You are gone far away, away
Clouds come flinging down the rain
Comes your letter
You are here, singing, with me
My darling Ophelia Hirakawa-Morice,
If you’re ever in trouble, it doesn’t matter how bad or how minor your problem may be, I want you to know, that I’m here for you, now and always. Forever. I will not judge you, I cannot. I will not come between you and your Mother. I just want you to be happy, and to know that your Dad, C, and your Australian family are waiting for you with open arms…
Here follows more of the letters I write to you…
I love you…
Dad (Gerard Morice).
And if you’d like to contact me, send me a message at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sorry Phi, I know I’m rambling a bit, but I want to get all this down before it leaves my memory… and if that happens, I would never be able to share these experiences with you. I started writing to you on Sunday, March 15th, 2009. Your Mother was making it increasingly difficult for us to see each other… to the point, where she stopped all visitation completely. I found myself thinking, Oh, Phi would love this, or, I wish Phi had been here to see that. There were, and are, so many times a day when I think of you. So, I wanted you to know that you’re never far from my mind, and my heart. Hence the letters. I could think of no other way of keeping in touch with you.
I so wish your Mother could understand the love I share for you… This will be the sixth year I’ve been writing to you. There must be hundreds of pages of letters to you, perhaps thousands. There’s only 80 or so pages posted to our blog: opheliaanddad.wordpress.com thus far, but enough for your Mother to wish I wouldn’t write at all. But what choice do I have? She doesn’t respond to my emails, she never answers my calls, and she never affirms whether the gifts, cards, and letters ever arrive.
Last year however, she sent a demand through the High Court of Japan to have me remove this blog. She claims it’s unfair to her new family. Her opinion, is that the letters I write to you, and the few photos I post of us together are an invasion of her privacy. Regardless, she is barely mentioned at all.
These are letters for the two of us, lest we forget. In any case, C painstakingly translated each and every page that I had posted to the blog, to prove there’s nothing vindictive or accusatory about my posts. We then sent the translations to the High Court. Needless to say, I haven’t posted anything since, but nor have I removed our blog.
Onwards we go Bella! Love always, Dad… XoXo…
Wednesday, January 1st 2014
Happy New Year Bella! What a year it will be too. You’ll begin grade 6 in April, your final year of primary school. You’ll turn 12 in October, and just maybe, this time next year, Dad will visit Japan and steal a glimpse of you.
I wonder where you are now… perhaps you’re at home celebrating, or ringing the bells at a nearby shrine welcoming the NY. Or perhaps, you’re up at the snow doing a little sledding and enjoying a hot & tasty nabe in your tummy. Or perhaps a hot chocolate, and a yummy homemade cake, that you made…
C and Dad are in Colmar, France as of today. It’s a pretty little city, or rather village. As you wander the streets, you can see the French have tried to maintain the heritage of the village from yesteryear. It’s all very yesteryear, almost medieval in parts, quaint and pretty. I know you would love to walk the streets, because it has a magic quality about it, almost like you’re playing out a fairy tale.
We just spent 2 nights in Basel, Switzerland. We stayed with Dad’s friend from Saint Maur, Tim Smith who is married to Ilona, a Swiss national. By now, you’ve read a bit about Tim. He used to teach Grade 5 in the classroom next to mine in Yokohama. He also used to come over to the house in Tokyo and help out. He’s a pretty handy friend to have, especially with a power toll in his hand!
Anyway, we had an absolutely classic Swiss experience as Tim & Ilona took us up into the Alps. Spectacular! We marveled at how clean, expensive (!) and efficient everything is. I guess as opposed to France, which at times can seem quite dirty, though much cleaner than Cairo! We even ate raclette, a typical Swiss cuisine on consecutive nights. Raclette is large pieces of cheese that you melt in your own little pan beneath a grill that sits atop the table, similar to how we’d feast on nabe in Japan. You can place mushrooms, sliced potato, bread and other bits and pieces atop too. And on your plate you have an assortment of pickles that make a great contrast to the heaviness of the cheese… especially two nights in a row! Delicious, but perhaps not three nights in a row!
Back to the super clean Swiss train we took out to the base of Rigi, which I think is the name of the mountain we went to. From the station, we strolled through a village at the base of the mountain to a tram that was hauled on a type of a hydraulic cog system. I think you would have been quite excited sitting in that tram next to your Dad wondering whether the tram was really going to make it up the steep slope. It did! Thank goodness! The tram hauled us up 1800m to a point not far from the summit, but to appreciate true 360 degree views, we had to walk, slide, climb up the remaining 200m or so. The skiers and snowboarders off-loaded their gear too. I must say, my first observation other than the perfect blue skies, was that there are many more skiers than boarders in this part of the world. Quite the opposite to the ski fields in Japan. C missed you and your sense of fun, so instead of playing with you, she started a snow ball fight with Dad. Around the summit we hiked around a bit, taking in typical Swiss postcard views. Fresh, astonishing and crispy clear skies. We could see forever!
Next we took a cable car down part way for a spot of lunch. A bit of Japanese curry rice, katsudon or ramen would have been spot on, but the Swiss options weren’t too bad. I think you might have liked the crispy hot chips. From there, we jumped back on the tram to where an awesome cable car met us. From the top we could view Lake Luzern in the distance. I so wished you were standing beside me, because each time the cable car pulled itself over a pylon, the crowd inside the cable car all cheered as we lost our stomachs for a moment of weightlessness.
No, our tour wasn’t over yet. From the cable car we waltzed across to a ferry that would ship us across Lake Luzern. Cold as it was, I knew you would prefer to sit outside and feel the breeze against your cheeks. I just wished you were snuggled up on my lap, keeping both of us a little warmer. After about 30 minutes, C & Dad were shivering and had to go inside the cabin to warm our freezing tootsies. We disembarked right in front of Luzern Station… spectacular trip with the snow capped mountains surrounding us, but a tad chilly on skinny Dad!
