2014 April – June

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

I love you Phi… XoXo…

Friday, April 4th 2014

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

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

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

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

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

DO YOU REMEMBER?

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

 

Sunday, April 6th 2014

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

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

Child abduction agreement too late for many parents

BY TOMOHIRO OSAKI, STAFF WRITER                     

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

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

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

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

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

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

DO YOU REMEMBER?

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

 

Saturday, April 12th 2014

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

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

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

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

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

When are you coming to Cairo? Dad… XoXo…

DO YOU REMEMBER?

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

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

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

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

 

Friday, April 25th 2014

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

Allan & Brenda

Allan & Brenda

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

THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES. HOPE YOUR PUPPY BEHAVES ITSELF!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love Dad & C, Brenda & Allen.

FAST FACT

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

DAD APOLOGY

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

 

Friday, May 2nd

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

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

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

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

DO YOU REMEMBER?

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

 

Tuesday, May 6th 2014

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

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

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

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

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

FAST FACT

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

 

Saturday, May 10th 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love Ged & C… XoXo…

DO YOU REMEMBER

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

 

Friday, May 16th 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FUN FACTS

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

 

Wednesday, May 21st 2014

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

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

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

FAST FACT

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

Wednesday, May 28th 2014

G’day Phi,

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

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

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

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

FUN FACTS

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

 

Saturday, June 14th 2014

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

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

Last night we went to Azarea’s for dinner and Toro had a sleep over. This morning we went to pick up our naughty son, and enjoyed some delicious crepes for breakfast. This evening Dad is cooking a pot of Thai green curry for our neighbor, Jan and his daughter Olivia. Aza will also join us, so the dogs will have a ball.

Last Friday W&Y held a bocci tourney. It was a lot of fun, especially when during one of the really close games, Toro decided to bounce out to the collection of thrown bocci balls. The crowd “Oooed & ahhed” at the cute puppy, but just as the lovely comments about our dog reached a crescendo, he lay a great big number 02! Everyone laughed & laughed, but it was left to Dad to clean up his droppings! As embarrassed as you might have been, something inside me made me think, you would have sprinted out, red faced, embarrassed but so beautiful of heart, to clean up Toro’s mess.

Then last Saturday night, our strange landlady decided it would be a good idea to start pouring concrete up to the 5th floor… oh, the joys of living in Cairo! The pour started at 10:45pm! After much moaning, cussing and complaining from us tenants, they finally finished up at around 2am. Can you believe it… and we all had to work Sunday of course, so Dad was up at 6am… bummer!

This Tuesday just gone, the kids finished up in the ES at CAC. It was a busy half week, because Monday we had a Moving On Ceremony (like a graduation), then took the G5 kids out to the beach at the Marriot hotel. You would have loved it! They had a wave pool, water slides, and adventure playground in a pool, and several other fun pools. At most American school, elementary school finishes at grade 5, then middle school goes from year 6 through to year 8.

Wednesday, I visited the ear specialist again and had my ear vacuumed and then washed. Ah, at last I can hear! Then I raced to W&Y’s for a quick drink before heading home to take Chinami to a Lebanese restaurant. One of my student’s family’s had invited us out. It was great, and the food was perhaps the best we’ve eaten in Cairo.

On my birthday we actually took a felucca down the Nile with Jan, Beth & their daughter who has just arrived from the US. The night before C & Dad had gone to the Blackstone Grill for Dad’s slap-up b’day meal, but C fell suddenly sick. She turned a beastly pale white. She really was sick, but it had been a long day for her, and the night before she was up until 2am preparing for the market. The same morning, C fried gyoza at Y’s market. It was really just in Wayne & Y’s backyard, but despite the heat, it really was a great setting. The temperature however pipped 42 degrees Celsius, so we think C had suffered dehydration. She’s a trooper though, and recovered pretty quickly.

Missing you kiddo… XoXo..

WICKED QUOTE

“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.

Delicious Ambiguity.”

― Gilda Radner

 

Monday, June 16th 2014

Morning Phi. It’s another glorious day in Cairo, albeit we’re set for another hot one. I’m sitting here writing to you in our apartment (Road 12, Building 7, apartment 31, Maadi, Cairo), as the CAC maintenance staff (electricians) fix two of our air conditioners. It’s been hot, but fortunately not the 40 degree plus temperatures we’ve experienced a bit of late.

