi… there was the Fuji Safari Park, camping with Pat, the Hamers & Nandee & Pa, and who can forget the long, long slide between Gotemba and Numazu (Susono)? Then there were the trips for two, you and me to Kodomo no Kuni and the Gotemba Open-Air Gallery / Museum. AND, what about sledding in winter up on the side of Mount Fuji (just up beyond Yeti) and enjoying a hot chocolate in the Big Orange Car (we used to call it that, courtesy of the WIGGLES Big Red Car) afterward. They were good times, our life in Numazu… there was also the Premium Outlook Mall and those tasty ribs you love at Gotemba Kogen Beer Hall. We’ll have to re-visit all these places together… some day soon, when we reconnect, and make up for lost time.

I love you… and I miss you more and more every day… XoXo…

FAST FACTS

  • Today at Camp Fuji they’re expecting a top of 11 degrees Celsius; crazy, ‘cause only a month ago it was still 30 degrees when we were training with the x-country squad
  • Last night I slept in a cozy double bed with a gay man, Yannick. It was funny going to bed, ‘cause Yannick was lamenting the fact that the first fella he was going to bed in Japan, was a straight chap recently married! Talk about LOL!

Wednesday, November 7th

Greetings Champ! Guess what?! We won the Far East Division Two X-Country Championship. The students were so happy, and so surprised, several of them broke down in tears. After day 01 up at Camp Fuji, the individual 5km race, our high school boys were only placing fourth, while our girls were a credible second. Fourth equals 4 points, and second equals 2 points with the lowest collective team score winning. In our favor was that several of the other strong school had had mixed results.

Day 02 was the relay, similar in kind to the ekiden. We needed the certain teams in front of us to finish in reverse order, and we had to run over the top of all of them. Tuesday was wet and cold, but our runners ran the race of their lives collectively finishing first by the slimmest of margins. During the race, I was reasonably confident our runners had finished high enough to win the relay component, but keeping track of where and how the other teams finished was near impossible. So when the results were announced, there were 3 teams that could conceivably take out the overall title. It was an unforgettable moment, and I was ever so proud of our team… I hope I have the opportunity to see you run in competition some day soon… I can’t help but think you’ll be quite a fine distance runner.

By the way, I did see you run 100 metres or so, including the bend at the Sports’ Day in October. I was quietly impressed with your performance. You’ve never been super fast at the sprint, nor very competitive (good for you!); in fact at Katoh you were so into horses, you seemed to skip along with a smile pretending you were “Spirit” that beautiful horse in one of your favourite animation movies.

Tonight my colleague Sonia will join us. She’s a favourite of C and mine. Sonia is from Spain and her partner is a Japanese woman, Yuki. We’re very happy for them both. Sonia is hilarious, I know you’d just roll around laughing with her… maybe some day soon champ… Love you… Dad… XoXo…

CRAZY QUESTIONS

  • Why is your Dad super competitive, and you’re just happy, happy to play a part? It’s a great trait you have
  • Has your mum introduced you to any gay people? I hope so, because in every other way, they’re just like you and me

Saturday, November 10th 2012

Good afternoon Princess, how are you on this beautiful Autumn day? The sun is out, there’s quite a breeze, and it’s trying to reach 19 degrees or thereabouts.

I’m sitting in the waiting area of the local hospital / clinic waiting to have a urine check. The bank we’re getting our loan through for the house requested a full medical before proceeding. Fortunately, we do a full medical each August at school, but unfortunately something went amiss with my urine results meaning that column alone was left blank. I anticipated a wait, so here I am writing to my darling daughter.

It’s funny how different places inspire images of our past life together. Just yesterday, I went to the dentist for my 6 month check-up and clean. All good, a little plaque removed and no problems. Sitting in their waiting room and later in the dentist’s chair, I couldn’t help but think of our trips to our dentists Masano & Tomo in Numazu, the lego they gave you, Masa brushing your hair after your bath, Tomo joking with you at the clinic and giving you a special kids’ toothbrush.

Now sitting here waiting for my result, I think of you and the Japanese tradition of gaman. You were always so stoic, so selfless and positive. They are commendable qualities, I wish I had more of myself. There were times when you were vomiting or had diarrhea, times when your fevers touched 40 degrees Celsius, or you just seemed pale, listless and not your genki self. As morbid as it sounds, these are some of my strongest and fondest memories. You snuggling, cuddling into me… my daughter, my pride & joy, my flesh & blood. You’re amazing Ophelia… I love you.

Tomorrow C & Dad will join Nomura San and his Kiminodori Ribbon Campaign. We’re heading into Shinjuku, then out west for an hour to hand out balloons and raise awareness regarding joint custody & visitation issues in Japan. Wish us luck!

Luv & licks, Dad & C… XoXo…

 

FAST FACTS

  • Back at home now with my latest urine test results… charming hey? Results were all A’s to match my health check in August… lovely
  • When you were at Katoh Kindergarten, you used to ask your American & Canadian teachers if you could have a wee; they used to think that was hilarious as in North America, kids say pee, but in Oz it’s pee

Sunday, November 11th 2012

Morning Phi. It’s just before 10am, and I’m on the Chuo Line heading out to Musashi Sakai. I’ve got a seat now, so I’m able to pen you a letter. Coming from Myorenji the train was choc-a-block full. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that there were so many people on the train, after all, we both live in the sprawling metropolis of one of the world’s most populous cities… but where are all the people going at this hour??? C couldn’t make it, she’s not feeling well, so rather guiltily I left her in bed.

Today’s the day Nomura San has organized another Kiminodori Ribbon Event. We’ll be out and about at a bit of a farmers’ festival requesting signatures, and raising awareness about our plight to see our children. I just hope the rain holds off. The train weather report is suggesting it’ll rain in the afternoon.

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Kiminodori Ribbon Event.

So Ophelia Hirakawa-Morice (AKA Ophelia Ishijima), how are you feeling this morning? You’ve been 10 years old almost a month now. For the first half of your life you lived me, and saw your mother and her family regularly. You were loved, and you loved. You were a happy, well-adjusted child, perfectly bilingual and bicultural in every sense. I was ever so proud of you, as I am now. In the past 5 years you’ve been denied your identity, your bilingualism, your biculturalism, your identity…

I wonder how you’ve changed, what you’re thinking, what you’ll do today, where you’ll go, what you’ll eat… to be continued… time to jump off the train & find Nomura San and help out…

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Hope I see you soon Phi…

Back again on the train… as the sun sets. Well, it was a great day, and a very interesting market. In fact, it was the perfect setting to raise awareness about single custody issues in Japan. There were a lot of down to earth people, keen on solar energy, growing your own produce, and supporting the local community. There was a really good vibe about the place, and as an audience they were very receptive. It was comforting talking to strangers who really listened. John Gomez from Kizuna CPR was there, but the rest of our action group was Japanese. We collected 100s of signatures, spoke about the Hague Convention on Child Rights, and generally brought our issue into the public light… there’s hope yet, Phi… Love Dad… XoXo…

CRAZY QUESTIONS

  • You and I drink a lot of milk, so do the other 126,000,000 residents of Japan; so where are all the cows? Are we really drinking full cream milk, or powdered milk?
  • Why is Pa so clever, such a professional handyman, and so wise when he left school after year 9?