Back to where we are at the moment (Colmar, France), because I’m dying to show you something. Colmar is pretty, compact and of course historic. Even though it’s raining, it’s lovely to wander the cobblestoned streets gazing at the shops, churches, bridges, canals, gardens and of course cafes. So, onward to what I want to show you. Last night we walked past this shop with a dress in it. The moment I saw it, I instantaneously thought of you. Then today as we passed by the same shop front, I took a photo of the dress on display in the shop window. As soon as I saw it, even looking at it now, I thought how awesome it would look on you. Don’t you think so?
So, why do I have any time to write to you, considering our busy sightseeing schedule, and the fact that I’m not on a train (which is where I do most of my writing)? Well, we’re doing a spot of laundry at a coin laundry. So we’re waiting for the slow French machines to finish their wash, rinse and spin cycles… then we’ll dry them before some wine and goodies for dinner!
We’re off to Strasbourg tomorrow, and then we’ll wind our way back to Paris. By the way, we’re heading back to Cairo on January 8th.
Wish you were with us,
Love Dad & C… XoXo…
TRULY WICKED QUOTE
“You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching,
Love like you’ll never be hurt,
Sing like there’s nobody listening,
And live like it’s heaven on earth.”
Do you remember Dad singing this to you? Weddings, Parties, Anything (WPA) adopted these words in one of their classic songs, and so too did we, as a bedtime song for two… XoXo… I love you…
Monday, January 6th 2014
HAPPY NEW YEAR BELLA! How’s 2014 treating you so far? We’re back in Paris and wishing you were walking the streets of this truly amazing city with us. C isn’t really into much sport, except for ice skating (but just to watch on TV), but she is quite a walker. We walk everywhere, which is great by me, ‘cause it keeps us fit, saves us money, we see all the back streets, and it helps build an appetite for big lunches & dinners!! Yeah, fancy some French dining daughter?
This morning, I went for a short run towards Sacre Couer, and then dropped into a boulangerie to buy the obligatory croissants & pan au chocola. Back at the hotel, we ate our breakfast, had some yoghurt and fruit juice, and then it was time to get out and about in The City of Lights. From our hotel, Pavillon Villiers Etoile, we headed for a spot of shopping. C bought some cool jeans, gloves and a pullover all from the same store, but Dad didn’t really find anything he liked. For lunch we went to a favourite restaurant of C’s in Saint Michel, a charming little restaurant, but surprisingly the food and service was quite ordinary. From there, we wandered to the church that featured prominently in The Da Vinci Code (sorry, I’ve forgotten its name – I’ll have to ask C when she gets out of the shower… remind me Phi… I’m getting a bit forgetful in my old age!), and later had another walk through the magnificent cathedral, Notre Dame. When I say another, we were there 2 and a half years ago… I wonder if you’ll be beside me when I walk through there a third time… XoXo…
Sunday (yesterday) we went out to a unique art market that was kind of in the suburbs of Paris. It was certainly very interesting, with all sorts of art. There were sculptures, paintings, sketches, photos, furniture, and everything was old or new, perfect condition or otherwise. The surroundings and local inhabitants however, were a bit dodgy. There were a few police sniffing around, and at one point they gave chase to a group of young men, one of whom was caught and thrown to the ground. He was given a stern lecture in no uncertain terms, OUCH!
From there, we joined C’s friends, JB & G, with their new daughters, A & DE. They’re a charming family, and you might remember reading about them when we visited them in Normandy when we were last in France. At that time we stayed in their 12th century church! Awesome!
In the evening from 7.30pm, we took a romantic cruise along the Seine, freezing, but such majestic architecture and my beautiful wife beside me. And then as promised, C took me to a Belgian chain restaurant that specializes in mussels. Mmm… not too bad at all.
That’s the wrap Gorgeous… hope you’re enjoying Dad’s travel log to you…
WICKED MAE WEST
“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”
― Mae West
Thursday, January 9th 2014
G’day again Phi. Last night C & Dad arrived back in Cairo. Rain followed us all over France & Switzerland, and guess what? We woke to rain this morning… LOL! Unbelievable hey?! It never rains here!
After some tasty warm porridge with honey, dried apricots & prunes (you used to enjoy your porridge with Dad on cold & frosty mornings in Numz and Melbourne; it was even better when Pa made it, and Nandee was pottering around showing you this and that), we wandered to the Duty-Free Shop to buy our alcohol. You see, in Egypt, being a predominantly Muslim country, alcohol is not widely available, except for the locally produced alcohol, which is rather rude & crude on the taste buds. So, any chance we get, we stock up on something special. In Australia, there’s even a bottle or two I’m saving to share with you some day soon…
Yesterday was a busy, busy day. For a start we were still in Paris. We woke around 6.30am, too early for Dad to go for a run and still pitch black… besides there was no time. Together we headed into the heart of Paris, Opera it is called, for the start of the sales (solde). The sales started at 8am, and the anticipation had even been on the TV over the previous nights. I bought some very French orange-red corduroy trousers and a flashy t-shirt with the queen on it sporting a moustache. Cool hey?! I particularly like the t-shirt, and hope to show it to you some day.
On our last full day, Tuesday, I went for a run and grabbed some croissants for breaky. You know Phi, I found the mornings odd in Europe. It stays very dark until quite late in the morning. I could be running as late as 8am, and it’s still surprisingly dark with just a hint of sunrise.
Anyway, after breakfast, we then headed to the Chinese area to stock up on a few ingredients we can’t purchase in Cairo. Even though it’s a Chinese area, they still have Japanese curry, nori, sake and a few other specialties C was determined to find.
From there we took the metro to Sacre Couer. More than anywhere in Paris, it’s the place I would like to glide around beside you and C. Last time we were there, C dragged me into a cute shop where she bought you some gifts. It’s another moment I’ll never forget, because at the time I didn’t know she was buying the gifts for you. We found the same shop. I smiled, but my eyes were full of tears. I was in Sacre Couer again with my lover, my wife. Everything was almost perfect, but something was missing… you. The cobble-stoned streets are so rustic, artists abound & restaurant aromas permeate everywhere. The sky seems eternally grey, there’s dog shite everywhere, but there’s something particularly majestic about this part of Paris. And to experience the City of Lights, Paris, with you, would be heaven and a dream come true… maybe one day, hey kiddo! XoXo…
From Sacre Couer, we went into Opera to meet M San, a friend of C’s from her Paris days. We had ramen & gyoza for lunch. Yes, ramen! There are Japanese restaurants all over Paris, absolutely everywhere, most serving sushi or ramen, but in the evening, our last night in Paris, we went to the best Japanese restaurant. Actually, it’s French, but the chef is Japanese. Yes, it’s the same restaurant C used to work at, XXX. For entrée we had a pate of duck and an exquisite dish of crab. For mains, C had venison and Dad had a special cut of beef. And for dessert I had an apple pie and C had a chocola something… Mmm! Of course we had the obligatory bottle of wine with our meal.