Unfortunately the power has just gone our again, and I’m down to 2% battery power, so this correspondence is going to be cut short. Last night we watched Michael Murpurgo’s War Horse. I thought of the many times we had watched Spirit and Black Beauty together, and wondered when we might get a chance to sit down side by side and watch War Horse. There’s a little French girl called Marie who befriends the beautiful brown horse with the four white socks. Some of her mannerisms, and her confidence around horses reminded me of you. The book itself, your cousin Luca just loved. In fact, he went to see the stage show/musical also called War Horse and just loved it. Again, I wonder what might have been… you and your cousin discussing the book, the movie and going to the stage show together… sometime soon, hey… I love you Bella… XoXo…

 

Saturday, June 21st 2014

How’s my Princess doing? Last night Wayne came for dinner. His wife (Y) and the kids have gone back to Japan early. Maya must be 14 by now, but Sam is 12. He’s so tall, I find it hard to believe you’ll be turning 12 in October. Their mother is Japanese (Y), and the kids started their life in Sapporo, Hokkaido, then moved to Senegal to attend an international school there, and now, they find themselves in Egypt… what a life, hey!

Last night while C was cooking dinner, karage, miso soup, rice, and a tomato salad with cheesecake for dessert, I got to talking about you. Wayne & Dad had been talking about Hokkaido, which is where Y is from, so I took out the photo albums and showed him our trip to Hokkaido the summer you were 2 and a half. It’s funny, I seem to be thinking a lot about that trip recently.

Today I went grocery shopping with C. We go to her favorite “cheap” street that is two stops on the metro. She haggles for eggs, vegetables, fruit and fish. Actually, I think because she’s a bit of a regular, she doesn’t need to haggle too much any more. Most things are cheap, but not as cheap as you might think, and not always that fresh. The milk seems fresh coming straight out of big vats, and straight into plastic bags for the customers… yes, plastic bags. When we get home, we pop the milk in glass jars and then straight into the freezer and fridge. I don’t think it gets pasteurized, so it seems to go off quite quickly. You also choose your eggs, and they too go into plastic bags, so you have to be extra careful with them… Dad broke one yesterday!

And now, well C has gone up to school to finish glazing a few of her pottery pieces. So, I thought I would take the opportunity to write to you. Last night before Wayne arrived, I penned a letter to you, so that he could post it for me when he meets his family in Japan. And tonight, well, we’re planning on going to watch the world cup at a local café with the LOCALS. Mo, an Egyptian who works at CAC in the technology department is going to take us with him. Should be a bit of fun, although, there’ll be no beer, just tea and hookah (that’s the Middle Eastern pipe that’s extremely popular here)… gotta run, and meet C at Wayne’s… will continue this letter to you tomorrow morning… see ya kiddo!

Continued: that was then, this is now (Sunday morning). So, last night and the World Cup, Argentina 1 : Iran 0, but only just. Messi kicked the winning goal in the 89th minute! Not a bad goal either. Early this morning, around 6am in fact at CAC, I met Mo (from last night), and we went for a run along the Corniche (the main boulevard along the Nile). We ran down to the High Court where General El Sisi was sworn in. Now it’s time to edit some of these letters and think about adding them to my blog to you. Chat again soon Phi, love Dad… XoXo…

We’re off to Istanbul on Wednesday… hope to write to you again before then… or perhaps aboard the plane. Jya ne!

FUN FACT

It’s C’s birthday tomorrow, June XX. She’ll be [top secret], can you believe it! She’s still as pretty as ever! I have some cool French poetry magnets for her. The idea is you piece your poem together, and pop it on the fridge. I thought it might be a novel way for her to practice her French.

 

Saturday June 28th 2014

G’day Bella! We’re in Turkey, on our way from Istanbul to Cappadocia. The flight is just on an hour, so I should get a decent letter penned to you. Thus far, Turkey has been fantastic. We loved our time in Istanbul staying with Nathalie, a French friend from my teaching days in Yokohama. She’s been at an international school here in Istanbul for two years now. We had 3 nights in Istanbul with her, experiencing the outdoor alfresco dining, markets, mosques, underground cisterns, etc. There were many times I wished you were with us wandering around Turkey’s capital. Istanbul, really just has so much to offer. For a start it’s a harbor city, with splendid views, and ferries shipping commuters across the bays. One side, the western side, has a European feel to it, and is actually known as Europe, while the opposite side feels distinctly different, and is commonly known as Asia.