Sunday, November 18th 2012

G’day Phi. Guess what, C is on the phone to Fuji Television! They heard about our case from Takahashi San, quite a famous Japanese artist who is also a member of Japan – Left Behind Parents. They’re interested in interviewing me, but I’m a little worried it might cause a crisis your mother won’t be too appreciative about… let’s wait & see.

C also represented me at Thursday’s hearing in the Family Court… god bless her.

Today I went to the Saint Maur Xmas Bazaar. I ran to / from school, which felt good… 18km and the perfect temperature.

Matt Wyman came for dinner last night; we were hopeful his boys were going to join us, but they couldn’t come. It would have been good fun to get your train set out of the cupboard for a bit of a play! Matt is also a left behind parent, although he occasionally gets to see his two sons.

Friday was International Day at Saint Maur. We looked at change as a theme. The students brought photos of themselves as toddlers, then we discussed how we’ve changed. There were the obvious physical changes, but we also pressed the students to reflect on how their feelings and thoughts have changed. And Thursday we had an excursion to the Cup Noodle Museum, in Yokohama. Have you been there? It was my first time to enter the large non-descript building, however, every day I ride my bicycle past it to and from school. It was pretty good too. I got to make and design my own cup noodle… a gift to C.

Love Dad.

WISE THOUGHT

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller

 

Sunday, November 25th 2012

Our amazing C has been busy trying to find a counselor for us:

大谷様

橘高様

 

お世話になっております。

カウンセリングについてですが、英語可で、受け入れてくれる可能性のあるセンターを以下2件見つけました。

 

1. 東京カウンセリングサービス

http://www.tokyocounselingservice.com/index.html

 

2. 池袋カウンセリングセンター

http://www.hicc.co.jp/price/

 

東京カウンセリングサービスのダグラス氏は、外国人と日本人の間の離婚後の親権問題のご経験が豊富で、大谷先生のこともご存知のようでしたので、一番適当なのではないかと思いました。

 

引き続き、受け入れが可能なセンターを探し、何か見つかりましたらご連絡いたします。

よろしくお願いいたします。

 

‪…

‪お世話になっております。

‪受け入れてくれる可能性のあるカウンセリングセンターを追加で2件お知らせします。

‪1.池袋駅東口相談室  http://www.family-c.org/

‪  裁判に関わるということだと、担当したがらないカウンセラーが多いので、詳細を聞いた上で、スタッフ内で話し合ってから、受け入れを判断されるとのことです。

‪  英語で対応できるカウンセラーは、ネイティブではないようですが、アメリカ等に留学した経験のある方だということでした。

‪2.カウンセリングルーム セリア http://www.se-rea.jp/

‪  カウンセリング方法には、①家族カウンセリング: 父親と母親、または父親、母親、子どもがそろって受けるカウンセリング、②個別カウンセリング: 父親・母親・子どもがそれぞれ別々に受けるカウンセリングがあるそうです。

‪  ②の形式の場合、カウンセラーが一人なので、受け入れは不可能ということでした。

‪  先入観が入らないように、3人別々のカウンセラーが必要だということです。

‪  また、①の場合、日本語でのカウンセリングが主になるそうです。

‪  裁判でカウンセリングをどのように扱うかも、受け入れられるかどうかに関わってくるようですので、その点を確認をして、私の方から再度連絡をするようにとのことでした。

‪以上のような状況です。

‪埼玉県で英語での対応が可能なカウンセリングセンターは、あまりないようです。

‪2のカウンセリングルームセリアの方が、裁判所でカウンセリングをどのように扱うかについて確認したいということでした。

‪私の方から再度連絡をして欲しいということでしたので、差し支えなければ、教えていただいてもよろしいでしょうか。

‪ご連絡をお待ちしております。

‪よろしくお願いいたします。

‪Morice

 

Monday, December 10th 2012

G’day Phi, I’m on another jet plane… but more of that later. Sorry I haven’t written for a bit, but C and Dad have made some life-changing decisions… we’re leaving Japan.

On this day all those years ago, your mother & I were married. I wonder if she thought about that fact today too, and all the senseless craziness that has ensued. Why does she prevent me from seeing you? Why does she prevent Nandee & Pa from hugging you? Why does she drop your birthday presents to the ground, when those presents came all the way from Australia with love? Nandee and Pa had only wanted to give you a birthday gift… it doesn’t make sense. Why does she prevent you from seeing a qualified bilingual psychologist experienced in dealing with children like yourself? Why can’t she see that children like you, who are bicultural & bilingual need to be comfortable with their identity? Your mother deems the counseling not necessary, and yet she is prepared to take you to a local doctor, not even a paediatrician, after each and every time we enjoyed a visit together. Her actions don’t make sense… On each occasion the doctor signed a statement that stated you had become physically & mentally sick as a result of contact with me. Why do such a thing? What’s your mother’s motive? And if it’s true that you are experiencing psychological hardship, wouldn’t a sensible parent seek qualified help, a specialist with the experience and expertise in dealing with the young & innocent?

I’m actually on a flight back from Johannesburg, South Africa. C & Dad have decided to leave Japan. Being so close to you, but in real terms, because your mother denies all access to me & my family, I’m actually so far removed. The actual closeness of your proximity is torture. So, I’ve just attended a job fair for international school teachers organized by Search Associates. Most of the countries (recruiters) attending were from Africa. So guess where Dad & C are headed next summer? Cairo, Egypt. Yes, Cairo American School have employed your Dad as a grade 5 teacher beginning August 2013. Will you come and visit C & Dad, see the pyramids, ride a camel, breakfast on fresh fruit while we sale the Nile on a felucca?

