LETTERS TO OPHELIA
These letters are for you Phi, and anyone who loves you…
I know it’s not easy for you being pulled in so many directions
By so many responsibilities in your life
But you can do it
Just keep holding tightly to your dream
Until it is no longer a dream but a beautiful reality
There’s a wonderful tomorrow just waiting for you
I just wanted you to know I believe in you
And I wish you a future that’s as bright as can be
And as full of hopes as your dreams (M. E. Miro)
Thursday, January 7th 2010
Howdy Cowdy! I wonder how old you are as you’re reading this. I’m 41 years OLD, but for the most part still a lean, mean fighting machine… mostly lean! I don’t feel too bad, and don’t have too many wonky parts… besides it’s a New Year, and one should always see the glass as half full and be optimistic. As Uncle Hayd (Hadyn Hewitt) says, “Each morning, we have two choices, we can choose to be happy, or not…”
So, I’m mostly a happy camper, and why shouldn’t I be… I just dropped you off in Tokorozawa… missing you already! Picked you up at 11am this morning in sunny Tokorozawa and we headed straight for Ikebukuro where you guided your OLD man to your favourite steak & hamburger restaurant in the Metropolitan Building. You ate the steak and hamburger meal with baked potato and bread… only you ate nothing but MEAT, and a little pun (bread) towards the end of the meal… guess you’re no vegetarian! Oddly enough, as you were devouring your hamburg, I couldn’t help but think, you were a vegetarian for about a week during kindergarten at Katoh. My guess is that one of the teachers (God bless ‘em) spoke about abattoirs and the slaughter of innocent animals for our dinner tables… viola! You became a vegetarian over night. I was quite impressed actually, because I knew you enjoyed the taste of karage (fried chicken), Japanese curry with chicken, crispy bacon, ham sandwiches & of course the steak from the Steak House near Katoh Gakuen… so I respected your decision and loaded you up with tofu (protein) for your meat-less week… but bacon tastes great, and your vegetarian kick fell away.
After your hearty meat-lovers lunch we wandered towards the Sunshine City building stopping for a look at the Kitty Chan store. Inside Sunshine City Dad had researched an aquarium, which we discovered on the roof. It was pretty cool (and freezing cold outside), albeit on a smaller scale than some of the other fishy homes we’ve visited. There was a show with 2 seals, where you put your hand up to give the seals a math test. It was great to see your confidence flourishing! You nominated addition and gave them a problem: 1 + 1 = … and what do you know, Luke the seal got it right!
We wandered around, until it was time for the seal show again, but after sitting outside in the freezing wind, I managed to convince you that a hot chocolate might be a better alternative. So we raced off to Starbucks and slurped our hot drinks as we meandered back to Ikebukuro Station; actually most of your cocoa ended up over your jumper!
Before we knew it, our day together was over. You snuggled into me on the train, but I still miss you Princess… more than ever. Wish I could read you a story tonight and make you a steak! Sorry, only teasing.
Love & licks, your one and only Dad. Have I told you recently how much I love you? XoXo…
- It’s our choices Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities (J.K. Rowling)
Sunday, January 24th
Morning Phi! Sorry I haven’t written for a while. No excuses, I need to connect with you, and can’t let your Mother’s reluctance for us to meet get in the way of my thoughts and love for you.
It’s 7.33am and I’ve just missed my train for Jiyugaoka to change trains. Oh well, it will give me more time to write to you. Both yesterday and today I’m attending a conference on reading comprehension at Seisen International Girls’ School. Yesterday was alright, but nothing too inspiring, so I’m not really concerned about rocking up a little late. Should be there in time anyway.
January 7th seems such a long time ago, especially with everyone asking about you. Even people you’ve never met from St. Maur ask how you are, and when we’ll next meet. I can’t help myself… there are photos of you beside my desk, so when my colleagues, students and parents ask about the charming princess in the pic’s, I proudly tell them who you are and what you mean to me.
I’m hoping to treat you to a little something next weekend and take you to see Cats, but I haven’t been able to book tickets as your Mother keeps saying… “Mo chotto matte kureru…” Fatty Patty (don’t you ever tell her that is your nickname for her!) wants to come up and see you, and David Barrett (my teaching partner), Yoko & Luca will join us for lunch.
Yesterday after the conference I dropped into Bonnie & Phil’s. They’re at Jiyugaoka; do you remember helping to make their deck? It was the second deck we had built for them, the first in Numazu. Mae & Kate were asking after you, and Bonnie is keen for us all to visit the zoo in Sakuragicho soon… now that would be fun! You can play the big sister role you perform so well.
Friday I covered for the high school art teacher at school for one class. I supervised his year 12 class… WOW! So impressive, and such a diversity of art mediums from sculpture, sketching, painting, tapestry, photography… I would love you to see the art they’re creating, the amazing facilities and the incredible displays. Oh Phi, I so wish you were at an international school. Doesn’t have to be St. Maur, any one of many in Tokyo would be a good fit for you. I’ll move for you… in a second.
