Wednesday, July 1st 2015
Dear Phi, another day, another letter. Sometimes, as much as anything else, this journal is a record of me not letting this tragedy rule me. It’s been three years since I’ve actually seen you… three years… and counting.
We’re still in Cairo, but just one more sleep and our two years in Egypt closes. How’s your running going? Battling the heat & humidity? When I run, I challenge myself, not so much to overcome this tragedy, just to deal with it in a better frame of mind. Even with the constant heat & dust I am able to somehow set my mind and spirit to run for you, with you. As I run, I kind of pull my thoughts into a zone. A zone, that intensifies and becomes ever more real as I exercise. A zone of thoughts so focused, that I can capture the hope of one day being reunited with you. My mind conjures happy episodes of yesteryear, and it channels pilot episodes of happy times to come. My body surges, finding strength from my youth. And when I don’t think I can manage another chin-up, or another push-up, or my core is screaming for rest during sit-ups, I do 10 more for you. Always for you. You drive me and your presence in my life, no matter how many kilometers distant brings me the gift of hope, and a better wellbeing.
Last night we checked into Mel’s (Melanie Flynn) flat just around the corner here in Maadi, Egypt. Mel arrived with us two years ago. She’s a Melbourne lass, just like your Dad. She’s a ripper, a breath of fresh air; bold, generous, and full of bounce & passion. Mel is off frolicking somewhere in this wonderful world, but she left us a bottle of wine and a gorgeous A4 handmade ‘good luck’ card. The card was resting up against the bottle of red; it has a photo of the three of us aboard her b’day boat upon the mighty Nile.
This morning, Dad had his final run up and around CAC. It was 6:30am. Bright & early, it’s the best time to beat the heat, dust, and crowds. What about you Phi? When do you train? Hope you’ve found routine and you’ve stuck with it with discipline. How else will you make the 2020 Olympics??? The real question is whether you’ll run for Australia or Japan! Anyway, the birds are alive & boisterous early, and there’s always the smug thought that most of the world is struggling to get out of bed, and your Dad is already striding through Cairo. How’s your mental strength? How do you cope with “No”? Do you have a growth mindset? Your life is no doubt one of privilege; I just hope it hasn’t given you a sense of entitlement. Sorry Phi, drifting again… these are the conversations I have with you when I’m jogging. I want you to be strong in mind, spirit and body. Live strong Bella. Live good. Give, love, care, and when things don’t go your way, move on… shigata ga nai Phi Chan.
Okay, back to my run. I ran for 30 minutes and did my customary 30 chin-ups, 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, and even added a 100 dips. I was hurting, but with you as my guide & inspiration, I then planned to do 6 x 200m at a good sprint, but during the fourth interval, I felt my left hamstring suddenly tighten… and I had to give up the idea of running a fifth & sixth 200m interval. It’s unusual for my hamstrings to give me any trouble; usually it’s my knees, or just age that slows me down – hope it’s not a sign of things to come.
Anyway Bella, it’s been a good morning. I’ve had my exercise, I’ve had a slow breakfast reading The Age online, and I’ve managed to capture a few thoughts & write to you for the past 25 minutes. It’s still only 8:30am, but Dad needs a shower before we get started on the remainder of the day.
It’s no secret that kids who grow up insulated from difficulty and disappointment are also likely to struggle in adulthood if they don’t get into their first preference for university, miss out on a job, or are dumped by the love of their life. No resilience. No growth mindset. No grit. Always do your best Phi.
Phi, you can counteract this belief of entitlement by giving of yourself. We all need to learn that sometimes it is more about others than myself. Do your best, reach out to those in need and when you hit the pillow each night, you can be proud of living strong.
This morning while reading my newspaper of choice from Melbourne, Australia, I came across an article that once again had me thinking of you. It was an article likening divorce to being in a car crash. I can relate to that, and I’m sure you can too. The article takes the perspective of the child. I wonder if you feel like you too have been strapped into the back seat of the same car that holds your Mother & Dad… Have you been colliding daily with the bitterness, misery, and shattered illusions your parents set? I’m sorry Phi, I truly am.