I arrived in Johannesburg early Friday morning and took a taxi out to the hotel. It was a nice hotel within a compound. Apparently J’burg is the most dangerous city in the world; 120 murders a day! It certainly didn’t feel very safe. The American International School of Johannesburg had been chasing me for a position with them the past week, but I was never really keen; more so as a back up option just in case my first choice schools fell through. Initially, I was targeting Tanzania and Nigeria. After Friday’s orientation, the “danger-money” for countries such as SA, Nigeria & Angola didn’t appeal, especially as C is keen to work; she’d go stir-crazy if she had to stay at home all day long without a job. Then Tanzania wasn’t sure C could work on a spouse visa, so they slipped down my list of potential countries. Fortunately a newly registered school, CAC expressed interest in me by requesting an interview. Package wise they were only behind the danger-money offered by Nigeria & Angola.

Saturday I had interviews with Libya (Benghazi), Turkey (Ankara), Ethiopia, Nigeria & Cairo. I was so nervous Phi, I had to do some deep breathing exercises. After the first interview with Nicholas from Libya, I felt very confident. He’d checked my on-line references and was very keen. Thereafter Turkey expressed genuine interest, so as I went to each interview my personal belief grew. By the time I arrived to interview with the two person panel at Cairo I was riding high. Towards the end of the 30 minute interview they offered me a position teaching grade 5. We wanted to be on the continent of Africa, and we certainly didn’t want to live in a compound with high walls and barbed-wire fencing. Despite the recent turmoil in Egypt, Cairo seemed relatively safe compared to the other countries at the top of our list. I told them I needed time to discuss my discussion with C.

C was happy about Cairo, in fact anywhere but Japan. She feels our pain Phi, and has become a real advocate for Left Behind Parents in Japan. Just yesterday she attended an all day event in Yoyogi Park to raise awareness of the fact that Japan still hasn’t signed the Hague Convention on Child Rights. Thursday evening, the same evening I flew to South Africa, she met with an Australian gentleman whom I’m yet to meet, to enlighten him on the discrimination of the Family Court laws here. Earlier in the week she visited the Family Law Court in Yokohama to present Matt Wyman’s English / JP document to the court. She’s a miracle worker, but it’s so very stressful for her.

Her actions make me walk taller, prouder & stronger… and with thoughts of you, so do you! Love Dad… XoXo…

FAST FACTS

  • On Friday I went for a run inside the hotel compound, then I had a lovely swim. On Saturday I couldn’t face jogging within the perimeter of the hotel compound, a circuit of about 900 metres, so I went through the check-point and out into the exterior compound. I was still within the exterior compound when a dog chased me and barked… I almost jumped out of my skin until I realized the dog was about the size of a cat!
  • I feel like a zombie from the walking dead… 13 hour flight to HK, then a 2 hour wait, and another 4 hours to Narita

Saturday, December 22nd 2012

Morning Phi, you’ll never guess where we are now. I’m sitting on the couch at Brenda & Allen’s. Brenda is in the kitchen making bacon & eggs, and Allan is wandering around. It’s so great to see them; it’s been 2 & a half years since I’ve been able to chat face to face. C & Dad arrived at 9.40am yesterday. Tim & Allan were there at the airport to meet us. 90 minutes or so out to their house here in the quant village of Exeter, NSW. Dropped our bags off, and then Al had organized a tour of the local winery, a personal tour no less, and tastings of cidre, whites, reds and even some sparkling maturing. Some of the tastings came from the bottle, but others came straight from the huge vats, so many months from maturing, and others (the pinot & a cabernet sauvignon) from the French oak, American, or Hungarian barrels.

After our tastings we ventured to the general store (the only store in town) for a coffee & cake. Dad actually had a vanilla milkshake, some warm scones with handmade raspberry jam, and fresh double-whipped cream… it was so big, it would have been lovely to share Bella!

After a 60 minute nana-nap we went off to Mark’s (the wine-maker) for dinner. Oh, Phi, you would have loved it. They live on a farm with their grapes, fruit trees, vegetables, and the most gorgeous dog. Their family was so warm & welcoming, you would have just loved it. Also invited was another teacher, John and his dear wife Tomoko. They had 3 kids, Kenji 16, Hugh, 8 & Mari 6. Immediately Mari reminded me of you; she was shy at first, but then as you do, warmed to us and chatted freely, mainly with C. We had the most glorious evening basking in the glow of their warm hospitality.

This morning we just Skyped Deirdre & Kerry, chatting to Pa about a project I’d like to start with Allan, a new deck for his backyard, with you as my trusty second hand, just as you did, when we made Bonnie & Phil their second deck.

WICKED QUOTES

“A traveler without observation is a bird without wings.” – Moslih Eddin Saadi

 

 

Monday, December 24th 2012

G’day Possum! You must be excited, Christmas eve in Japan. I wonder if the Xmas tree is up, if there are presents beneath the tree, if you’ll attend church this evening, sing some carols, have a hot cocoa before excitedly going to bed. It’s been so long since we’ve seriously been able to chat, I wonder if you still believe in Santa, his reindeer and helping elves. It’s been years since the two of us have celebrated Xmas in Oz with your cousins, your Nandee & Pa, all your aunts & uncles… I hope this Xmas is not too hard on you, and you’re still clinging to all the fond memories you shared with your Australian family.

C & Dad are on a flight from Sydney to Melbourne. We had a ball in Sydney. Last night we stayed with Mike & Den. Uncle Mike has Parkinson’s disease; he’s really very sick, but he & Den are so stoic about it. They met us yesterday at 6pm as we walked off the Manley ferry from Circular Quay. We were all so happy to see each other. C & Dad had seen them in London 18 months ago. They took us for a quick spin around Manley & then we dropped into Amy’s (my cousin) before heading out to dinner. Den, Mike & Vanessa took us to a boat club, an Italian restaurant with the most glorious of settings. Beautiful boats were moored, a small white sandy beach which would have had you kicking your shoes off for a little paddle. The meal was lovely, and a wedding gift. Mike was incredible, holding his end of the conversation with wit and quirky anecdotes regarding our travels and our future plans to live & work in Cairo.

Sunday morning Allan & I took Milly for a walk… remember Milly, Riku’s good friend from Numazu, the Labrador who didn’t enjoy swimming? You and I would try and keep Riku out of the water at Senbon-hama, especially if it were winter, but unless we kept him on the chain, he’d bound ahead and despite the height of the surf, would plow straight in.

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Allen & Dad.

About midday Sunday we met Ness (my incredible cousin) in the Ikea car park. From there, she had planned the most magnificent day of sightseeing in a truly stunning city. First, she took us to Coojee Beach, and from there we walked to Bondi. After that, she drive us close to town where we walked through the Botanical Gardens and across to the spectacular Opera House. The whole time we were exploring, Ness was shifting the car, and chasing us around Sydney. We had a rather expensive coffee & Belgium choco nearby, and then it was onwards to the famous Rocks area. And from there, she escorted us to the Manley ferry, and she took the car across the bridge to meet us after we got off the ferry… what a cousin! We owe her big time!