You would be the perfect global ambassador, where academic achievement is important, but so too is being a cooperative and responsible learner, a thinker and a creator. I know in my heart, and I think your Mum does too, that you’d be more comfortable surrounded by children with identities similar to you. Learning is not just about equations, tests and entrance exams as it is in Japanese schools, it’s about applying learning skills, attitudes and knowledge to the real world, socializing and making a difference. It’s about making connections, action plans, inquiring and sharing your learning. Teachers & schools shouldn’t be just focused on what we call the Three Rs, reading, writing and arithmetic. Teachers should be encouraging students to think of the big ideas, enduring knowledge, and the relevance of their learning & teaching to 2010.
Unfortunately for you, Japanese schools are not evolving with the times, have not evolved; certainly not in the time I’ve lived in this wonderful country. Don’t get me wrong, there are parts of the Monbusho (Japanese Education Department’s Curriculum) Curriculum that I respect, partly because I think Australia, UK, USA, and the West in general, dumb education down, particularly Math. But the manner in which all classrooms look & feel the same, and all schools look & feel the same depresses me. It’s a tired system clinging to what it knows, unwilling or unable to change. Students still sit in rows and the teacher lectures from the raised platform at the front of the class… all chalk and talk. How are you encouraged to develop an opinion, stretch your thinking when the only interaction is teacher – student, student – teacher? Where’s the student – student interaction in the learning space?
Peculiarly, it’s a thinking that A used to agree with me on. She was very anti Japanese education and the juku (cram school system), and yet now, she seems to advocate its importance… certainly over a visit to Dad…
How can she be so out of touch with her former self? She was such a trail blazer, and I want to believe she wants the best for you educationally, but it’s 2010… 2010 and there is no technology in your classroom. No computers throughout the school for student-use, no Smartboards, i-pads, student interactive wikis/blogs to share learning… indeed nothing at all technology-wise in the primary part of your school.
At St. Maur we have 3 IT rooms, not to mention Smartboards in every classroom, which are interactive whiteboards. They’re amazing, with students engaging the board just as they would a mouse. We’re also introducing a bank of 100 i-pads for the school, and my kids have their own interactive class wiki… it’s a hoot, providing a real audience for their writing and learning; not to mention Mathletics, an online Maths playground. It’s beaut because the kids can compete mathematically at different levels with kids their own age from all over the world. Teachers can also set tasks and bring up student learning on the Smartboard.
This year you’ll start grade 2. I wonder what clubs, if any you’ll be able to choose. I’m rather fearful, that Japanese schools, though once lauded for educational brilliance, may have stagnated. I feel they’ve become a bit stale, still operating on principles of education from yesteryear; modern thinking encourages students to try new challenges and interests, but I’m not sure you’re challenged because everybody seems to do the same thing in the Japanese classrooms I’ve seen.
It’s not anything new, but at St. Maur you can choose a different club every season, and if you like, you can belong to more than one club at any one time. In fact, you can be at a different club each day of the week in the primary school. In grade 2 you could choose from art, sports (with Mr. Morice), band, basketball (Mr. M), soccer, choir, French, cross-stitch, ekiden (Mr. M), Japanese, lego mindstorms, computer yearbook, fashion club, computers, Irish dance, Mathletics, chess, scrabble, science is fun, and a few others I’ve forgotten to mention.
Quite the rave, sorry about that. I so wish your Mother and I could discuss your education. I strongly believe there are many more opportunities for you at an international school, besides the fact, your bilingualism and identity would be better nurtured.
I love you, I miss you, and hope you’re truly fitting in at school… XoXo…
- If you could be an animal for one day, what kind of animal would you be? I think I would be a cheetah.
Wednesday, February 3rd 2010
Konban wa! I’ve just boarded the 5.37pm for Shibuya… I’ve got a hot date! I’m meeting a lady called C that I met at a wine tasting in Tokyo in November. We’ve been seeing each other ever since, and she’s making Dad very happy. Anyway, sorry to bore you to tears about your Dad’s love life… more of that later… I hope!
Saturday, I picked you up in Ikebukuro and we headed straight back to #303 to grab Pat and the bicycles. Pat was a tad wobbly at first, but she soon got the hang of Dad’s mountain bike. We rode to Akarengakan (the Red Brick Building), where an outdoor skating rink had been set up. It was hilarious, as poor Pat couldn’t even stand up at first… and she wasn’t even on the ice. Mind you, you and I weren’t much better. So while Pat was adjusting, and readjusting her boots, we did a few laps of the rink. You were clinging ever so tightly to Dad’s hand, but you let go of the side rail and we slowly rounded the rink. After a bit, you spied kids with double blades, which you rightly figured might help your balance. So we swapped boots and then you were telling Dad to skate “FASTER!” What a great way to warm up on a cold winter’s evening!
After about 90 minutes we were all famished, so we headed to Jonathon’s for some warm grub. You wanted the carbonara but settled for bacon pasta in a tomato sauce when your first wish wasn’t on the menu. From Jonathon’s we pedaled home to a few tunes (5 Little Ducks) and then it was time for some music and dress-ups. We all endeavored to dress as princesses, with you & Pat having considerably more luck than Dad. It was almost 10.30pm by the time we bunked down and read a story or two. How I miss reading you stories every evening…
In the morning we Skyped Richie’s, where Nandee & Pa were waiting and eager to see & chat with their first grandchild. Allie was very enthusiastic about showing you what she did on her first day at school… she misses you! I just hope we are able to travel to Australia this summer; it’ll be 3 years since you’ve seen your aunts, uncles & cousins.
