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

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