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Ness & Dad.

And going back a bit now Phi, last Saturday we went to the local market some 10km from Brenda & Allen’s place. We had a walk thru the great country town, a coffee at the milk factory, and that night we had an excellent meal with Nicola, Tim & gang at a delightful local restaurant… another wedding present!

I wonder when we’ll both be in Australia again… Dad.

FAST FACT

It’s about 850km from Sydney to Melbourne, or an hour on the plane. And I bet you didn’t know that both Sydney & Melbourne argued over who would host Australia’s capital… Canberra was chosen as a bit of a halfway point instead. The local word for the chosen site, means meeting place

 

Monday, December 31st 2012

Time to wrap up 2012 Phi… and just quickly, because I’m a tad exhausted. Christmas day we went to Rich & Rach’s home for a lovely lunch, then back to Nandee & Pa’s for dinner with many. You were missed, and I’m sure I received twice as many hugs because of your absence. Your cousins looked happy playing with one another, and their new toys… they spent most of the time in the pool!

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Your handsome cousins, Luca & Christopher.

On Boxing Day (December 26th) we returned to R&R’s at 2pm to meet up with Hadyn and have a swim with Allie, Christo, Hope & Joshua (remember your mates from our farm holiday together? I love that photo of you sitting on Hadyn’s lap driving the car across the farm… do you remember?). At 5pm we choofed off to see Milton’s (our great Tokyo mate) mum and pass on her Xmas present. Then Nandee’s cousin, Maur came for dinner at 39 Andrew Crescent. I owe her too, because do you know whose idea it was to begin writing to you, all those years ago? Maur Ford. She even presented me with a beautifully bound writing book to start my letters to you.

On December 27th we went to the city, and wandered through the Fitzroy Gardens and then had dinner in Victoria Street, Vietnamese… Mmm!

On the 28th we went up the Dandenongs for lunch, cake & coffee with Nandee & Pa. Then later we drove into Sean’s for homemade lasagna and a viewing of Red Dog on the big screen in their living area. You would have just loved it… it’s an Australian movie I know I’ve mentioned to you about a famous Australian dog. Let’s watch it together some day… I’ll make the popcorn, you can pour the wine!

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Your beautiful cousins, Allie & Billie showing pictures of you…

Then on the 29th we went on Puffing Billy with your cousins. That’s the old scenic railway winding its way from Belgrave to… where ever it goes! You would have loved dangling your legs out the train window alongside Allie & Chris. And finally, we had a bbq back at D&K’s with R&R, and onwards to Ralph’s for a disco complete with strobe lights & smoke machine.

Time to sleep Bella… see you in 2013! Much love, Dad… XoXo…

A SPOT OF WISDOM

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Your Xmas gift… Hope you like the silver horseshoe necklace… XoXo.

“To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.” – Freya Stark

2012 July – September

Sunday, July 1st 2012

Some days a cold and hostile part of me is furious with your mother. I can’t help but think how differently our lives would have been if I had taken you back to Australia when I had custody of you. Why did I stay in Japan with no network of support? I would have been free of all this misery and frustration, but would you have ever forgiven me for taking you away from your mother? Perhaps then I would have slept like I used to. I would have woken like I used to, safe in the knowledge that you were about to burst into my room like the bundle of joy you are. I would have never have shared in your mother’s pain if I had taken you and fled. I could have blocked out your mother, and been none the wiser. This chapter that is mine, would have been hers. I would never have known this heavy brick in my stomach. Misery and melancholy and terror and depression would just be words I knew. But it’s futile to think like that.

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Happy times with your Pa & Nandee in Numz…

I expect that you have been poisoned by the lie, and more lies. Planted and fertilized by those who love you… No, it doesn’t make sense, none at all. And yet there are others who love you equally, who wish to invite you in, to give you the truth, to scratch the truth in the air for all to see and behold. Sometimes I feel your mother is trapped in her own gutter because she knows, she knows the truth. At night she must see the sharks in the dark corners of her dreams nipping away at her untruths. If I’ve learned anything from the Family Court of Japan, it’s that for some, it’s easier to condemn another, than it is to have the strength to right one’s own wrongs. But for every act of treachery, there are 100 others with selfless integrity who will fight for what’s right. Nobody is truly virtuous, but it’s clear to me that sorry is a good word used by good people, of goodwill, kindness & empathy. Good people can tell the difference, and they feel it deep in their gut when they know they’ve crossed the line. It’s hard and it’s humbling and it’s brave to say sorry.

I’m sorry because I feel the pulse of your pain. I’m sorry our story together will never truly be set right. In many ways it’s already too late to rekindle that perfect bond that we shared. I hope for your mother’s soul she whispers sorry to you each night… hopefully she doesn’t think it’s just the refuge of the weak, a hollow box.

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Sports at Katoh

I curse myself for my lack of courage in all this, knowing I’m just lucky to have the strength of C and my family alongside me. The taste of your absence sometimes invites self-pity, sometimes anger. All I know is the beginning, but the rest of the story is smudged or fading, whole chapters torn out. All those precious moments, and weeks, and now years slipping by us. My stomach has a knot not knowing what happens, so helpless and hopeless. Is there real light at the end, or does the dark tunnel continue? I think the knot of not knowing is the worst.

Sometimes I worry about your mother. Sometimes she looks so haggard and full of rage. But why? She tells the court some of our story, but she knows deep down that it is not all the story. Sometimes because of events we can’t control, we don’t know the whole story. But your mother knows the truth. The truth is held tightly in her fist, and somewhere in her chest. There is a lot more to know. There’s always more to know. Always. The questions you have that keep you awake at night have answers. You’re not alone Phi. Though you’re now 9 years old as I write this, 10 in just two months time, it might be 2019 when you read this letter. You’ll be 17, and no matter what you have heard about me, I want you to know I love you, I miss you, and not a day goes by when I don’t think of you.

You know when your mother left our home when you were just 17 months old, she returned to Noribaba & Yutajiji’s. Initially, they were angered by her actions, but it wasn’t long until she was cosseted by her family. She was back to being the spoiled oldest daughter. They bought her a car. They gave her a house all to herself. She didn’t work, she never has, so your overly generous grandparents gave her enough money to buy pretty trinkets for herself, new cars, overseas trips, her house and enough for your mother to spoil you with sweets. Your Dad also gave her half of everything I had, $124,000… I thought it was only fair… at the time.