After some breaky we went outside and you showed me your new skipping skills. I was so impressed! It was grand fun! We even skipped together using the one rope! It was a real workout, as we took the badminton racquets down for a bit of a hit too. You know how much I enjoy my sport, so I had a ball, and secretly hope this will become a passion for you too in the coming years. Whatever your tastes and hobbies, I’ll support you.
Pat was puffing away, which is good, ‘cause she’s very overweight and in dire need of a lifestyle change. I’ve been at her for years that the last thing she needs is another diet. She needs to mend her ways food wise and adopt a regular exercise routine.
After our workout we jumped on a bus for Sakuragicho and climbed the hill to the zoo. It wasn’t long before we had to descend and make a teary farewell to Pat, who got a bit choked up when I mentioned I wasn’t sure when the 3 of us would see each other again. It’s so hard to organize meetings with you through your Mum; A is so noncommittal in terms of visitation. I know Pat wants to give your Mum a piece of her mind, but I know if I’m in any way pushy or bold in requesting visitation (even though your Mum agreed & signed in court) I risk not seeing you at all. So, I have to tread carefully and hope your Mum will recognize the truth.
In March Pat leaves Japan after 6 years, she’ll head home to NZ for 4 months, and then she has a contract in Cambodia.
We’re both going to miss Pat. She’s been a true friend. She’s helped me in so many ways and always stood by me personally and professionally. She helped me believe in myself again after your mum left. Do us a favour and give Fatty Patty a huge hug next time you see her.
Miss you Princess! XoXo…
- What is our praise or pride but to imagine excellence and try to make it (Richard Wilbur)
Thursday, February 11th
G’day Beautiful! How’s trix kiddo? When are you going to ask me about C… I think I’m glowing with joy…
Today I had Student-Led Conferences all day. They’re amazing conferences that bring the most out of all involved. Each session lasts 50 minutes, and consists of 5 students and their parents. The classroom is divided into key learning areas (centers) that the students rotate around every 10 minutes. At each center the students are the experts and lead their parents through the task. For example, at centre 01 the experts (the students) show their parents their portfolios (a folder of much of their important writing, tests, art, connections, observations, experiments, investigations, projects); at centre 02, the students use the laptops to display their home learning aboard the class wiki; centre 03, the parents fire questions based around our social studies units; centre 04, the students test their parents maths skills using a skill-board they developed themselves, and the final centre is based around Language Arts.
My hope is that one day soon Japan’s schools will evolve and equip themselves for the future. Japan does well in preparing its students in reading kanji, writing kanji, and mathematics. But unless it changes its educational philosophy, it cannot hope to prepare its students for the future. It’s 2010 and the world is changing rapidly. In 5 years time there will be jobs that don’t even exist today because of technological advances. In 10 years time China will have more English speakers than America. The Japanese government toyed with the idea of bringing Smartboards into schools, but canned the idea because of the expense. There are still no computers in most Japanese schools (including yours), let alone computers in each classroom. Being a monolingual country like much of Australia, Japan still doesn’t recognize the importance of bilingualism. Sure it teaches English, but with no practical objectives; the only objective is to pass the outdated and prescriptive university exams. Class sizes at schools are too big for genuine discussion and interaction, while classes sit in rows that promote only teacher-directed talk and instructions. Such a teacher-centered classroom means there is almost no time for inquiry learning, for questioning, for cooperative learning.
I so wish you were at an international school. With fees so expensive, and parent expectations high, their curriculum and resources have to be at the cutting edge of education. At Saint Maur we have interactive Smart Boards in the classroom, a robotics club for grade 4 – 6 students, a lego mindstorms club (computer generated robotic club), a computer club, and a year book club that designs and develops the year book using various computer programs… and that’s just the primary school.
In the coming weeks we’ll host the Austrian Ballet Company, run in the Yokohama Chibiko Ekiden (organized my guess who? Your Dad!), and also host Terry Small, a world renowned Canadian who gives inspiring talks on learning smarter. Wanna come? It’ll be fascinating… you can sit next to me…
Love always, Dad… XoXo…
- Your best music is still inside you
- Nandee & Pa miss you more than you can imagine… my guess is, as you’re reading this, they’re talking / thinking of you! How old are you as you read this? Why don’t you give them a mail: email@example.com
Saturday, February 13th 2010
Morning Princess. It’s 8.32am and I’m sitting in the train on my way to Tokorozawa. It’s trying to snow here, so it might just be a white wonderland by the time I reach Tokorozawa. Valentine’s Day tomorrow… now that would be romantic! We’ll meet at 10am and I had planned on racing to Kokukoen with the skipping ropes and a picnic, but it seems a better day for sledding. So, instead I’ve packed some art & craft things, our old favorite The Cat in the Hat, and some Enid Blyton short stories. Fancy a chapter from the Magic Faraway Tree? I wonder what Mr. Saucepan is up to today?