In any case, the article is worth a read. The writer suffered through her parents’ divorce ten years before she penned her story. Even though she was an adult, it was still one of the most traumatic experiences of her life. I understand that. I’m sorry. She said that if she had her time over, this is what she would have done differently:
“1. Don’t become the parent
Divorce can reverse the usual child-parent relationship dynamics. Parents often begin taking the role of the child because they’re hurt, vulnerable and scared.
After thirty years of marriage my mother had to find a way to live without my dad. She had lost so much confidence and self-esteem that simple things like redirecting mail, banking and cooking for one overwhelmed her.
I rushed in and did whatever I could to make her life easier. Before long, I found myself making important life decisions for her. But far from helping, I was enabling her to remain passive and helpless. I was keeping her trapped in the familiar comfort of victimhood.
Eventually I stopped being her crutch because I couldn’t live with all the misery and I wanted my own life back. At the time I thought I was being selfish and my mother felt hurt and betrayed.
Looking back, it was the best thing to do for both of us. She had the chance to reinvent herself and I could go back to being the daughter instead of the parent.
- Create firm boundaries about what you will and won’t talk about
When relationships break down people need to talk. A lot.
Divorcing parents can forget that their adult children are still their children, and try to turn them into confidants. Both my parents went to great lengths to detail the alleged transgressions of the other one. I learned things about both that I would prefer never to have known.
I should have established rules about what was appropriate to discuss. Not only did I not want to hear it, re-telling the past kept both of them trapped there — far longer than necessary.
- Don’t take sides
When your family breaks up and triggers unimaginable pain for one of your parents, it’s natural to be angry. I was furious at my father for leaving my mum and I said all sorts of thing to him that I wouldn’t have said under other circumstances. Things that will never be forgotten.
With time comes perspective. Even though I can’t condone many of the things that were said and done, both of them are still my parents.
It’s not uncommon for divorcing parents to demand the absolute loyalty of their children, and to regard any contact with the other parent as a betrayal. While these demands come from a place of desperation, it’s unfair for parents to enlist their kids to the frontlines of their personal battles.
It’s also unhelpful to the recovery process. While they may take solace in punishing the other parent by withholding the kids, it keeps them trapped in a place where their own wellbeing is linked to their ex-partner.
- Allow yourself to grieve. It’s your loss too
When the parents of young children divorce people are, with reason, concerned about the impact on the children. There are psychologists, books and even Sesame Street segments devoted to helping children come to grips with the transition.
The impact of divorce on adult children is, in contrast, barely acknowledged. But it is devastating to watch the foundation of your family crumble — no matter how old you are. It’s heartbreaking to see your parents suffer so much, knowing that they are doing it to each other.
- Get out of the car the first chance you get
I felt trapped in the backseat of my parents divorce car for years. But no matter how long I stayed, I couldn’t prevent the inevitable. It wasn’t possible for me to save either of them from their pain. They had to choose to move on in their own way and in their own time.
And they have. But if I had my time over I would never have gotten into the car. I would have offered support but not co-dependency. It would still have been painful, but it might have been over sooner.”
Perhaps you could pen your thoughts and feelings too; when you’re ready. Sometimes when we jot what’s on our mind, the words & phrases begin to map themselves in front of us. Sometimes the darkness becomes clearer. You don’t need to share your notes with anyone, not if you don’t want to. But if you do, it would be a privilege to listen to your heart. You can blame me, you can bring it all out, I don’t mind. You can judge me, scream at me, I don’t mind. When you are ready, you need to be honest with yourself. Don’t hold it in. Don’t pretend it’s not there. It happened. You need to come to terms with what happened and move forward; if you don’t, the pain will slowly destroy you. There needs to be release from all the anguish and questions you must harbor. I’m here Phi…
Go with care my Angel… much LOVE… Dad… XoXo…
“Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For indeed, that’s all who ever have.” Margaret Mead
When you run the streets on Cairo early, you can hear the sweet & memorable warble of the magpie perched in a eucalyptus tree, just like you would in that town we both love, Melbourne, Australia. Isn’t that ace!