Back to the present… After some soup for lunch I sat down and finished my latest read: Tuesday’s with Morrie; an old man, a young man, and life’s greatest lesson. It’s a great read that provokes thought, reflection, and even prompts forgiveness. As I read the story of how a university graduate reconnects with his dying university teacher, I, of course thought of you, but I also found myself thinking of your Mother. I began to think that she feels trapped by her actions. At one point, Morrie said, “People are only mean when they’re threatened.” I think, maybe your Mother was feeling threatened that I would take you away from her, if I maintained custody in the Family Court… but I could never do that… even now, as much as I want to see you, I could never deny your Mother… it’s just not right.
Morrie said: “There is no experience like having children. That’s all. There is no substitute for it. You cannot do it with a friend. You cannot do it with a lover. If you want the experience of having complete responsibility for another human being, and to learn how to love and bond in the deepest way, then you should have children.”
And, I guess you, my beautiful daughter ask me, “Would you do it again?”
Yes. Without hesitation. I would not have missed even one moment with you for anything. You are my daughter. My everything. My pride. My joy. You are my only child, and as such, you will always be in my heart, no matter how far away you are, and no matter what hurdles are placed in front of us. I will always love you. Always. Unconditionally. XoXo…
Even though there was, and is a painful price for the love I have for you, I would not give up a single memory of us together for anything.
One final quote from Morrie, that I feel sums you up, because it’s not just me who loves and misses you. You have a special place in so many hearts from the years you spent living with me: “All the love you created is still there. You live on – in the hearts of everyone you have touched and nurtured while you were here.” Morrie
Saturday, February 1st 2014
How’s life in Japan? Must be freezing cold now. C & Dad have noticed there’s quite a bit of snow in the news in Japan, even in Tokyo and Yokohama. Typically February is your coldest month, so I hope all the other 5th grade girls are sensible enough to be wearing stockings to school these days. Tell me, you are wearing nice, warm, thick stockings, aren’t you?! I never quite understood the Japanese peer pressure for girls not to wear stockings when it’s so COLD! Even here in Cairo, where it’s no where near as cold, the international girls rug up in warm stockings if they’re wearing skirts to school.
So, what’s Dad been up to? Well, today I met Wayne in the design & technology lab at school. It is truly an awesome classroom that Pa would die for. The Middle School kids have the option of choosing design & technology, where they have the opportunity to create all sorts of things with wood, plastics and other materials. They even have two 3D printers! So today, Dad made some legs for our new coffee table. To be true, we bought an Arabic designed door, yeah, a door. Both sides of the door are intricately designed with nails/tacks. I think it looks fantastic, as we don’t need another door, I thought we could manufacture a huge coffee table instead.
So, I’m sitting here sipping a scotch, and my feet are resting on the new coffee table. C just frowned at me, so I think I should remove my feet from the table… soon!
Love you… would you like to hear a chapter from my new book? Game of Thrones. It’s great!
The Sinai Peninsula in Egypt spans across two continents, Africa and Asia. We’re thinking of making a trip to the Rea Sea this summer, perhaps to Dahab… wanna come? We might even climb Mount Sinai and watch the sunrise… now wouldn’t that be something!
Friday, February 8th 2014
Good afternoon Ophelia. How was your week at school? Another cold week in Saitama, I guess? The weather here is not too bad. It’s not as cold as it was before Christmas, in fact it’s perfect jogging weather.
Today we went into Ataba in search of an illusive piece for C’s sewing machine. A lovely Mexican teacher at school gave us her old sewing machine. It’s an antique, and so beautiful. I’m not sure how old it is, perhaps 70 or more years, but it works very well and weighs a ton. The only problem is that it’s missing the little piece that guides the needle and thread. We’ve looked everywhere, and today we located a sewing district, so we were very hopeful. But alas, after many negotiations, charades and discussions, we could not locate the desired piece.
Time for a little nap on the couch, and then Dad might make some lasagna for dinner. Would you like to join us? I can easily set you a place possum.
Love you… Dad.
“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”
Thursday February 13th 2014
Hey Bella, how many boys are you planning to give chocolate to tomorrow? Anybody special in grade 5 this year Phi?
Tonight, my Valentine & I celebrated Valentine’s Day early and went to the Blackstone Grill. The parents of the kids I teach at CAC (school) had given me a voucher. In fact they gave me 3 vouchers for Christmas, and each one covers roughly dinner for two. Yippee! C looked beautiful, and I felt ever so proud to be her partner. I had duck & C had a scampi/prawn pasta. We shared a huge salad, and my main came with extra steamed vegetables, that together we couldn’t finish. Needless to say, we didn’t need to order dessert.
Last Saturday morning we went to Carre Four and stocked up. It’s a French chain of supermarkets. There was even one in Iruma at one stage… I remember going there with Noribaba and your mother and buying some French cheese. The school organizes a bus for those who wish to go; you meet the bus at the front gate at school, they take you shopping, and then the bus actually drops you off at your apartment. It’s a very convenient system, but as you meet at school at 8:30am, and usually get back to the apartment at about midday, it takes up a good part of the day… so much so, that I can’t remember what we did last Saturday afternoon.