There’s so much I wish to tell you… where should I begin… It’s been a month since the earthquake in Haiti where over 212,000 people have died. Saint Maur is doing many things to raise money; in fact the Student Council that I organize in the primary school has raised over 290,000 yen so far. We’re still raising money as we have an Outreach Jar of jellybeans, a huge jar, and for 50 yen you can guess how many jellybeans are in the jar. Neat idea hey! At the next Student Council assembly we’ll announce the closest guess as the winner. I’m a little worried, because Dad is going to have to count how many jellybeans are actually in the jar… or guesstimate (Do you like that word? The students in my class always giggle when I use it).
Anyway, what I really want to talk to you about is The Daddy – Daughter Dance. Saint Maur & YIS (the other big international school in Yokohama) have organized this dance to raise money for Haiti. It’s the sort of party I know you would just love to attend. We would get all dressed up, me in a suit looking like Shrek, and you looking like Cinderella. They have a 4 course meal, pretend sparkling wine in real wine glasses, and dancing and games after dinner. Even in this crowded train on my way to Shibuya, I’m a little teary thinking of another lost opportunity we could have shared… but not to worry, at least I get to see you today! Can’t wait kiddo, especially for that big hug I know is coming my way!
I love you… XoXo…
- How many times a day do you wonder where your Dad went?
- Do you remember searching for Totoro with your Dad?
Sunday, February 14th Valentine’s Day 2010!
Happy Valentine’s Day Princess Ophelia! I wonder which handsome boy will receive chocolates from you today. It was lovely to see you yesterday, albeit on a day of rain & sleet. You arrived around 10.45am with a toothless grin. You had lost a front tooth just Friday munching away on an apple. You looked very cute with that big gap in front. Allie lost both of her front teeth almost at the same time, but rather than being happy that the Tooth Fairy visited twice, she was/is quite paranoid about her gap… she’s only 5 and so worried about her appearance! Imagine what she’s going to be like when she’s in her teens. I wonder if you two will be close as you are now… have been… friends…
There are so many reasons I am proud of you. I know I shouldn’t compare, but even from a very small age you have always been polite and calm. You’ve only ever once thrown a real tantrum in public. You were about 3 and we were shopping in the big Seiyu store in Numazu. I can’t even remember what it was about, but you certainly blew a fuse. You started screaming, then crying, and then for the first time ever you lay down on the supermarket floor between the meat section and the fish section. In my mind I can still see you. Whatever you wanted, I wasn’t going to give in and reward your tantrum as I’d seen other parents do. So I walked away without looking back. My heart was probably beating faster than yours and I could feel the stares of the other shoppers, and their thoughts on whether I would just leave you. I walked around an aisle where I was out of your eyesight and your cries continued. For seconds that felt like minutes nothing else could be heard in the supermarket but your wailing, and then I heard the pitter-patter of tiny feet coming to look for their Dad. You were now shouting: “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!!!” and when you found me you raced into my arms and told me how sorry you were. My heart melted and I have never forgotten that moment. And you’ve never done it again… not in my presence anyway. A lesson learnt, for me and you… you’re the best!
Anyway, with your 3 jackets on we walked all of about 30 meters to Mr. Donut. A glass of milk later and a chocolate-coated donut, and we were chatting away. We talked about your tooth, and Dad told you about the Daddy – Daughter Dance and the Outreach Jellybean Jar to raise money for the children of Haiti. You told me about school and your friends Sakura and Akira. It was lovely to hear you talk and share your thoughts. We talked for at least 15 minutes non-stop, most of the time you coped fine in English. By the way, I have been concerned about your English plateauing, then falling away. August 2008 you were perfectly bilingual, but as you rarely use English anymore, it’s difficult for you to maintain your vocabulary, and virtually impossible for you to build upon your base vocabulary. Even so, you seem very comfortable listening to Dad. I dread the day you decide that English is too difficult and you resort to using only Japanese.
Yesterday I read a story about a magic jug from Enid Blyton that poured endless amounts of treacle. You listened, content to stamp away with a groovy stamp set you received for Christmas.
After the story I took out the camera and we looked at photos of us at Christmas, ice skating, at the beach, etc. It was magic, because almost immediately you came around from your side of the table and moved my arm to the side so you could wriggle up on my knee. I felt so close to you as we giggled at the zoom shots of our rabbit-red eyes.
After our story, we raced through the cold to the Seibu Building and climbed to the 8th floor. We had a quick lunch at Casa, again you opted for carbonara, and Dad the hamburg set. While we waited for lunch I made up a story about a lonely princess, with a horse of course. It went on, and on. I would get to the end of my imagination, and you would ask: “Then what happened?” So the story continued with castles and dark forests, and howling wolves, and of course new friends and a happy ending.
I miss reading to you every night… it would be lovely to read you 3 stories tonight after your bath… I think because you’re so good I would gladly read you FOUR!
By the way, being Valentine’s Day, Dad hasn’t gone without. My dearest C has ensured it’s been very memorable! You’re not blushing are you!?
Love Dad… XoXo…
- You are greater than the problems you face
- You’ve always been stoic & resilient, but if you ever need to talk, write, communicate, I’m here to listen, listen, listen… firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday February 18th
So back to Valentine’s Day and the lovely Parisian (French because C lived in France for 5 years and speaks English with an exquisite French accent) Geisha in my life… C. I gave her 12 roses (orange of course), a very beautiful set of peachy, orangey lingerie, and some chocolates of course.