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Breakfast with Dad

Maybe she felt liberated at being set free. She no longer had to feel ashamed… nor did she have to care for you. But from that point on, she lost all her integrity, as she began to spin her web of lies. She knows the sad truth. It’s buried deep, but it’s there, unmistakably so. She knows everything. One day it will all come to light… let’s hope she has your support when that day comes. She’ll need you more than ever.

You my dear, are such a serious soul. You’re so mature and caring, sometimes I wonder if you don’t already know a big part of the truth. Do you know your mother once said to me, that sometimes she felt as if the mother-daughter roles were reversed. I.e., you took the nurturing role of the mother, your mother the role of the child. It was a low point in your mother’s life; she had just crashed her motorbike and had called me in tears. I remember you on the carpet in our home at Numazu looking up at me as I spoke with your mother on the phone. It was almost as if you sensed something was amiss. Even as a young child, you were looking out for your mother. In the future, I hope you will still graciously care for her. Dad… XoXo…

CRAZY QUESTIONS

  • How did the earwig get its name?

 

Sunday, July 8th 2012

Ophelia Hirakawa-Morice, how are you today? Dad’s been on a march through the streets of Tokyo… I wonder if one day soon you’ll join me to help this country grow, and to bring families together.

Phi, do you know how frustrating it is living so close to you, but not being able to see you? I don’t understand why the Family Court cannot understand that this is my adopted country… I love this country and what it has given me, but at the same time, there are days when I feel like cursing this country… as much as I adore it. Too many questions left unanswered… When will I find the answers to losing my only child? And if I stay in this wonderful country, are there ever going to be answers or real change if Japan signs the Hague Convention on Child Rights?

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Karaoke with Dad

Today C & I marched through the streets of Ginza in an organized protest. It was hot, hot, hot, but I thought it best to iron a shirt for the occasion. Milton, god bless him joined us, and Dad was even interviewed by a TV station from Fukuoka.

Joining The Hague Convention should be a positive step towards ending the scourge of child abduction to Japan. But if the treaty is not honored, then Japan will continue to be known as a “black hole” for child abduction for years to come.

Here’s an article about our march:

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120709a5.html#.T_qXBvWC7EI

Thanx for reading this far Phi… give me a sign… you can mail me at moriceg@hotmail.com… LOVE Dad… XoXo.

CRAZY QUESTIONS

  • Why are sumo wrestlers so fat?
  • If I ate 1kg of chocolate a day, how fat would I get?

 

Sunday, July 15th 2012

G’day, g’day, good day! How’s trix my little soldier?

Summer School is all finished for me. That was three weeks, and instead of starting at 8am, we started at 8:45am, and we even finished early at 3pm. I’ve been thinking a lot about a student in my class who wrote such a powerful piece of writing. She’s just like you, and my heart reaches out to her, especially after she shared this piece of writing with me:

I remember me as a little girl… I was born February 19th 2002 at 12.31am in Aliston General Hospital, Canada. When I was 4 or 5 I hated going to bed because I would always hear my Mum and Dad fight. I was always afraid my Mum would throw away her wedding ring to the floor. One day one of my worst nightmares happened. My Dad told me my Dad and Mum were divorcing. One week later my Dad moved away. I tried not to cry but halfway out on the road my Dad stopped his car and came running back to me and gave me a hug. I hated hearing him cry next to me. Behind me my Mother was crying. I couldn’t stop crying. That night I got up from my bed and dialed my Dad to hear his voice.By Julia.

Isn’t she amazing? I so respect her openness, honesty & love. I also respect her parents a great deal. Over the past 12 months Julia’s parents, though divorced have both attended our parent-teacher interviews and numerous other events. They came to the Sports’ Festival and cheered Julia on, and I spied them having a coffee at the Food Fair. Each time they sit side by side, and engage their daughter in conversation. It makes me teary just watching them, and at one point during the year, I told Julia’s parents as such. It can’t be easy, but they know that communication, respect and honesty are the keys to their daughter’s happiness. They also know as responsible parents, despite the fact that their relationship didn’t work, they owe it to their daughter to communicate on her behalf. They know there is no denying the truth…

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Play date with Sakura

Love you now and forever… XoXo… Dad… XoXo… Oh, by the way, tonight I’m off on a bus to Tohoku!

WICKED QUOTES

“Tell the truth, or someone will tell it for you.”

― Stephanie KleinStraight Up and Dirty: A Memoir

 

Sunday, July 22nd 2012

Howdy Phi. You’ll never guess where Dad has just returned from, five nights in Tohoku! Well 7 actually, if you include the two nights I spent on buses. I took the night bus from Ikebukuro last Sunday (15th) evening, and jumped off the bus again this morning. I went to a place north of Sendai called Rikuzentakada, in Iwate. It was near a smaller village that Owada San had grown up in. Owada San is the gentleman I met when I volunteered for the clean-up in northern Chiba for four days last year in late March. We met in an area stricken by the tsunami just south of Choshi.

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Dad spent two days building this…

Anyway, I climbed down from the night bus at 6am last Monday morning and Owada San was there waiting. He took me straight out to a small abandoned primary school in the mountains about 30 minutes out of Rikuzentakada. The primary school had been turned into a shelter for the volunteers. Some nights there might have been 20 of us, and some nights half that number. We slept on the old assembly floorboards, and ate our meals outside beneath the verandah.

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This is the crew Dad worked with. Owada San is on my right.

After we dropped off my bags, Owada San introduced me to his friends, many of whom are semi-retired and have been working as volunteers in their home village for months. By 8am we were down assembled at the Volunteer Center. This would become my routine for the next 5 mornings. The Volunteer Center (VC) had shovels, wheelbarrows, saws, etc., but no power tools or any heavy machinery. One morning 3 buses of HS students arrived to help out. It was great to see their enthusiasm. At the VC, we’d check in and receive our designated area to clean-up, or help the local population get back on their feet.

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The ladies we built the shelter for…

Most days Owada San and our team (usually the same 5, but some days a sixth chap joined us) worked on building a shelter for a group of farmers. It was very rewarding work, and pleasantly cool compared to the heat of the Kanto area. One day we ran out of wood, so me and a young fella from Hiroshima went into the mountains and cut down these huge bamboo trees. The farmer whose land it was, drove us there and showed us the bamboo he no longer needed. We sliced the bamboo down the middle, and with a little bit of jiggling, this became the roof. It was a great humbling experience, but I also learned a trick or two. One day we ran out of nails and screws, so one of the carpenters showed us how to make bamboo nails!