Anyway Phi, time for bed. Good night… I hope you enjoyed a good story being read to you this evening… XoXo…
“This life is what you make it. No matter what, you’re going to mess up sometimes, it’s a universal truth. But the good part is you get to decide how you’re going to mess it up. Girls will be your friends – they’ll act like it anyway. But just remember, some come, some go. The ones that stay with you through everything – they’re your true best friends. Don’t let go of them. Also remember, sisters make the best friends in the world. As for lovers, well, they’ll come and go too. And baby, I hate to say it, most of them – actually pretty much all of them are going to break your heart, but you can’t give up because if you give up, you’ll never find your soulmate. You’ll never find that half who makes you whole and that goes for everything. Just because you fail once, doesn’t mean you’re gonna fail at everything. Keep trying, hold on, and always, always, always believe in yourself, because if you don’t, then who will, sweetie? So keep your head high, keep your chin up, and most importantly, keep smiling, because life’s a beautiful thing and there’s so much to smile about.”
Friday, February14th 2014
Happy Valentine’s Day! Who’s your sweetie?
Today we prepared several goodies for the French Market tomorrow. C made all sorts of sweets and desserts. Many of them had a Japanese theme, so there was a sprinkle of matcha here and there. I like them all, because they’re not too sweet, but I guess the test will be tomorrow… we’re just waiting for a batch to come from the oven… to be continued.
Yesterday was the French Market (Saturday). It’s really just a house; they call it the French Maison. It has quite a big garden and the stall-holders set up on the grass in the backyard. There are vegetables, curries, cakes, handicrafts, tea & coffee, etc. In the morning around 8am, I walked with C and gave her a hand in carrying all her goodies. Yoshiko was already there with her sushi and peanut brittle. It wasn’t your typical sunny day in Cairo, in fact the clouds were looking quite dark. Just as I was leaving in my shorts and running gear, the first sign of rain fell. I enjoyed a run in light rain, but I was concerned about C & Y setting up their stall in the rain. It was quite cold too. I raced home and took a quick shower, then raced back to the French Market with coats and the only umbrella I could find. Fortunately, just after I arrived, the director of the market offered C & Y a place inside the French Maison, so they weren’t too wet. Fancy needing an umbrella in Cairo!
Despite the rain, and the low number of people who attended the market, C & her friend had quite a successful day. I was very pleased for them, especially my C. She’s a gem, and battling on despite all the hurdles Cairo throws at her. That night we celebrated C & Yoshiko’s success, by eating loads of left-over sushi at Wayne & Y’s. There was even some sushi left for you, Ophelia… XoXo…
The longest river in the world, the Nile, runs through Egypt… but you already knew that too. No, I haven’t swum in it yet!
Saturday 22nd February, 2014
G’day Phi. How’s trix? On Thursday at Cairo American College, the MS had their Cultural Day. In many American schools, primary school, or what they call elementary school finishes at grade 5. Middle school is then grade 6 through to grade 8, and high school grade 9 through to grade 12. Anyway, because my fifth graders (just like you) are preparing to transfer to middle school, we were invited to attend for the hour before lunch. The MS students performed songs, dances and poetry in different languages. I was amazed, because quite often at this age, kids are self-conscious and not too keen on climbing up on a stage to perform something cultural in front of their peers. There was even a couple of Japanese girls who sang a song in Japanese. I think it was titled, “Let’s go.” But I could be mistaken.
Yesterday was the annual Digla Dash. It’s an annual Fun Run organized by the school. There’s a 2.5km jog/walk, a 5km run and a 10km run. You won’t believe it, but Dad ran the 10km and came second! Actually, I won’t tell you my time because it was rather slow. But I was happy to beat a bunch of high school kids and some American marines.
Then C & Dad went into Old Cairo on the metro (train) to look at the Coptic churches, and to check out the handmade pottery, textiles, art. It’s about the third time we’ve been there, so I’ll pass over explaining the details. C has started doing quite a bit of pottery with Azarea, the art teacher at school… she’s not bad either.
And this morning, we met Wayne at school and made a few things for the Japanese booth for the International Day. Again we met in the design & technology lab. This time we made a wooden box for a luck dip type game. The top of the box has a series of many holes, through which you poke a string that is attached to a prize. And this evening, we were invited to Wayne & Yoshiko’s for dinner, tonkatsu and miso soup, salad, and C made a strawberry cream cake… Mmm. Fancy a piece of C’s cake Phi-Fai-Pho-Fum?
Love you from here to the moon and BACK! XoXo…
“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”
― Dr. Seuss, Happy Birthday to You!
Sunday, February 23rd 2014
G’day Gorgeous. Just a quick one this evening. I’ve just finished writing a letter to you. It was C’s idea, god bless her for always looking out for me.
Jan, Beth & Aza came for dinner tonight, but the power was out for about 70 minutes so it complicated the cooking process. When the power finally came back on, we had karage, miso soup, salad and fish. After our guests had left I sat up and wrote a letter to you. Tomorrow Cis heading home for a short break. I’m going to miss her, but it’s necessary. She’ll also work on our taxes and settle a few things to do with our house and the real estate agent. She’ll probably spend a good deal of time cleaning up the old house we renovated… and the real estate wants her to move all my tools. When she arrives in Japan, she will post my letter to you from Narita Airport. Hope it arrives safely Phi.
It was hard writing directly to you. There’s a small chance you’ll receive the letter, but I also know there’s another chance that the letter will be prevented from finding you.
I love you Ophelia. It’s moments like these, I miss your presence so much. Good night & sweet dreams Princess.
Love Dad… XoXo…
You’re the best kiddo! If it were up to me, you would be the 8th wonder of the world!
Tuesday, 25th February 2014
Hey Bella, we missed you today on our Grade 5 excursion. We took the kids out to the local wadi. It’s a fascinating place where we had the Digla Dash (Fun Run) a few weeks ago. 40,000,000 years ago this entire region was covered by a shallow sea some 6-9 meters deep. Can you believe it! They’ve even found whale bones, and sharks three times bigger than today’s great white sharks. The kids loved it. You didn’t have to walk far to find evidence of shells and even crustaceans in rock segments. We had a guest speaker come along too, Dr. Bill, a local geologist. He was fantastic with the kids, giving us all sorts of information about weathering, erosion and deposition. We took the kids for a hike up to the top of the wadi for a better view. You could actually see the pyramids at Giza in the distance, and of course the ever present smog of Cairo.