You’re probably blushing again, but let me explain the lingerie so you don’t think I’m a strange, hentai ojiichan! I often look to Nandee & Pa for inspiration in terms of a genuine loving relationship. The love they share for one another is unconditional and without question. When your uncles and I were boys, Dad (Pa) would often give Mum (Nandee) lingerie for her birthday or Christmas. At first I’m sure we boys were all embarrassed, particularly when Mum would put it up against the outside of her clothing and smile at Dad. They’d kiss and we’d all holler complaints, but even today it brings a smile to my face. To know that their love has more than stood the test of time gives me faith that I can, and will, find a partner wishing to grow older and happier beside me.
So Gorgeous, wish me luck and keep hoping I’ve found someone worth fighting for… XoXo…
- Even when freshly washed and relieved of all obvious confections, children tend to be sticky (Fran Lebowitz)
Thursday February 25th
Good evening Princess. Just thinking, it’s probably time I introduced you to C. Well, where do I start… she’s very, very beautiful, XX years of age, and speaks French & English. But most importantly I think she loves your Dad! She lived in Paris for 5 years but now has returned home to her parents in Chiba.
We often meet after work for a meal in Tokyo. We both enjoy fine wine & dining, in fact we met at a wine tasting last November. We had both probably had enough to drink, I noticed my C, and took the opportunity to offer her a glass of water. We got talking, exchanged contact details and then we started meeting.
In less than 3 months we have shared so many smiles & laughs, so many great memories… Keep your fingers crossed kiddo!
Love Dad… XoXo…
- Next time let’s go to Mos Burger. How’s this for gross: Containing less fat, salt and sugar, your pet’s food may be healthier than what they serve at McDonald’s
Monday, March 1st 2010
G’day Phi-Phi! Your old man has just done 170 push-ups, 30 to go for his 200 target tonight. Not bad for an old fella hey!?
Well, what a lovely weekend with you. It was very special! Pat and I picked you up at Ikebukuro Station at 2pm and we headed straight for Yokohama. In the train you were again munching on candy. I’m sorry Love, but I dislike the way your Mother gives you so many sweet things. Pat was the first to mention it, because as a youngster, you never really had a sweet tooth and as Pat said, I was very careful of what I gave you. Every time I pick you up you’ve got packets of gum, chocolate, and sweet carbonated drinks. It’s not like it’s a single packet, you have candy in almost all your pockets in your backpack. It’s terrible for your teeth & health… anyway, I’ve had my rave… I just hope my Princess is able to smile without having to hide decaying teeth in years to come! Brush your teeth Bella!
We grabbed the bicycles and headed off for Minato-Mirai in light rain. Pat had a bit of trouble keeping up, but you very kindly kept reminding me that she was falling behind. We cycled straight to Landmark Tower, the tallest building in Japan, although Tokyo Tower is actually taller, but classified as a tower and not a building. I hear they’re building a taller tower, to be called Sky Tree on the other side of Tokyo… wouldn’t want to be fighting Godzilla up there when an earthquake strikes!
It was our first time to visit Landmark Tower and I must say, it was very cool. I was most impressed, and not at all expensive. We even sat in a lounge and sipped our respective drinks. After a bit, you started exploring and pretty soon returned to drag me away and leave Pat minding the fort and our belongings. You had found a group of artists who were sketching caricatures for 2000 yen a pop. Nao San sketched you, and did a pretty good job… I think it’ll be displayed on the wall for some time.
After a bit more of the view, we took the fastest elevator in the world down 69 floors, so fast in fact that our ears popped. Again in light drizzle we ventured over to the amusement park. You were allowed 2 rides, the first of which was a pretty lame toddlers’ log ride, but the second was indeed an adults’ ride. I was extremely proud of you, but more than a little dubious that it might end in tears. You sat next to me and held tightly to the bar without crying and climbed from the ride smiling and celebrating. I was celebrating your boldness and courage.
We cycled to the supermarket for some rations and then raced home because we were all famished. Dad’s chili con carne and pizza was for dinner. You settled into your bean bag and watched Bridge to Terabithia. It was a grand evening culminating in about 6 stories in Dad’s bed.
We were up at around 8am and Dad made waffles that went down a treat. Nandee & Pa who have just recently had broadband wireless put in Skyped us, and you were just beautiful telling them all sorts of things. Pat and I looked at each other, me realizing how natural you are with Nandee & Pa… why would anyone want to take you away from family?
You’ve just lost your two front teeth, but apparently the tooth fairy doesn’t come in Japan… Da, da, da, da-DA!!! But at Dad’s there were 2 silver coins under your pillow and you were tickled pink. Saturday night I read you a story about a lemon shark who just like you, loses his teeth, but at first the tooth fairy doesn’t come. It was gorgeous to see you, the sparkle in your eyes indicated that truly the fairies had come. Oh, I LOVE YOU!