Another day we helped the local fisherman find missing buoys. We then sorted them into piles… there must have been thousands of them. Work finished at 3pm, and sometimes Ogura San would take me around and show me the outrageous damage Mother Nature had meted out. Rikuzentakada, Iwate had basically been wiped off the map. The tsunami, due to the nature of the peninsula and the encasing surrounding mountains had actually increased in height as it invaded land. It hit the tsunami walls at 13m, but grew… The tsunami followed the valley floor 4km inland. Out of a population of 26,000 people, 10,000 people are still missing.

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Broke my heart…

Owada San took me to the lone pine tree that still stands as a symbol of hope. Some day Phi, I’ll show you the pictures… perhaps we could pay them a visit. I would love to introduce my daughter to Owada San.

The evenings were special. When I arrived back at the shelter, I’d go for a run, following the river high into the mountains. Then we’d sit around and have a beer and pitch in to help with dinner. One of the volunteers had a skin condition and was quite overweight, so he instead made us all dinner every night. One evening upon our return, he had caught a bucket full of fresh fish from the river. He rubbed them down with salt, and we bbqed them as is… I even ate the head.

It was a very special experience Phi… one, I’d like to share with you some day. Go with care Angel… XoXo.

WICKED QUOTE

“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” – Miriam Beard

 

Thursday August 2nd 2012

G’day Phi, how’s trix? Dad’s been a busy camper this summer thus far… last Saturday we left home at 9am, we went to the library (to make the most of the A/C) to study up on the Daily 5, a new reading/writing structure we’re bringing in at school. Then we met for a lovely Italian lunch by the canal and onwards to look at a house near where Bon & Phil lived (quite close to Jiyugaoka)… best yet out of perhaps 20 places we’ve looked at… been rather excited about it as we were going to take another squiz this Saturday, but heard today it had already sold… already… surely the real estate agent is pulling our leg.

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With May & Cate

So we’ve just come back from the Suzuka 8 Hour Moto Grand Prix, a 7 hour trip in the bus… worse than flying, but cheap, and we’ll be saving the extra cash for the house we intend to buy! We received our free Paddock Pass to the Grand Prix, the equivalent of a 30,000 yen pass!!! How do I know? It’s written on the ticket! It’s all from from Mr. BMW (BMW San, C used to work with him), and better still, we were invited into pit lane for the whole day, by one of the 3 BMW teams… thrilling! All the action was Sunday, July 29th … Loved it, having a good chat with all involved, venturing out on the main straight just before the race started, watching the riders strip off after their hour riding and slide straight into a pool of cold water to cool off. Really they did that! It was so hot, and they were geared up in their heavy & hot riding protective wear, so as soon as they’d finished a stint on the bike, they would slip into the toddlers’ pool! The race finishes at night and we were out there amongst it all, getting thrown in the pool by some of C’s former colleagues and his troopers, and then we got invited to the VIP BMW party, where C had to translate for the 3 French BMW team riders, only one of them, Damien, turns out to be an Aussie, and a bloody legend! Had a great chat with him and Kurt (German mechanic), both of whom had just had a chat with Mighty Mick Doohan (former world champion form Oz) who was also in attendance.

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Dad & Kurt

The Monday after the Grand Prix we headed to 2 grand temples in Mie Prefecture, hot but memorable. For dinner before our grueling bus trip back to Yokohama we dined at a steak restaurant, similar in kind to Kobe beef… it was sublime, and surprisingly affordable.

Hope all is well in your sunny part of the world.

Ged & C.

WICKED QOUTES

“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.” – John Lennon

 

Monday, August 6th 2012

G’day, G’day Super Star! Well, what a day. Dad got to play with kids today, really play! Your lego was spread everywhere in the lounge, your train tracks meandered here, there and everywhere over the orange carpet in the tatami room, and the Syllvanian Family members were out & about too. Today Dad & C’s friend Airi brought her kids around. Asuka is a cheeky little second grader with a grand smile, while TK is a mature and serious fourth grader who is always looking out for his mum. Airi is a member of the Left Behind Parents – Japan group that C & I are members of. She’s from the Philippines, and despite the fact that her kids want to live with her, and her Japanese ex-husband has had a history of violence against her, the Family Court of Japan awarded him ex custody.

It was a hot, hot day, and with the extra bodies in Myorenji, C relented and let us have the air conditioning on. We’d bought watermelon and cake, and when the kids arrived, guess what they brought? Yep, watermelon. So all afternoon we munched away on sweet big pieces of watermelon… Mmm.

I had a lot of fun building castles, and train tracks running through tunnels, hoisting Asuka up on my shoulders… memories of you my little monkey climbing all over me flooded back. Wish you could have joined us… Love Dad… XoXo…

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You, Snowman & Cate

FAST FACTS

  • As Aunty Rachel would say, Dad’s an extrovert, Uncle Richie’s an introvert, and Uncle Sean’s just plain alternative
  • Dad’s been waking at 5.45am to do 60 minutes of x-training with Craig (former colleague from Saint Maur who is now teaching at Sacred Heart IS), 3 – 4 mornings each week; a few push-ups, a few sit-ups, and a few chin-ups included with our 30 minute jog

 

Thursday, August 16th 2012

Hey Bella, we’ve just arrived back from Kyushu. Day 01 we flew into Kagoshima Airport and picked up a rental car. From there we drove up into the mountains to a place called Kirishima Yama; literally it translates to island of mist. It’s a beautiful region with some great hikes, one of which we did into a lake, and yes, it was surrounded by mist! Our hotel was great, and we even had guest privileges to our own private onsen for an hour.

The next day we drove to C’s ancestors’ grave sites… ohaka maeri. It rained on and off most of the day, which didn’t make finding the graves too easy, but we managed to find them eventually. Then we headed back into the city of Kagoshima. We had a look around the castle, booked our boat out to Yakushima Island, dropped off the rental car, and then went to a special Kagoshima restaurant for dinner.

On our third day in Kyushu we boarded the boat for Yakushima. It was about a 3.5 hour trip and a beautiful sunny day. When we arrived, we picked up another rental car and headed for the campground. Again it took us a while to find the site, as it was poorly sign posted. We were the only ones staying at the campground, which was run by an eccentric German chap. He told us of a great snorkeling spot, “as long as you don’t tell the Japanese.” It was true, it was great, and Dad thinks he spied a groper, a huge fish, but C isn’t so sure. We also found a natural hot spring nestled into the rocks by the ocean. We ended up there two evenings in a row for our daily bath. The following morning we took the car up into the mountains and did some hiking.

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C setting the pace!

The next morning we were up painfully early to drive up into the mountains to the bus pick-up area for the legendary Jomon Sugi hike. The buses departed at 6am, and took us further up the mountain. The hike itself is estimated to take 9-12 hours, but we did it in less than 8 hours with C storming like a marathon runner. The trees are hundreds of years old, with the most famous scientifically dated at around 2500 years old!