Normally, every Tuesday we do Epic Stories in my class. Because we teach writing by genre, I like to mix things up every Tuesday. For example, we’ll spend 6 weeks teaching the craft of writing persuasive texts, or non-fiction, or fantasy picture story, or a procedural text. It can kind of get a bit tedious doing 5 consecutive days writing in the same genre. So, Tuesday has quickly become our narrative day of writing. Write what you want kids! Each week, I model a piece of writing by reading my chapter story to the class. I’m already onto my twelfth chapter. Would you like to read chapter one? I’ve got a funny feeling I might have inserted chapter one, two and/or three years ago, because in actual fact, it’s a story I started a few years back. I often think of you as I write, because the main character, Bailey is about your age, and he lives with just his Dad. The story has morphed and lengthened since then, so I’ll be curious to see what you think of the changes, if indeed I did insert chapter one some time ago??? Anyway buddy, here’s the latest draft of chapter one:
HAVE DAD, WILL TRAVEL
For the first 4015 days of my life everything was fine, then suddenly my world came to an end. Dad and I were at Nana’s for dinner again when Dad dropped a bomb. I don’t mean the stinky variety. Whenever he did drop a stink bomb he never tired of saying, “Hey Bailey, pull my finger!” When I was younger I used to fall for his joke all the time, innocently pulling his finger only to be greeted by a loud trumpet type boom wafting from the seat of his trousers.
We often ended up at Nana’s, or at our place. Just Nana & me that is, because Dad usually worked late. He worked in finance, and apparently that meant he had to stay at the office late to see what the markets were doing in New York and London.
It was a cold and wintery night, and we were just finishing Nana’s famous ham & pea soup, the soup Nana thought was my favorite thing in the whole world. You see, Nana and me are really close. I guess she’s like the mum I never had, so when she asked me what I wanted for my birthday last year, I’d had a sudden pang to please her and said, “Ham & pea soup.”
So guess what I got for my 10th birthday? Lego? Guess again. Ham and pea soup was alright I guess, actually it was wickedly delicious as far as warm gooey green sludge goes, but it wasn’t chocolate cake with extra chocolate on top. What I should have said was, “Oh Nana, you know you don’t have to get me anything. BUT, if you really and truly want to get me something, there’s a cool lego Star Wars’ kit I’d do my homework for everyday for the next billion years.”
Nan read books, loads of them. She even read kids’ books and tried to talk to me about them. She always had a cup of tea and a biscuit. She somehow managed to make the biscuit last for ages. She looked happy, even when she started to concentrate. She looked over the top of her glasses. I don’t know why she bothered to wear glasses.
Anyway, the rain was coming down outside and I had just picked up my soup bowl to lick it clean. Nana was pretending to be angry with me for bad dining etiquette saying she would “box my ears”, when Dad started on one of his guttural coughs. This usually meant everybody out of the pool and listen up. I lowered my bowl with a grin. Nan gave me a wink, and tried to point at my nose by looking down her own nose. A bit of green gooey soup was hanging from my nose. I had put extra cheese in mine. I tried unsuccessfully to sniff it up. Then I tried to lick the soup from my nose, but my tongue refused to extend that far. Dad waited. He looked down at his hands, frowning. Something was wrong.
-How was school?
-Patty got in trouble today.
-Yeah, had to stay in at lunch play.
-What did he do?
-Mr. G asked a question about fractions.
-Patty told him hot pies were better than chips.
-What was the correct answer? said Dad when he’d stopped laughing.
Dad looked serious like he’d just remembered something. He leaned forward with his elbows on the table. My eyes eagerly hoped Dad was about to tell me that he could take me to the football this weekend instead of going to the office. Instead his voice thick with doubt said, “I’ve taken that job in Japan.”
Nan nodded gravely in disbelief. Then as she looked at me she started to shake her head. She raised her hand and placed it over her mouth as if she didn’t know what to say. As for me, after my eyes shot out of my head and ended up in Dad’s soup bowl next to his peas, there was a moment of total silence. Then my bottom lip started to quiver. Before the first tear splashed in my empty soup bowl I stuttered, “There’s zero chance of me going to Japan. I’m staying with Nana right here!” My teeth were clenched and I could hear my violent breathing through my nose. Just before my blood boiled I hurled a sting at Dad, “Nana looks after me most of the time anyway!”
Before Dad had had a chance to explain, I stormed to my room like Mr. Guzzard our 5th grade teacher. Mr. G was always throwing a wobbly with a face like a tomato.
I sat at the foot of my bed noticing for the first time that the patterns in the floorboards looked like they had seaweed floating through them. Why Japan? Nothing made sense. Why seaweed? Was there a connection? My chest convulsed in pain and questions I needed answering, but not from Dad, not now. I simmered in mega misery. I felt tentacles wrapping around me, suffocating me, destroying all my hopes in life.
I sat there as mad and as helpless as the flies I often captured in summer and whose wings I clipped. The raised voices of Nana and Dad, filtered through the door. By the sounds of their sparring, Nana was in as much shock as me. No doubt Nana Yoda, my protective Jedi knight was taking the battle up to Darth Dad.
Nan and I are best of friends. We’re each so very proud of each other, and we don’t mind telling each other so, especially in front of other people. When my pals talk about how great their mums are, I always say something like, “Nan makes the best ham and pea soup in the galaxy.” They chuckle, even though they don’t like soup.
And Nan, usually not too far away, squeezes my cheeks and says, “My dear Bailey gives the best hugs in the world.”
The voices of Nan and Dad drifted elsewhere, so too my mind. We studied Japanese at school, which was about as much fun as memorizing my times table back in third grade. I still didn’t know them properly. The only good thing I knew about Japan was what Haruka’s mum had told us on Japanese Day at school. Even that learning got me into trouble. She did a talk about Japan and those fat wrestlers that wear diapers in the name of sport. We watched a video of these goliaths with huge bums bumping and slapping each other around a dirt ring. These super fatties were called sumo wrestlers and they were absolutely enormous, which surprised me because Haruka was tiny and we all thought Japanese people were too.