By 11am we were ready to catch the bus in the rain for Bonnie & Phil’s in Jiyugaoka. It was a magic day with kids everywhere and you with the biggest smile, because of course you were the eldest, and nobody except for Pat had seen you for ages, so you received royal treatment. Of course Mae & Kate were there, but so too many of the families we had bbqed & picnicked with on so many occasions in Numazu. Ben & Alina were there with Oliver & Abby, Elaine & Fred were there with Kaisei & Keiren, and Travis & Megumi also joined the fun. You played non-stop for 3 hours, indoors & out, stopping briefly for lunch and then more play. All the kids sat around the low table and filled their plates with this and that; I was very proud of your balanced selection of food, some protein, some dairy, and some fruit and vegetables.
A few times I got a bit teary seeing how quickly you resumed your friendships and to see the joy in your smile and laughter. But as is so often the case, we had to pack up and leave early. Stoically you helped pack up and said your farewells politely and we took the train to meet mum at Ikebukuro at 4pm.
I miss you so much Phi. Last night and strangely today I was so depressed. Usually I manage to make the most of every day, optimistically seeing each day as special, but today I thought of you so often, my eyes watered several times.
I miss you! XoXo…
- It isn’t enough to talk about peace, one must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it, one must work at it (Eleanor Roosevelt)
Saturday, March 6th
How’s my marathon runner? Today was a miserable day weather wise, but a group of 25 grade 4 & 5 students from Saint Maur didn’t seem to mind. I chaperoned the group to the National Stadium in Shin-Yokohama for the Yokohama Chibiko Ekiden. We had 6 teams entered with each runner running between 1900 meters & 1300 meters. The kids were so excited, and so too were their parents and even a few grandparents.
There were apparently 8000 kids competing and more than as many parents and siblings cheering them on. After the first change over in the grade 4 girls’ race we realized just how chaotic the change of sash was to become. We also realized just how serious the Japanese teams took it. At one point in the pandemonium of the grade 5 girls’ race, one of our girls passed to a runner who had already run; she tried to tell the official but he pushed her on and she was forced to run a second time. Unfortunately that meant that one of our girls never received the opportunity to race. So after that particular race we had a team of distraught ladies. Even so, it was a very successful day and I was very proud of their training and effort on the day. We had been training twice a week at lunchtime. We had talked about running to the best of your ability, which of course means running a smart race. Running smart means running with rhythm to completion (a nice steady pace), and not starting too quickly exhausting yourself too early.
Hope we get a chance to run together one day soon! Bailey is running in the Shizuoka kids’ race tomorrow. Remember 2 years ago this weekend, you cheered your Dad along in the Shizuoka 10km race…
Keep running Possum! Love Dad… XoXo…
- Challenges are simply opportunities
- Dad ran 40 minutes 17 seconds in the Shizuoka 10km road race, I wonder what he’ll run tomorrow…
Tuesday, March 9th
G’day buddy! How’s school going I wonder… Just tried to call you again, but, well, Mum didn’t pick up again. I had a great weekend, albeit without you. I was hoping you would be allowed to accompany me to Numazu to farewell your friend Grace. Grace, Bailey, John & Kiri are leaving Katoh and heading for Brunei. It would have been good for your soul to say a proper goodbye. You and Grace went to each other’s birthday parties for years, and you often played at each other’s houses. John & Kiri would have liked a hug, and as usual Bailey asked me about you. He’s reluctant to leave Numazu now after building some strong friendships. When he first arrived he was K3 at the kindergarten. John & Kiri placed him in the regular program instead of the immersion program and he hated it. Not being able to communicate in Japanese was very frustrating for him. Now he’s perfectly bilingual and wishing to stay. Grace has a been a bit of a loner at school at times, so in some ways she seems more comfortable with moving on. Anyway, I said goodbye for you and promised we would catch up with them in the future.
Today at school was a very special day. We hosted the Austrian Ballet Company, along with Yokohama International School. This year’s performance was a contemporary piece that followed a traditional Japanese tale about the Goddess of Snow. You would have loved it. Dad quite enjoyed it, because of its romantic twist, but rather dramatically it had a sad ending.
My guess is you’re gearing up for the end of the school year. I can’t quite believe you’ll be going into grade 2 next month, fare welling the grade 6 graduating class, and jumping headfirst into the Monbusho Curriculum. I actually taught the grade 2 Monbusho Math Curriculum for 2 years. It’s a big step up from grade 1 with the introduction of multiplication, numbers to 10,000, measurement (capacity, mass, time & length), subtraction & addition of 3 digit numbers, graphs and even simple algebra. It would be nice to think we could sit down together and work through your homework.
Two years ago I had hoped your studies would inspire me to once again study kanji, but unfortunately no chance has presented itself. My dream was to support you by learning the stroke order alongside you… wishful thinking perhaps, because I’m actually a pretty reluctant student these days.
Anyway buddy, I’m starving. I’m making curry rice… spicy nicey! Do you feel like some?
Love Dad… XoXo…
- Don’t you think it’s good to have a friend with street smarts? We just have to be bold enough to make the right choices… It is good to have some friends in both heaven and in hell (George Herbert)
Tuesday, March 16th
Good evening Ms. Hirakawa-Morice. How was school today I wonder? I had a pretty exciting day. We’re doing an Explorer unit, so the day started in the computer lab with each kid researching a chosen explorer utilizing the WWW web, our theme books, and our explorer cards. I’ve introduced the kids to Wikis, which are interactive web pages. It’s great because there’s a Front Page where the research questions and instructions are, then each child has a separate folder and pages within in which to report on their findings. They have a Writing page to share their stories, an All About Me page to share their lives, and a Reading page to share their favourite books and make recommendations. The beauty of Wikis is that the children can work on them from home, or in the lab, or library after school; and the bit the kids love best, is that they can access their peers’ pages and make comments to each other. They provide a real audience, rather than just the stale old teacher’s comments.