Tuesday, July 7th 2015
Hey Bella. So another chapter in our journal begins. This time as I write, you’re not so far. We flew out of Cairo late evening of July 2nd, arriving late afternoon at Narita on July 3rd. So, two years in Egypt gone… wow, that was fast. A memorable, challenging and sometimes haunting mind-opener of an experience. Cairo American College was a great school, with strong vision, and a leadership team that cared for me personally & professionally. There were many bonuses: great colleagues (a shout out to Wayne, Julie, Mel, Sarah, Rick, Juana, Matthew, Ilana, Pen, LeeAnne, Todd, Zoe, Beth et al), ace kids, fantastic facilities, wicked opportunities to coach track and x-country, super professional development opportunities, and some great friendships. Living in Cairo also meant cheap flights to Europe. We took the opportunity to visit France (twice), Switzerland, Italy, Turkey (twice), Jordan, Spain, and also had wonderful experiences on the Red Sea, and aboard a Nile cruise.
Dad had a run this morning; did you? I even managed to find a chin-up bar of sorts for 3 x 10 reps. It’s been a few days since I could complete my regular set: push-ups 4 x 25, and sit-ups 4 x 25 thrown in too. Feels good. You?
It’s good to be back in Japan. Your country, your home. Yesterday (Monday) we just dagged around Chiba. I wish I could have run straight for you, instead, in the morning C took me to an ear clinic. Yep, again my ears have been bothering me. Luckily she insisted we get them checked out, because in one ear I have an infection (bacteria growing!), and the other ear, well, the good doctor sucked out a sizeable piece of wax. In the afternoon we did a bit of banking, Dad had a haircut (only 1000 yen from a lovely chap named Makoto), and we bought some flowers for C’s mum’s birthday; she’ll be 73 today. A spritely, cute and strong woman.
Later Monday afternoon we went to a cool home centre to purchase some wood. K and Y (Y went to school with C. Her & K have just bought their first home; exciting hey!) would like a small bench to sit upon and sip their beers on their new balcony.
Sunday, K & Y picked us up again, and took us to a huge second-hand shop with a whopping 100 Yen store above. From there they took us to the enormous Aeon Mall. We had a coffee and a donut, showed them a few of our travel photos, and purchased a few things on sale at UniQLO.
Saturday, the day after we arrived, C’s friend Y and her husband K picked us up for a bbq. The rain very politely held off for three hours, so we managed to get the bbq going and eat like kings & queens.
After such a generous lunch, Dad needed some exercise, so I went for a 30 minute run in the rain. Shortly thereafter, we raced to the Shinkemi Station to meet Katsu & Yumiko. That evening, they took us to an izakaya that specializes in seafood… mmm, yummo Kiddo! So much better than the food in Cairo!
Today we had Ramen!!! Yeah, so delicious, so simple, and so affordable! This afternoon we’ll visit our house in Tokyo and say hello to K San, one of our former neighbors. And this evening, we’re going to catch up with Dad’s old mate, Travis Ion, Megz, and their son, Noah.
Gotta run, has just finished with the doctor.
Love Dad… XoXo…
“I soon realized that no journey carries one far unless, as it extends into the world around us, it goes an equal distance into the world within.” – Lillian Smith
Wednesday, July 8th 2015
Oh Phi… you’ll never guess what has been going on in our house in Tokyo?! It’s been turned into a zoo! Yesterday, when we went out to check on the house, the first thing we noticed was the decrepit state of the overgrown garden… what a shame! But then we heard from K San (neighbor) that the tenants have numerous dogs & cats. We were shocked to say the least. For one, the tenancy contract specifies one small dog and one large dog that would be mainly kept outside, but when K San informed us that they housed probably half a dozen dogs and as many cats, we contacted the real estate agent immediately. The agent went pretty much directly to the house and discovered they indeed had 6 dogs, and wait for it, some TWENTY+ cats!!! Can you believe it? Our home has been turned into an animal shelter.