At lunchtime that day, Josh, Patty and I really embraced Japanese Day. We grabbed our art smocks and wrapped them around our bums like daggy diapers and wrestled each other in the mud behind the art room. It was awesome fun because the 2nd graders thought it was an official part of Japanese Day, and like all good audiences cheered us on dutifully. That was until Grumpy Guzzard heard the raucous and sniffed us out. I swear if I had had a dream where I’d picked my nose he would miraculously find out about it and announce it for all to hear during morning meeting. In any case, when he discovered us covered in mud, he had blown a head gasket and lined us up in front of the principal’s office.
The weekend after Japanese Day at Patty’s sleepover, Josh had laughed so much about our sumo mud wrestling that his breakfast cornflakes had catapulted out his nostrils. Patty’s mum didn’t think it was as funny as us.
What do you think kiddo? Any future for your Dad as a writer? Would you like to read chapter two? Your cousin Allie, is reading it at the moment. She’s already read the first 10 chapters.
Oh, and by the way, Brenda & Allen are coming to Cairo! It’s going to be great sitting on our balcony, just C & me, Brenda & Allen. They’d love to see you! Fancy popping over for a camel ride through the pyramids of Giza? We could stop for an ice cream too.
See you Gorgeous… XoXo… Dad.
CRAZY BUT TRUE THOUGHT
I would give anything to be with you now. To gently muss up your hair and watch you make a face once more. To hear you finish the sentence with me… I love you more than… from here to the moon and back… just once more, Phi… XoXo…
Saturday, March 1st 2014
G’day Chief. How are you? I’m a bit lonely at the moment, because C has ducked back to Tokyo to sort through our rental property, taxes, and empty my shed of its wonderful power tools, before tenants move in. Yes, that’s the good news. It appears the real estate agents have finally found a tenant. Evidently it’s a Japanese family with a dog… sounds like your family… that would be funny wouldn’t it?
Fortunately, I’ve been a busy camel raider of late, writing reports, chairing the science committee (LOL), on the standards based report card committee overhaul, and our school is going through an accreditation process, so on that mob too. So, I’ve been working back late, because there’s no C to go home to. Without C Chan home, I generally get home about 7pm, making it a 12 hour day exactly. I cook a quick omelet, read the third book in The Game of Thrones series, and by 8.30pm, I’m in bed.
Here’s a crazy Cairo experience for you… Yesterday, I had this early 1900s colonial experience, that I’m not too sure what to make of. We went out to an old villa in the shadows of the pyramids, yes, the pyramids were at the end of the sandy street. It’s owned by one of the American art teachers at school, who is married to a rich Egyptian. Behind this huge fence, the polo horses were mostly in their stables. An Arabian mare or filly, with its foal were running around the yard. To see them made me immediately think of you. Half a dozen Cairo donkeys were penned, the rooster was going off… “Kokikoko!” There were chickens pecking here and there, but they were keeping out of the way of the Dobermans, the labs, the golden retrievers and a few other dogs. You would have been in heaven, as Emily, a fourth grader from Sydney had spent the morning riding horses out by the pyramids, and as I arrived, she was grooming the horse she had ridden.
By the pool, the best bar I’ve ever seen (in Egypt) was in full session. The bell was ringing regularly and the servants were bringing ice, snacks and extra bottles of everything. You can’t buy imported alcohol in Egypt, but they were fully stocked. I had the spiciest bloody Mary I’ve ever tasted, because after all, it was only 1pm.
Then the French wine was opened and a BBC journalist arrived. Robby sat down next to me, and I learned that he’d had drinks with the Aussie journalist, Peter Greste around the very same pool on Xmas day! I was in shock, because shortly after that, Peter was arrested and thrown in prison. The police say he had been interviewing the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood members. Unbelievable, arrested because he was doing his job as a journalist, to report on both sides. I incidentally ran around the prison Peter Greste is locked up in this morning. Surreal hey!
In the afternoon, I watched as the carpenters finish constructing a polo machine with wood. Basically, it was a wooden horse that the polo player sits on, and practices swinging her/his club at the ball. The wooden horse is enclosed, so the ball bounces off a net, and the flooring slopes down toward the horse, so the ball returns to the horse.
Then we were invited to the horse yard, for the commencement of donkey baseball. It was a bit of a bohemian dream at this stage, and I wasn’t feeling too comfortable about the idea of riding a donkey around the bases. Teams were formed, but no care given to the Mercedes Benz or armored jeeps in the car park beside third base. The kids were all involved, but were taking it all rather too seriously. If you made the hit, you had to mount a donkey and ride the bases home. I wasn’t sure it was really happening, and nor did I feel too comfortable about it being 2014 and the servants leading the donkeys around the bases, so I drifted back to the bar for a medicinal scotch. I’m not sure you would have liked it either. I felt sorry for the donkeys, and I’ve never been comfortable with having servants/maids/paid help in my life.
The sun set on the pyramids, and billiards with Syrians, French, US marines and some wealthy Egyptians followed. Dinner was served, and then one of the drivers drove us back across the Nile in a monstrous 4WD. Crazy hey!
Time to brush my teeth… love you Kiddo! Dad… XoXo…
“All God does is watch us and kill us when we get boring. We must never, ever be boring.”
― Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters. (I guess today could never be called boring!)
Thursday, March 6th 2014
Hello Phi. Well, what a day! It was Kids’ Day today at Cairo American College. Kids’ Day pretty much equates with Sports Day, but this was the best Sports Day I’d ever been a part of.
At 7.50am the kids arrived, excited to see whose design would be proudly displayed on every kid & teachers’ t-shirt. I handed out the purple t-shirts to my 5th graders, and grade 4 had green t-shirts, grade 3 orange, etc. The winning design was by a 5th grade girl, and it looks great. It’s a very colorful, international, sporty design. I’ve got a spare one on my desk… I think it will fit you.
So, with our new t-shirts we walked down to the running track for the opening ceremony. Being grade 5, we are the head of the primary school, so our 5th graders got to lead the other classes around the track, similar to the opening ceremony at the Olympics. Each class had been creating their own banner, so we held our banners proud and high.