Second session, Eric Walters, quite a famous children’s writer from Canada visited our school to talk to the kids about the 60 something books he’s published. He was outstanding with the kids, a real story-teller and a great sense of humour.
After recess we did the structured everyday things like handwriting, spelling, checking homework and some math. Then the kids continued with their huge (50 by 80cm) paper-mache models of their chosen explorer’s head. In weeks previous I had taught them how to do a caricature of their explorer, so today they were putting the final touches on their board, extending the nose, shaping protruding eyes, beards, hats, chins, etc. I think they’re going to look fantastic.
After lunch my class went off to music, then they finished with Japanese. It was a nice afternoon of planning for me and David. After school most of my kids have joined my grade 4 & 5 sports club. So we spent an hour in the gym stretching, running laps, and of course doing sit-ups and push-ups. Next we played Snake in the Grass, a game of Untangle, and a crazy game that involves groups of 5/6 cooperatively moving from one end of the gym to the other using 2 mats. If they touch the surface of the gym they have to start again… well, didn’t we just have a ball!
Wish you were with us champ! Love you more than yesterday… XoXo…
Do not all you can
Spend not all you have
Believe not all you hear
And tell not all you know
Thursday, March 26th
Phi, we see each other tomorrow! You’re staying 2 nights, and the plan is we’ll be watching the musical “Cats” on Saturday night here in Yokohama! I can’t wait! I remember my Mum used to take us boys to plays hosted by universities and amateur theatre groups, called pantomimes. I know for certain your creative mind will love the escape of theatre.
This Monday just gone was a public holiday, but the international schools don’t recognize Japanese public holidays, so I had to go to work. But I raced home from work at 4.30pm because C was waiting, and with a delightful hot dinner too. Nikujyaga, temaki zushi, and miso soup… heavenly! When I arrived home I showed her a short animation, The Piano. I’ve been using short films in my classroom to discuss the effects of sound, light, camera angle, mood, and narration with my students. It’s the most beautiful short film of one man’s life. Type it in, I’m sure there’s still a version on the WWW. C sat on my knee and we watched The Piano clip together, and despite your absence, everything was perfect and I felt exquisitely close to her. Here’s the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ZJDNSp1QJA
My image of C is like the image of the elderly lady who sits at the side of her husband by the piano. The woman’s beauty reminds me very much of C’s grace. The elderly woman kisses the cheek of her lifetime lover, and then she passes away, leaving him alone and restless with his thoughts. Selfishly I’d like to die before C, ideally with you both near.
Now for something for just the two of us, well three of us actually, because C is a very important part of my life now. The nicest thing anybody has ever said to me (besides you… I melt when you tell me you love me… you used to say it quite often, but with age I’m well aware you’ll say it less & less as the years pass. The last time was at #705 late at night. I thought you were sleeping, but you snuggled closer and whispered, “I love you.” It was October 2008… I’ll never forget it.) was said to me by C last Sunday night. She selflessly told me that she hoped she would be the last person I saw before I died…
So rest easy my dear Ophelia. Dad is very happy. Each time I see C I feel closer to her. I believe we have a future together, so in time you will witness what a wonderful person she is. See you soon, I hope… XoXo…
- When was the last time you lied? Is it possible to lie without saying anything at all?
Sunday, March 28th
Good morning princess. I’m sitting on the train at Motomachi-Chukagai Station heading into see C; she has a French translation test today. Two days ago I was sitting here on my way to pick you up for the weekend. I had just met one of my parents from St. Maur, and Danny (a teacher, who knows all about you). I had just been relaying my excitement at being able to see you for 2 nights; the first time since Christmas you would have stayed consecutive nights. Then there was a call from Mum to tell me you had a severe tummy ache. I was very worried about you. She didn’t say much else, and I was just concerned for your health and wellbeing. I returned to my apartment a little on the lonely and empty side. Fortunately Jennifer (our librarian & whom you cooked up a lovely dessert sauce with on December 24th) was having a little party, so in between push-ups I cooked a dish of sardines deep fried in olive oil and went along for a couple of hours. They were a big hit… the sardines. I hope you get to taste my new recipe soon.
