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
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…
“…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…
“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…
“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
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.
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…
Can snails kiss?
How much is in a handful?
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…
“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…
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…
“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…
Why did kamikaze pilots wear helmets?
Monday, November 5th 2012
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.
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…
- 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…
- 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…
- 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.
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…
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…
- 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.
“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:
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。
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…
- 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.
“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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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
“To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.” – Freya Stark