We arrived in Istanbul at about 1pm Wednesday, so we jumped on a bus and headed to Taksim, the neighborhood where Nathalie lives. She was still teaching (not to finish until Friday, poor thing!), so we found a café and had a late lunch. Both of us ordered the fish, because it’s just so hard to find decent, fresh fish in Cairo. Dad kind of cheated ‘cause he ordered fish & chips (remember the fish ‘n’ chips down at Shimoda Phi?). At about 5pm we met Nathalie at Taksim Square and walked back to her apartment… very hilly, so Dad was keen on getting a bit of hill training in during his stay. At Nat’s we opened a bottle of our duty-free white wine and sat on the balcony watching the ferries cross the bay to Asia. That evening, Nat took us for a long walk through and around Taksim, taking in the local streets (so busy and full of life) and sites… Istanbul is really very hilly, but also very picturesque… great first impressions!

The next morning I got up with Nat and went for a run as she headed off to school. I ran back through Taksim down to the Galata Tower. It’s a pretty cool tower standing 66m high, built in a medieval fashion around 1348. I think it was built by the Genoese. It was still early, and only me a few stray dogs were up and about down by the tower.

After breakfast we explored the Topkapi Palace, home to the Ottoman sultans for about 400 years from 1465. It’s a huge complex located a promontory overlooking the Golden Horn and the Sea of Marmara. Great views! The site is hilly, and was another good test on Dad’s calves after the morning’s hill training session, and it’s one of the highest points close to the sea. During Greek and Byzantine times, the acropolis of the ancient Greek city of Byzantion stood here. There is an underground Byzantine cistern located in the Second Courtyard. Chinami raced us through the grounds thinking she had only paid a fraction of the actual ticket price, but when we paused to do the calculations, we realized it was about $15 each, so we slowed down to get our money’s worth! Then, it was onwards to the Hagia Sophia which was originally a church, later a mosque, and now a museum. It was built in the 6th century by the Byzantine emperor Justinian the Great. We had a great local lunch, and then we made our way to the famous Blue Mosque, although when we arrived it was prayer time, so we couldn’t see much of the famous amazing ceilings. That evening, Nat San took us across to Asia on the ferry. We went to a busy restaurant district, where the restaurants spill out onto the narrow streets. Everyone prefers to sit outside and watch the people pass by. Again we ordered a good deal of fish, and again it was pretty tasty.

On the Friday, we went to the Grand Bazaar. It was more like a shopping centre than the bazaars and souks of Cairo. It’s got a long history though; evidently it started during the winter of 1455/56, shortly after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople. We also walked down to Galata Tower and took in the shops around Taksim. That evening after our bottle of wine, Nat took us down by the Galata Bridge, an area renowned for its fresh fish. The gals drank the local Arak. It is a clear, colorless, unsweetened anise-flavored alcoholic drink! 45%! Tastes a bit like ouzo. Dangerous stuff Phi!

And this morning… well we had breakfast with Nathalie nearby her apartment, and then boarded the bus from Taksim to the airport… Cappadocia here we come. We’re staying in a cave hotel!

Love you kiddo… XoXo

FAST FACT

After bringing the Persian Empire to an end, Alexander the Great tried to rule the Cappadocia area through one of his military commanders. The locals sheltered in caves and defended themselves against many incursions!

When are you coming to Cairo Phi??? One more year here, then we’ll move on in July 2015… XoXo…

BTW, just finished The Bookseller of Kabul, written by Norwegian journalist Åsne Seierstad. I guess it’s historical fiction, because it’s about a bookseller, Shah Muhammad Rais (whose name was changed to Sultan Khan), and his family in Kabul, Afghanistan. It takes a novelistic approach, focusing on characters and the daily issues that they face. It was sad and quite depressing to read at times, particularly as Seierstad outlined the plight of the women, and the horrendous discriminatory issues they face.

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