So today, we treated ourselves and drove out to the Shisui Outlets in Chiba. C bought herself a new suit for interviews in Hong Kong and some Nike running shoes, while Dad bought two summer sweaters that I can wear with my numerous Egyptian cotton scarfs from the Fair Trade shop in Cairo. And tonight, I had a few bourbons with Mr. O, and chatted happily with he & Mrs. O.
We’re is really miserable about the house… I wish you were here to comfort us. See you soon, love Dad… XoXo…
“Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.” – Benjamin Disraeli
Saturday, July 11th 2015
Morning Phi. You’re only about 50km from where I sit this morning. Wondering if you’re having some toast at this moment too… I’m sitting in a café beneath Sakaragicho Station. It’s just gone 10am, and I’m killing a little time before meeting C at 1pm for some oysters with Greg Feezell & his wife Satoko. This morning I had a lovely run, albeit hot, along the foreshore of Yamashita Koen. It was great to once again pound the circuit I used to run here in Yokohama so often… thinking of you. I ran the same paths we once rode together. I ran past the boat you loved to explore, the pier we often walked, the steps from where we watched the fireworks, and the amusement park you loved. All was good as the memories flooded back. All was good.
Yesterday (Friday), I went out to Kamikitazawa Primary School. Why, you ask. Well, while I was teaching at Cairo American College I had a wonderful Japanese student in my fifth grade class, Mahsa. Mahsa had left CAC in February, and was keen for me to visit, so she organized for me to meet her principal, her homeroom teacher, and to observe a class. She did it all herself. What a gem, hey! It was a pretty special experience, even if it wasn’t you. I also brought along Mahsa’s yearbook from CAC; all the kids had signed and written a message for Mahsa.
In the afternoon, I took the train out to Yokohama, did some banking, and visited my old colleagues and students out at Saint Maur International School. At about 3:30pm, Evan, Jamie, Baysar, Shiraz, and a new teacher, Jeff, wandered down to Yamashita Koen for a few refreshing drinks. By 6:30pm it was time to head back up the Bluff and watch a game of AFL, Carlton Vs. Richmond at Sandy’s. After the game, Jamie & I went back to his new house in Sakaragicho. It’s a pencil house, so pretty challenging to build a deck or a garden, but great value at around 40,000,000 yen… very happy for him and Yuki.
Going back to Thursday morning, I had a run, did my push-ups, sit-ups and chin-ups. You? Feeling fit? What about a workout with Dad? Do you think Dad could keep up? When I returned, C was keen to go to the public pool, so I skipped along too, but instead of swimming, I went to the training room and had a second good workout. Now I’m ready to take you on Phi! What’s it to be, 3km time trial? Look out buddy!
In the afternoon we both went into Shibuya; C had a haircut and met her old boss, and I hooked up with my great mate, Milton Miltiadous. With Milton, was none other than Spiro Kourkamelous, and his lovely wife, Angie. Spiro played football with Milton at Carlton Under 19s and went on to play AFL with both Carlton & Saint Kilda. We had a great evening chatting and laughing at Spiro’s accounts of the funnier moments of his AFL career. Later, we went back to Milton’s and he spoiled us with some magnificent scotch, 12, 18, and 30 years aged! Whoopee! Talk about a grand evening… wish you were with us Phi.
Love Dad… XoXo…
“The journey not the arrival matters.” – T. S. Eliot
Monday, July 13th 2015
Morning Phi. I’ve just caught the 6:09am train from Shinkemigawa Station for Akitsu. Yes, I’m on my way to say “Hello!” I hope it’s the right thing to do… Right now, I feel so hollow and disturbed inside. I’m clinging to hope that you’ll give me a smile, but my stomach is twisted and empty by what your Mother has likely be saying about me. When I’m still, part of me feels defeated, more susceptible to giving into your Mother. Sitting here alone, she seems to hold all the cards; the cards that eschew the truth. But when I run, a stronger me connects with you. I hope you’re at the station this morning. I hope you’ll look me in the eye and know.