After a short speech, the events started. It was fantastic, because each class rotated around different activities every 15 minutes, so at no point were the students idle. Everybody was active, engaged and having fun. I liked it a lot, because although there was an element of competition, there were no winners or points given; it was all about participation, cooperation and enjoyment. Some day I’ll show you the photos and explain the events, because to see the joy on these kids faces, was just awesome.
I just wish, you could also take advantage of such an education.
After Kids Day, as C was out of town, I joined the Wompers, who are a running group of teachers. Each Thursday they go out to the Wadi for a run, then some refreshments and a chat, as the sun sets on the pyramids. Here’s the newsletter Kim sent out about Thursday’s run:
Wompers and the Wannabees,
Great run last week – as always. Nine people, two dogs, and the Sophie Box, all crammed into one chariot and a taxi flagged down from the street. That will happen NO MORE. We have a new entry into the fleet of carriages, wompmobiles, chariots, or trucks. Meghan is now a member of the four wheeled club, charging through the streets of Ma’adi into the depths of our Wadi.
There will be a special treat for everyone who brings a truck this Thursday, so if you were on the fence, make sure you drive the Thursday. You will be rewarded with great fanfare. If you can’t make it, you will get great fanfare next week, or the week after………..or……….
Last week saw Ged eat me up on the run. The guy is fast, so I let him run about two km more than me, and that about evened things up. Why was it just me and Ged, when we actually had four runners on the womp, you ask? Well so did I. It seems that Josiah backed out because he wanted to be fresh for his first half marathon the following day. Joel was nursing an owie (one of many he seems to be getting now that he has turned a year older). So it was Ged and me, and the crows cackling in the sky.
The weather turned very cold, so we all bailed out early – no fire last week – make mental note to bring wood. We decided to all pile into or on Izzy and go wait for the taxi in a brighter local. Ged thought he would get in a few extra clicks and set off running. First, I must say, that the reflecting tape on his backpack and shorts had us all laughing as it looked like a weak little man darting along in front of us, all legs and arms akimbo. Then he met the dogs. They started growling, he ran faster. They growled more. He turned and took a kick at one of them. I was looking out the other side of the car trying to whack one of the canine wolves with my door. I hit Ged with the car – but only gently. Ged jumped onto the hood of my car and out of the reach of the slobbering fangs. The dogs followed us leaping and clawing the air, trying to reach the desired flesh. It was like the last scene in The Hunger Games, when those hounds tried to eat Katniss on the cornucopia. Evil beasts these feral Wadi dogs are!
With so much excitement behind us, we were glad to see the ordered taxi show up on time. We departed once again. Roadies in the cup holders, laughter on our lips, and a shot of adrenaline just to make things interesting.
Can’t wait to see what this week brings. Report cards are done. Time to celebrate (actually mine aren’t done yet, I’m just killing time doing this letter).
Your Pooh Bah
Wish you could join Dad on next week’s run!
Saturday, March 8th 2014
Howdy Cowdy. How’s trix? I’m still a bit shaken up by what happened with the feral dogs out at the Wadi on Thursday. So, it was good to meet up at Wayne & Yoshiko’s at 9am Friday. Yoshiko had this idea that Wayne needed a project. She wanted a basic outdoor kitchen in their backyard that she could make takoyaki, okonomiyaki, etc., for lunch. And being pretty similar to your Dad, Wayne enjoys his power tools too. Seemed like a good project for your Dad to be involved in, so we spent the whole day working on Yoyo’s kitchen. By 7pm, we had the frame up, and perhaps a third of the cladding (walls) were pieced together too. Then in the evening, they kindly took me out for dinner. We had Chinese and it was surprisingly good. It was good not to have to go home too early, and be alone with my book.
And today, well, that was a bit of fun too. I was up early for a run, and then it was time for our yearly fantasy football elite draft. All the 8 boys were online for some banter on Skype. Allen was in Sydney, Uncle Richie & Sean, and one of our neighbors from childhood (Ashley – who you actually met with his son and wife down at the beach house) Skyped from Melbourne, while the Japanese connection of Jamie, Sandy & Evan called in from Japan. It was a lot of fun, but I’m not too sure Dad recruited the best players… only time will tell, I guess.
Around midday I went to Wayne’s to help out with the outdoor kitchen again. It was another beautiful day in Cairo, t-shirt & shorts weather, so we enjoyed pizza on their lawn for lunch. Finished up at Wayne’s around 3pm and went for another run! Did a bit of x-training and even mixed in a bit of shopping into my exercise routine. I bought 12 bread rolls for 2LE (that’s about 30 yen), a big bunch of Italian parsley and a bunch of negi (spring onions) for 2LE also. Soup and fresh bread rolls are on the menu for tonight’s dinner. Want some soup and a movie together? We could watch Spirit!
Love Dad… XoXo…
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
Wednesday, March 12th 2014
Hello Ophelia Hirakawa-Morice. Happy day today, because my C came home from Japan. She had been in Japan for just over two weeks, and I might say, it was a lonely apartment to go home to every night. Plus I missed her amazing cooking, smile and chatter. Before I could wrap my arms around her, I had to put some time in for the G3 – 5 outdoor social. Every trimester, the Student Council organize a social afternoon or evening. This particular social had no dancing, or indoor games, and instead the student leaders had organized outdoor games and activities. Teachers were asked to volunteer their time, just to ensure games went smoothly. I supervised a group who were playing a version of ships & sailors; and another game of sharks and crocodiles, only they decided to call it: i-phones & Samsungs. It was a bit of fun… I’m sure you would have liked it…
Time to wake C up… she’s still napping… a bit of jetlag I suspect. Love you buddy, Dad… XoXo…
“The only way out of the labyrinth of suffering is to forgive.”
― John Green, Looking for Alaska
Sunday, March 16th 2014
Hey Bella. I missed you yesterday. Dad was helping out with the Australian booth at the International Festival. It was a gorgeous sunny day, as usual, I guess. It was marvelous to see so many different nationalities volunteering their time. Your Dad was cooking the Aussie sausages and onions on the bbq. Now, what could be more Aussie than a bbq? We were selling 2 sausages on a piece of bread with lovely golden onions and a bit of dead horse (that translates to tomato sauce). We also sold pies and your favorite, sausage rolls too. We didn’t actually make them, but instead we discovered an Australian woman who has been in Egypt for 31 years, and her German business partner, who have just started an Aussie pie bakery! Amazing hey! They were delighted to help out, and their homemade pies were delicious. We even had lamingtons and pavlova, and for the morning at least (we ran out of supplies), we had the kids decorating their own boomerangs. There aren’t too many Aussie families at our school, so nearly all the Australian teachers volunteered to man the stall.