After three nights camping, it was time to drop the rental car off at the port, and take the boat back to Kagoshima. We dropped our bags off and then jumped on a ferry for Sakurajima. Once there we boarded a bus that took us to all the interesting sites. It was a pretty good tourist bus, as you could jump on and off pretty much whenever you liked. We had one more night in Kagoshima, and a yummy meal at a local Izakaya.

Finally it was back to the big smoke, and Haneda, Tokyo. Perhaps you can join us next time… what do you think? Dad… XoXo…

WICKED WISDOM

“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” – Marin Buber

Sunday, August 19th 2012

Good evening Bella, how’s the homework going tonight? Hope it’s all finished and you’re relaxed and happy about school tomorrow.

Dad just finished reading Gilbert Tuhabonye’s This Voice in My Heart. It’s the inspirational tale of a survivor of one of the most devastating genocides in recent memory. He’s a great distant runner, but was for the first part of his life caught up in the centuries-old battle between the Tutsis and Hutus near Rwanda.

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Phi, Grace & Cate

On Thursday C & Dad had dinner with Jean Phillip and his partner, C’s friend from Paris in Omotesando. We went to an interesting izakaya, and JP chain-smoked all night… it was awful, but he was plenty interesting. He’s an open & out anarchist, so the conversation was never dull.

Then yesterday we met Matt Wymann and his parents, Airi, Bruce and Takeuchi San. Airi had Asuka & TK with her. So it was nice to catch up and have a laugh with the kids… I bought them a special kids’ drink! We all went to a cool seafood type izakaya where we had to sit on these funny little stools, or beer crates. See you soon Bella… Dad.

DO YOU REMEMBER…

… sipping your baby-cinno (kids’ cappuccino) each time we went to a café in Australia? They’d always come with a little chocolate or marshmallow on the side…

 

Sunday, August 26th 2012

How’s my favourite foal? Still skipping around like a horse? I hope so! I pray you never lose your mighty imagination, and your initiative for independent play. It sets you apart Bella, you’re truly a gem, and one of a kind!

Guess what C and Dad did today… go on guess!? We put an offer on a house. Where? I hear you ask. Tokyo… yeah, wow! I know. It’s a decent walk from the station, 15-17 minutes in fact (we tested it), but it’s the Camberwell of Tokyo with beautiful oaks and cherry blossoms lining the streets. It’s also about a 20 minute walk to Tama Station, and it’s only about 300m from the Tama River. It’s also the worst house in a good street, something I heard my canny Uncle Leo (Fusinato) espouse when I was a kid. Nothing has happened yet, so let’s just wait and see.

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One of the Xmas trees we found together!

Late in the afternoon we met C, C’s child psychologist friend. She’s terrific! I’m trying to get professional help for you. C is able to introduce us to a child psychologist in Yoyogi who comes with an excellent reputation. I think it would be good for you to talk to an independent expert, somebody who is compassionate, and a good listener, but also somebody with experience & expertise with bicultural children like you.

I left C with C, and I went home to my book, a great gift from Uncle Sean. I’m reading Craig Silvey’s Jasper Jones, a tale of a couple of lads in rural Australia in 1965. In the simmering summer of outback Australia, Charlie learns to discern the truth from myth, and with that, the white lies that creep like a curse. It’s a good read… I can hardly put it down… speaking of which, time for another chapter!

Love Dad.

TRAVEL WITH ME SOMEDAY…

“Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going.” – Paul Theroux He’s a favorite travel writer of mine. He’s also written Riding the Iron Rooster and Mosquito Coast

Saturday, September 1st 2012

Morning Princess! How’s things this morning? First day of Spring… is it truly? It feels so hot and muggy still. It’s 8.30am and there are big dark heavy clouds out around Mount Fuji. We need some rain, it’s been so long since we’ve had any decent rain, any rain at all in fact. I’ve been watering our pot plants at least twice a week for the past month, and they still look thirsty.

Guess what happened at x-country training yesterday? I took the whole squad (23 High School boys and 8 HS girls) on a long run. In fact, I showed them over the pre-race Race Course I have planned for them next Wednesday. The boys’ course is about a kilometer longer than their official 5km race course at Tama Hills, while the girls’ course also measures a little longer than their official 3.2km course.

Anyway, after running over the course ensuring my top runners continually doubled back along the course, to encourage the stragglers, they thought they were done. But Coach Morice insisted on getting all important kilometers into their legs. So as a group, I gave them the option of running an extra lap, or two, or three laps around another loop course measuring just over a kilometer. Most students opted for one extra lap then struggled back up the hill, back to school and their icy water bottles. A few battlers opted for 2 laps, and my top 7 boy soldiers ran a third lap along with Mr. Yannick Crespy and myself. I was exhausted, and I had to ride my bicycle home too… a trip of just over 9km. Yannick is new to our school, a breath of fresh air and a keen runner. He’s a gem. He replaces Nathalie Chotard, our wonderful friend who has moved onto Istanbul, Turkey.

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Bambi & Ophelia

So, round and round we go, our group of 9 threatening to splinter, one or two lads keen to run ahead, another couple fading. We managed to keep them together to the bottom of the hill that winds back to school over about the final 800 metres. At the foot of the hill, I told them to give their all and go hard to the top. One rookie raced to the front, and the wise and fearful let him slip away, and then we started to bite into the hill. Your OLD man ran into third place willing his boys to come with him, daring them to pull around him, but as we hit the steepest part of the hill, up besides Motomachi-Chukagai Station I felt strong and surged. Before I knew it I had finished second. Exhilarated I doubled back and gave my team encouragement. And today, I feel great. A little tight in the Achilles perhaps, but buoyed and keen to push each of my runners to their personal best.

Tonight it’s Sonia’s birthday. She’s invited a small group to a jazz bar in Kannai. Should be fun. Would you like to join us… I’m sure I could find you a stool and a special drink! Love Dad… XoXo…

FAST FACTS

  • Give your plants a decent water only once or twice a week. If you give them a little water every day, they quickly become dependent on you and soon shrivel and give up if you miss watering them for any length of time
  • It’s Fathers’ Day tomorrow in Australia… happy Fathers’ Day Dad… Pa to you, and Bluey to his mates (Kerry Morice)

 

Friday, September 7th 2012

Phi today it’s Uncle Richie’s birthday. It would be nice to sit alongside him tonight and watch the footy… GO BLUES!

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You & your favorite t-shirt. Grace in the background.