When C & Dad left Japan for Egypt, it wasn’t because your Mother had won her battles. Her victories are shallow in the sense she must eternally tread a thin ice of lies and deceit. How she moves forward, I don’t know. In many ways I pity the hole she has dug for herself. When you discover the truth, your mother will need your support. She’ll need your forgiveness. Go easy on her Phi. Though her judgment is vicious, and her sense of entitlement princely, she loves you. Go with care Phi… XoXo… hope to see you soon…
DO YOU REMEMBER…
Do you remember the big grey bicycle with the basket and child carry seat? We used to go everywhere on that bicycle. To & from kinder, to the supermarket, visiting friends… I miss those days & the songs we sang as we cycled…
Wednesday, July 15th 2015
Hey Buddy, how’s things with you? I didn’t tell you what happened on Monday morning… I couldn’t. I arrived at Akitsu from Nishi-Funabashi at just before 7:35am. It was excruciating watching the exit of the station knowing that each and every second, you may spring through the ticket wicket on your way to school. I didn’t know how you were going to react… would you smile? Would you be afraid? Would you run into my arms? Would you run from me? The wait was agonizing. After 30 minutes, I knew my chances of seeing you were slimming. Most of your fellow students had passed through the ticket wicket by 8:15am, and by 8:20 it was less than a trickle. At 8:28, a late student burst through running for your school. But you never came. Where are you in my life Phi?
Perhaps you’re sick, perhaps you’ve changed schools, or perhaps you went to school extra early Monday morning. In any case, I was deflated, breathing irregularly, and needed to sit down. I moved away from the busy exit, and sat down on the curbside. I needed to regain some composure. I stared blankly at nothing. I could not gather my thoughts. I felt old and alone. I miss you Phi… really miss you.
I love you… XoXo…
Friday, July 17th 2015
Greetings Phi. Another missive from an airport. We’re on our way to Hong Kong. It’s good to get out of Japan at the moment, not just because I missed seeing you at Akitsu Station… it’s been a tumultuous last week in Nippon! I wonder what our future holds in HK. I wonder what will become of you and I this next year.
So, back to the miserable last few days in Japan. To complicate matters, Monday turned into a hell of a day. It wasn’t all bad, C took me to the doctors for a second check on the ear infection; all good, Dad can hear again! But then the battery on the car decided it was a good day to die, and later, we had a depressing meeting with the real estate agent and a lawyer about our house. Evidently our tenants have turned our beloved home into a zoo. When we visited Trav & Meg last week, we also dropped into our old neighborhood, and K San, one of our neighbors informed us of a number of dogs and cats. We in turn informed the real estate agent, and he visited our tenants to learn they are keeping 6+ dogs and TWENTY+ cats inside!!! Can you believe it??? The stench must have by now permeated the walls, and the cats & dogs running around must have scratched our brand new floors & walls… Bummer hey!
BUT, life goes on. We must have faith that this next step in our lives will be a forward move toward positivity, choice, and hope.
Fancy a tim-tam Phi? Might be what all three of us need right now! Love & licks, Dad… XoXo…
“People come back from flights and tell you a story like it’s a horror story. They act like their flight was like a cattle car in the 1940s in Germany. That’s how bad they make it sound. They’re like, ‘It was the worst day of my life. We didn’t board for 20 minutes and they made us sit there on the runway for 40 minutes.’ Oh really? What happened next? Did you fly in the air, incredibly, like a bird? Did you partake in the miracle of human flight you non-contributing zero?” – Louis C.K. (comedian)
Wednesday, July 22nd 2015
Phi, arrived! Hong Kong is ace!! We can’t believe that we’ve never been to this fascinating part of the world. It has so much to offer, so many intriguing contrasts, such vibrancy, noise, sights, and smells.