Later in the afternoon, Dad took the microphone and announced all the winners in the raffles. There must have been about 30-40 baskets with some great prizes. I didn’t win anything.
BTW, do you remember when Dad won one of the raffles at Saint Maur in Yokohama? That day, I won 8 tickets to Disney Land and a night at the Sheraton for you and me! Do you still remember our day at Disney Sea? The day before our big day (and Dad’s first time at Disney Sea), we arrived at the hotel and went straight to the pool. It was summer, but they curiously closed the outdoor pool at 5pm, so we had to switch to the indoor pool. Then we feasted at the outdoor buffet, before heading back to our enormous room to jump up and down on the beds!
And today, well, we had parent-teacher interviews. They were fine. The parents are very supportive and positive. Even so, Dad is a bit brain-dead and needs to go for a run to liven things up inside his brain.
Miss you every day Ophelia. Take care… and sweet dreams… XoXo…
There is some cool video footage of the two of us on a rollercoaster at Disney Sea… let’s watch it again soon!
Friday, March 21st 2014
Well Phi, what a day. I’ve just been on one of those once in a lifetime trips. We departed from CAC at 7am, in three 4W drives. We headed north out of Cairo, where the guides drove off the highway after about 150km. They said we’d follow a track, but instead they set the GPS for Wadi Zeuglodon (Whale Valley). Desert, desert and more DESERT. The route passed by Gebel Guhannam (Hell Mountain), a huge flat-topped landmark. We stopped at this point and heard that a WW2 German pilot had crash-landed his plane safely within site of Hell Mountain. He managed to walk to the base of the rock, where his uniform & bones were found after the war. It was kind of eerie walking around the base of the rock, and strange to think that in real terms when you think about Egypt and its history, WW2 is not all that long ago.
When we arrived at Whale Valley we were privileged to walk among 40,000,000 year old wale fossils (they actually had legs, can you believe it!) and the remnants of mangroves. It was a stunning landscape, perfect for a Star Wars set. We had a grand bbq lunch beneath a sail cloth, and then we found some enormous sand dunes to do a spot of sand-boarding. Before sunset, we passed by the Lower Lake of Wadi El Rayan. A manmade lake that is fed by the Nile.
I’m exhausted Bella, but thought I had better get all this down before my 45 year old brain forgets the names of all the sites we visited today.
Love Dad… XoXo…
“If we teach today as we did yesterday, then we rob of children a tomorrow.” John Dewey
Tuesday, March 25th 2014
G’day Bella. Today, we need to send an important document back to Japan. The postal service here is notorious for losing letters, indeed we’ve suffered personally not receiving letters posted to us, nor have our letters arrived at their intended destination out of Egypt. C will use a US courier, though expensive, they have a good reputation. The document will be posted to C’s parents’ place, so she suggested I pop in a letter for you, and her mother will post it to you. What do you think? Sounds like a good plan, hey!? Here’s what I wrote to you:
Hey Bella. How’s your Spring Break? Do you have plans for a special trip? Dad is actually about to attend a conference in Bangkok, Thailand. The conference is all about teaching reading.
In April, I can’t quite believe you’re preparing to go into 6th grade. It’s your final year of primary school. I wonder if next year, you will continue at the same school, or shift to a different Middle School. Do you like your present school? What’s your favorite subject, and are you a member of any after-school clubs or activities? If you want to write to me, you can reach me at: email@example.com
I wrote to you at Christmas. I’m not too sure if you received my letter, but that’s okay, because a copy of that letter and hundreds more like them, I’m saving to give to you some day soon.
Next month Brenda & Allen will come all the way from Australia to visit us. Their eldest, David, is actually in Holland at The Hague studying law. Your favorite, Nicola, is working back in Sydney, and Timmy, is now a year 12 High School student in Sydney too. It would be nice for you to join us on the balcony for a special drink and chat. I know Brenda would just love to give you a big hug.
Well Phi, I hope this reaches you, because I really want you to know how much I miss you. I think of you every day, and wish you could visit us for a play.
Love always, your Dad.
“But better to get hurt by the truth than comforted with a lie.”
Sunday, March 30th 2014
G’day Phi. It’s 5.12pm, and I’m just finishing up at school. The cleaners are singing an Arabic song that sounds similar to the songs that blare from the mosques, only they’re not so loud, so it’s kind of nice listening.
We had a nice weekend. Thursday, the faculty were invited to Wayne & Y’s for nibbles and drinks. It was good to serve from the outdoor kitchen that Wayne & Dad had created with their tools. Later in the evening we went along to the Seniors’ Art Exhibition. Seniors equals year 12. Phenomenal artists! I was so blown away by the creativity and excellence, I took my fifth graders along today (yeah, today… I’m still getting use to the idea of the working week beginning Sunday). My 5th graders loved it too, and when we returned to the classroom, they silently wrote amazing reflections.
Also last Thursday, C picked up Azarea’s dog. Aza is the Australian art teacher actually, and she’s off on a conference, so we’re babysitting. The dog is tiny and spoilt. It eats penne and toast and croissants! I think you’d probably quite like it, but it’s not Dad’s favorite… at the moment… fancy not being able to go for a jog with your dog! I think this one requires AA batteries!
Friday evening we were back at Wayne & Y’s again (yes, they’re very kind to us). Sushi and Ghengis Khan were on the menu; that’s Hokkaido lamb, only the lamb though imported from Japan, had originated from Australia! That’s quite a carbon footprint! Maya & Sam, Wayne & Y’s kids seemed comfortable speaking in Japanese from time to time, and I couldn’t but help think, that their quiet and calm ways would win a friend in you.
“When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You know that your name is safe in their mouth.”
― Jess C. Scott. I like that, do you? Dad… XoXo… See you in April Kiddo!