In the morning, I waited until 8am to call you. Your Mother answered and told me you were still asleep and that you didn’t want to see me. I know it’s not true, and I shouldn’t get so depressed about it, but as I had anticipated, your Mother is determined to shut me out of your life. She seems quite unstable and very angry with me, and the world in general. I’m not sure why she’s angry with me, as it would seem she has everything she wants… you. I know she loves you very much, but her love blinds her to the needs of others, particularly yours. Anyone can sense her hatred for me; again, I don’t understand her reasoning, but she needs to understand that her feelings are transparent, and thus of course you can sense her animosity toward me. Quite naturally for a seven year old wishing to please her mother, you will tell her things she wishes to hear. As a child, naturally your most important priority is the moment. Just as you said to me & Nandee & Pa via Skype in February, “I want to go to Australia!” And on the Sunday when you were playing with Kaisuke, Keiren, May, Cate, Oliver & Abby at Bonnie’s in Jiyugaoka, “Daddy, I don’t want to go home now, I wanna keep playing!” Perfectly natural behavior for a child. So I have no doubt that when you’re busy with your lego, dolls or friends, perhaps you tell Mum that you don’t want to go to Dad’s; but it’s not what you mean. I know your heart. It’s pure, it’s gentle, and it’s full of love.
Incidentally, your Mum told me that when you returned from our last visit, the weekend Pat stayed and we visited Bonnie’s, you had a severe stomach ache. I was, and am so worried about you. You’ve always been strong, sometimes too strong… your capacity for “gaman” is incredible, but being so stoic and strong when so many thoughts are racing through your mind regarding the relationship of your parents is not good for your wellbeing. Your Mother & I need to communicate openly, and with you as our mutual first priority, so as you can feel our cooperation; it’s so important we respect one another’s lives. Without such responsible models for parents, your heart will ache, and ache, and ache with worry.
Your Mother also said that on the night you returned from your play at Bonnie’s, she took you to hospital in an ambulance… really!? At first I was shocked, and worried, but then my sense of reasoning and commonsense took over. No sane parent takes a child to hospital in an ambulance for a tummy ache, unless there’s a reason. My fear is that the Family Court will swallow her story whole… oh, Phi, what a mess.
When the three of us lived together, her panic and over reaction to many things caused me, and her family… Noriko, Yuta & Yoko many headaches. More than once we ended up at her side in hospital. But for you as a child, I can see how her panic is somewhat infectious, and definitely playing heavy on your mind.
On Friday night, Jenna (a colleague of mine from Saint Maur) told the story of when her daughter broke her arm at 3 years of age. The bone was pushing through the skin, she spoke little Japanese, had no car, so took her Erika to the hospital in a taxi… that’s poise and calm speaking. Calling an ambulance in all but the most life threatening situations can only panic a child further.
In any case Princess, it’s time for me to get off the train. I’m hoping to see you Wednesday… let’s keep our fingers crossed. What are you reading tonight? Dad… XoXo…
Wednesday, March 31st 2010
Hello, hello! Ready for a visit from your Dad???
Back on the train from Motomachi-Chukagai headed for sunny Tokorozawa. It’s a cloudy dull day at the moment, but significantly milder than the past few days. We’ve had maximum temperatures of only 8 degrees for the past 3 days, but today it’s apparently going to top 15 degrees; I guess it might reach its forecast maximum if the sun comes out. I’ve made a bento of peanut butter sandwiches, some dried mango, and some fresh blueberries… all your favorites! The skipping rope is packed, 2 cards from Nandee and a new book from Pat; and guess who visits good boys and gals this weekend? The Easter Bunny! So today I figured we’d head to Kokukoen and hop around like rabbits and enjoy our own Easter egg hunt!
It’s going to be great to see you for the first time in a whole month. I’d love to be able to tell you my wonderful news; but I’ll hold off for a little while yet. It’s important to me, and to you no doubt that your Dad is happy. Happy parents make happy kids I believe.
Last weekend without you would have normally plunged me into a cocktail of deep depression, scotch & harsh physical exercise. As it was Friday night, I refrained from telling C that our date together had been cancelled. I did 320 push-ups to ease my frustration and then went to Jennifer’s. With you in mind and C also close to my heart I only had 2 beers and left early. Saturday I ran into Minato Mirai, my favorite course, running harder than I have for some time. It felt great running to exhaustion, combining it with another 190 push-ups along the way; don’t worry too much, it was about 7am and not too many people noticed the strange gaijin stopping every km or so for 20-40 push-ups.
In any case, C looked after me. She studied for her translator course test Saturday, but I met her afterwards to walk beneath the cherry blossoms near Suntory Hall. I had prepared a bento of green salad, kimchi, cheese & asparagus rolled in pork, dipped in corn flour, dipped in egg, dipped in bread crumbs and then deep fried in olive oil. To accompany our feast I had a chilled bottle of apple cider. The blossoms were lovely, but will be better tonight when we hanami again! After the blossoms we went to an Irish pub in Roppongi. Then Sunday I saw her again, after her test.
There’s something else I need to tell you. I wish to marry C, and for the first time since you, I want another child. Since you were born, initially because your Mother & my relationship was so tense, I didn’t want another child. After the divorce, you were all I needed. Even when I met R, I had no desire to father another child.
Now my love for C has given me hope that I can start fresh, and truly be happy starting a family with C. If we are blessed, and are granted a child, our child will never replace you. You will always be my precious Ophelia, and you my Princess, will have someone to talk with about your Dad in years to come… XoXo…
- Real food is perishable right? With time, it begins to decay. It’s a natural process, it just happens. Beef will rot, bread will mold. But what about a McDonald’s burger? Karen Hanrahan saved a McDonald’s burger from 1996 and, oddly enough, it looks just as “appetizing” and “fresh” as a burger you might buy today. Is this real food?