We arrived in Hong Kong Friday, July 17th. We were met at the airport by Sammy, one of the school’s drivers. He took us to our hotel, the North Plaza Harbour Hotel. Very kindly the school is paying for a two-week stay in this hotel while we search for a home to live. At 7pm that first evening, we met Sylvia from HKIS. She gave us our settling in allowance (in cash!) and a few relevant bits of info, maps, etc. Later that night we had a bit of a walk around the neighborhood. Hot & humid outside, more so than Tokyo. We settled on a local Chinese restaurant. The food was good and quite reasonable price-wise.
Apart from flat-hunting, we’ve been eating out non-stop. Not such a good thing for the belly, but after being starved of decent restaurants in Cairo, we’re kind of living it up a little… yeah, okay, quite a lot. We are trying, however, to cut back somewhat at overindulging when it comes to the grand buffet breakfast! You would love it Phi. I can just see your eyes bulging at the array of choices! I have, however, been using the gym early in the morning. It’s so humid here, more so than Saitama Phi, so I haven’t been courageous enough to jog outside (yet), but within the air-conditioned comfort of the gym, I’ve been running 5 – 10km and doing my push-ups & sit-ups. Just maintaining, not really grinding out a solid core.
So, our first full day in HK (Saturday), we charged downstairs for a BIG buffet breakfast. We both ate far too much. I started with an omelet with lashings of crispy bacon on the side and some hash browns. Then I had a big bowl of fresh fruit, papaya, watermelon, mango, a few dried prunes, and a tub of blueberry yoghurt splashed over the top. At 10am, Connie, a real estate agent from the south side of the island met us in the lobby. She very kindly took us to Stanley to look at two flats. Both had sea views, and both had rooftop balconies! Amazing! We’re very keen, but they’re also a bit of a stretch price-wise. Rents are ridiculous here, more than double what they are in Tokyo! Maybe even triple!!! It looks like we’ll be paying $1000+ per week for a flat with around 50 – 60 square metres!
Stanley is out by the school and surprisingly beautiful. There are beaches, mountains, bays, trails, and double-decker buses to view it all! We jumped on a bus and headed back to the hotel to meet another agent at 2pm. Shame you couldn’t join us; we had the best view up top, up front in the double-decker bus… it was like a roller-coaster! At times overhanging branches crashed into the bus! The agent showed us six different flats, but they were rather small. The agent wasn’t a particularly good listener, so that had a negative effect too. So, we had seen eight places, but nothing that really grabbed our attention. A little later we set up our Octopus (Pasmo) cards, so now we’re ready to travel the public transport system everywhere!
Sunday, and we still hadn’t seen Toro. The poor puppy is in quarantine and will be for four months! Fortunately, he arrived July 3rd, so he’s already done two weeks of his detention sentence. We met Sylvia again, and together with some other teacher families, we got ourselves set up with mobile phones. Dad has a bright orange smart phone and C chose black. What colour would you like Possum?
Monday we went to immigration to apply for our HK ID cards and Sylvia also helped us open a bank account; time consuming but friendly staff.
Another real estate agent calls… gotta view some more flats… wish us luck Phi! Yes, we’ll make sure there is a second bedroom… for when you come and visit! Love Dad… XoXo…
YOU ARE ALWAYS WITH ME
“But at times I wondered if I had not come a long way only to find that what I really sought was something I had left behind.” – Jon Krakauer, Into Thin Air
Tuesday, July 28th 2015
Since I last wrote we’ve been pretty much constantly searching for flats. We figure we’ve seen about 40 flats, and we’ve met with 10 real estate agents. We’ve seen places C likes but Dad wasn’t so sure about, and we’ve seen places that I’ve liked, but C wasn’t convinced. And today, Tuesday, July 28th we viewed a flat we both really like. We think you’ll like it too. It has two bedrooms with built-in closets, a bath (for C), gas stove top, an entrance with a built-in shoe cupboard, a double bed with neat storage containers beneath, and it has views of Kowloon and the harbour… spectacular by night we imagine!