But actually, I’ve got other things on my mind… love to chat, but tonight I’m a bit of a mess… Love you, and need a hug… XoXo…

SOME WISDOM FOR US BOTH…

“Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by.” – Robert Frost

 

Wednesday, September 12th 2012

Hello Phi. Here follows some letters I’ve written to you and the family court. I lost track of the dates, as I edited and revised, but they were all written in September. Here’s another letter I just wrote to you and sent in the mail… I wonder if it was ever in your precious hands…

 

G’day Phi,

            How’s my favourite princess? Today I’ve come to see how you are doing in grade 4. I wonder if you will put your hand up to answer a question. I wonder if you’ll get a big surprise at seeing me in your classroom. I wonder if I’ll get a chance to have a chat with you today.

            We used to have great chats together, but now nobody gives us that chance to truly talk. It must be very confusing for you, and you must have many things you want to talk to me about. I want to listen to you, and hear what’s in your heart.

            I just want you to know I miss you, and I love you. Every day I think about you, and wish we could laugh, sing and play together again.

            Love Dad.

            080 3177 5144            ophelia.gerard.m@softbank.ne.jp

 

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Happy camper on her way to Shimoda!

Sometimes when I’m in the family court I see images of you. I begin to shake, softly. I can hear my breathing, and not for the first time, I’m lost for words. But maybe the words are not necessary, because the panel had decided our fate as soon as they saw I was a foreign father. I seem destined never to have the right words in me. Maybe I don’t need to. Perhaps it’s better to stay calm and quiet, and just wait, and wait, and wait.

Here’s part of another document we presented to the family court:

 

Courtesy of Robert Munro’s (a child psychologist and mediator with the Family Court of Australia) report (attached) on the specifics of our case, one learns a great deal about PAS (Parent Alienation Syndrome). Clearly this is a model case of PAS, where one parent denies access with false accusations.

As a single parent and the main carer of Ophelia until the age of 6, I was both a mother and a father to our daughter. My experience as a teacher and head teacher have given me the patience and confidence to nurture children’s growth. I have always been fair but firm with my daughter, positively reinforcing good moral behavior. I am very proud of Ophelia, her manners and gentleness, and the way she offers to help with a smile. The 75+ letters of support confirm that I would never, have never, lost my temper with Ophelia.

The accusation that I shouted at Ms. I…a over the telephone is totally false. Being the now non-custodial parent, under Japanese Family Law, my visitation rights rest precariously on the goodwill of the parent “in possession” of the child. I would never jeopardize an opportunity to see my Ophelia. Therefore on the extremely rare occasions my phone calls were answered, though frustrated by Ms. I…a’s negativity, I was always civil and polite. My fiancée will attest to this.

Finally, apparently Ophelia has never said bad things about me in the presence of her mother, however peculiarly she has become very negative about Australia in the interim. Prior to living with her mother, Ophelia loved her many trips to Australia, but when she briefly met my parents in March 2009, at the innocent age of 6, she curiously told my mother (Ophelia’s paternal grandmother) she couldn’t go to Australia, but perhaps they could meet in Hawaii.

 

  1. During the time I had custody, every third week Ophelia went to stay with her mother. Ophelia & I returned from our holidays at Christmas in Australia so that she could be with her mother’s family over the New Year Period, a special time of year for Japanese families.

 

  1. In June 2012 I met with a Japanese child psychologist to gain a greater understanding of what may be tormenting Ophelia. She stated that what Ophelia’s mother says and thinks, may now in turn, be equal to what Ophelia herself thinks. She added, that Ophelia needs time to think and adjust, and to feel safe in knowing it is okay to not always agree with her mother.

 

  1. If I believed Ophelia was genuinely happy in her heart, and not troubled in her beautiful mind, I would walk away and not trouble this court. Furthermore, this custody situation would never arise in the reverse, because I would never deprive Ophelia of a mother, her extended family and friends. My daughter used to be fond of saying: “My Daddy is my prince, and I will get married with him.” As such, it is fundamental to this case that the judiciary understands the history of this case.

 

  1. The truth is, I feel miserable on behalf of my daughter for what we, her parents are collectively putting her through. Ophelia is a young, yet mature child who loves us both. She is a deep and caring thinker, who is keenly aware of the animosity between her parents. Regretfully it is partly because of my pitiful weakness. I have not found it in my heart to forgive my ex-wife’s … Ms. I…a reached out and wrote two letters of apology (attached) after she left our family home on March 7th 2004, but at the time, it seemed impossible for me to accept her actions. She also kindly wrote a letter to my parents trying to explain her behavior (attached). My own mother suggested we take counseling and that I learn to forgive her. I couldn’t change my mind about divorce, but I realised forgiveness is fundamental if I was to move forward in life. So as the days of agony and torment turned into weeks, then months, I tried to create a new relationship with my ex-wife.

 

  1. Shortly after my ex-wife’s confessions, we mutually agreed that I would be the primary carer of Ophelia. I created a “parenting plan/custody agreement” (attached) that put Ophelia’s best interests at the heart of the document; namely access and love from both her Australian & Japanese families. When I had custody, we cooperated as responsible parents. I was fortunate in that I…a and her own parents trusted and respected me as a more than competent father, for under no legal pressure, each of them signed their consent allowing me custody of Ophelia when she was just 17 months of age. During this time, I occasionally contemplated going back to Australia with my daughter, for it was difficult with no family support network of my own. I felt however, it was more important for Ophelia’s identity that she saw Ms. I…a and her Japanese grandparents. As such I committed myself to Japan because I did not want Ophelia’s Japanese heritage to be denied. At the same time I felt a bilingual, multicultural education would best serve the interests of my daughter; it was a belief that Ms. I…a & I shared when I had custody.

 

  1. In addition to the official Japanese documentation regarding custody, an English/Japanese custody agreement was entered into. Article 5 of that agreement states: “Gerard & A agree not to take any legal action against each other over the custody of Ophelia…”

 

  1. I took Ophelia to/from kindergarten by bicycle, I filled in the daily communication book with her teachers, I prepared her breakfast, her bento and her dinner. It was I who bathed her every night, toilet trained her, sang with her, read stories with her every night… mitsugo no tamashi 100 made (the spirit of a child of 3, lives until 100).

 

  1. Ophelia was on my health insurance card, and it was I who took her to the doctor, the dentist, and fulfilled all her regular health checks and infant inoculations. I trusted Ms. I…a and welcomed her to all of Ophelia’s kindergarten events. She was invited into our home, and we even went camping together, and I helped her with things such as a fence for her dog… when I had custody. Conversation was almost daily, and I encouraged Ophelia to speak with her mother on the telephone.

 

  1. From May, 2004 to March 2006 Ophelia attended Ooka Public Kindergarten in Numazu. Then from April 2006 to July