We think you’ll love it. We’re just awaiting your arrival!
Love always, Dad… XoXo…
“The greatest justification for travel is not self-improvement but rather performing a vanishing act, disappearing without a trace.” – Paul Theroux, Dark Star Safari
Tuesday August 4th 2015
On Sunday, August 2nd we officially moved into our flat in Causeway Bay. See you soon! Thursday the landlord gave us the key, so since then we have moved a few of our purchases in… just waiting for you to come and stay… sleep-over soon, yeah!
We’re loving the area of Causeway Bay. It’s almost like Shibuya! It’s so busy, vibrant and colourful, day & night. It’s bustling with shoppers & tourists, there are restaurants galore, and the subway station is a two minute walk. Our flat is also conveniently located to Dad’s bus stop to school. Every morning I’ll take the mini-bus #40 to Repulse Bay; apparently it’s only about a 15 minute journey… we’ll see.
And, we’ve finally seen Toro. In fact, we’ve been pretty much every day since Tuesday July 21st. He’s a happy camper each time we visit. He is adorable Phi, you’re going to luv him. His cage isn’t too bad. It’s clean and the area the dogs are housed is air-conditioned, so they don’t suffer too much from the heat & humidity of HK’s summer.
With all the home-hunting and visits to see Toro, we really haven’t seen much of HK. But what we have seen really impresses. Even the ferry trip across to the Kowloon side is a wonderful experience, and the bus trips to the south side of the island are spectacular. The jungle comes right down to the beaches. Yes, HK has beaches! The water quality isn’t too good, but I imagine that’s got something to do with the fact it pretty much rained for the first 8 days we were here. The MS & HS campus is actually situated at a place called Tai Tam, and from the classrooms you have views of resort-like bays & coves… it’s incredible!
Yesterday (Monday, August 3rd) orientation started for us new teachers at HKIS (newbies). Today we had a holiday, so this morning we picked up our HK ID cards and spoiled ourselves by visiting a lovely yum cha restaurant for lunch.
I wonder what your favorite yum cha will be… Love you Bella… Dad… XoXo…
DO YOU REMEMBER
Do you remember the bento lunches Dad would prepare for you at kindergarten? You said that they were the best… thanx Kiddo! You’re the best!
Tuesday, August 18th 2015
Hey Phi, sorry my letters aren’t as frequent as they should be. It’s been a busy time settling into our new home. C is doing an amazing job organizing things in preparation for the arrival of our belongings from Cairo. Where it will all fit, nobody knows. But we have a couch now, and a TV too!
This morning school started at 7:50am, but many kids were in the classroom by 7:30am. It’s a massive school with 2600+ students, and at the Upper Primary campus of G3 – 5, 650+ students! I have 22 students, and after day 01 they seem a lovely bunch.
Last Tuesday, August 10th, returning faculty joined us newbies, and so I’ve been busy, Busy, BUSY ever since. New curriculum, new routines, new colleagues. I’m loving HKIS and more importantly, we both are really enjoying all HK has to offer. It’s wonderful to see C so happy Phi, just ace!
Yesterday I met my students (for the first time) and their parents (August 17th). They just came in for 15 minutes, staggered throughout the morning, from 8am – 12pm. They seem a lovely bunch of Chinese, Hong Kong-ese, Americans, Canadians, Swedish, Brits, Japanese, and even an Aussie lad named Robert. Wish you were here…
“You can’t deny what you’ve learned; you can’t deny your travels; you can’t deny the nature of your life.” – V. S. Naipaul, The Paris Review, Fall 1998
Monday, August 24th 2015
Howdy Cowdy! How’s tricks in Nippon? Running, jumping, studying, playing hard?
Dad has been running in nearby Victoria Park. It’s probably HK’s most famous park and it’s only five minutes away. On Sunday morning it’s a hot spot for group exercise. I usually arrive between 7 – 7.30am and they’re dancing, twirling batons, singing, swinging swords in huge groups, some of them with at least 50 members. Within the park is a jogging track that measures 600m+. It’s pretty cool and the pedestrian joggers & walkers make your old man feel not so slow!
We’ve joined a nearby Aeon supermarket that is handy for Japanese items & sushi. There’s also several 100 yen ($12) shops that we frequent often. Everything you might need, right?
From school Dad has been running trails with Jay, Stan and Brian. Life is good, and my new colleagues a good bunch. Things are working out swimmingly for your Dad Phi… Even though I’m crazy busy at school, at least three times a week I go for a run. I can run trails with Stan, or sometimes I just run down to nearby South Bay. I run along the road, but as it’s a dead end there is little traffic. The bays are beautiful, so picturesque in fact that I sometimes can’t quite believe it.
Last week David So visited us. David was a colleague when Dad was working at Saint Maur in Yokohama. At some point in his past he was working at the Chinese International School here in HK. He stayed for two nights, Wednesday August 19th to Friday 21st. David took us to Mid Levels and a place called Soho… maybe it’s the same place??? I met C & David after school Thursday night. They were already smiling, with an adult beverage in hand. Later we went to a cool restaurant. David & Dad had a delicious steak each, and C ordered the risotto. Fun times Phi!
Hong Kong is a foodies’ capital! We’re loving the variety, finding little eateries here & there, and it doesn’t have to be too expensive. We’ve eaten at Sushi Express twice now. It’s just a sushi bar with two pieces for only $8HKD, about 120 yen… it’s pretty good, but would be better if we had you and your cousin Allie sitting beside us.
Love you Phi… looking forward to showing you our Hong Kong… soon… XoXo…
“And that is all anyone can do, try to be honest about what he feels, what he’s seen or thinks he’s seen.” – Paul Theroux, Sunrise With Seamonsters
Saturday, August 29th 2015
I’m sitting at our very cool circular glass dining table on one of our four very retro orange chairs looking out over Kowloon Bay. It’s 9:30am, and the UBS Hong Kong sign is flashing 29 degrees Celsius. Before me are cranes busy at work building a second tunnel beneath the bay. The scene is chaotic, but oh so interesting. I often find myself just standing and staring… not staring, but watching as my gaze flits from here to there, taking in the boats, the parks, the double-decker buses, the building projects, on and on. Usually the toothpaste dribbling from my chin indicates that I’ve been watching for 10 minutes+ and it’s time to spit the toothpaste out!
Thursday night was Back to School Night for the parents. All 22 of my students were represented, with 26 parents in total. I had to speak for 60 minutes which was rather daunting to think about, but again, it went smoothly and I needn’t have worried & stressed too much about it. Afterward, Stan, Hyun, Carrie, Sarah & I went down to the beach at Repulse Bay and celebrated with an adult beverage. It’s just beautiful, clean white sand beneath our feet… and to think I’m in bustling Hong Kong… unimaginable.
Today we’re off to see Toro, and we’ll meet Toby & Jin, a Hong Kong-ese couple who have a dog in custody too. They’re actually waiting to get their dog into Australia, Melbourne! We plan to have lunch with them, and then race back here as the plumber is arriving at 1:30pm because the plug in the bathroom basin is jammed, and the shower hose is leaking and needs replacing.
Yesterday I had a run with my teaching partner Stan. We ran along the aqueduct to Stanley and he asked me about you. He’s a good listener; I think we’re going to be great mates. So, I told him all about my darling Ophelia.
Last night we went to a Korean restaurant recommended by Crystal at school. It was very flash, on the 13th floor of the World Trade Centre, but it wasn’t too pricey. Good food for around 750HKD, perhaps a little ver ichi-man ni-sen yen.
Wednesday, I also went for a run after school. It’s just so beautiful at the southern end of the island. It feels very remote, and despite several high-rise flashy apartment buildings, it’s absolutely gorgeous.
One day soon Phi we’ll have to go for a swim together… Missing you and can’t wait for a splash!
“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read on the train.” – Oscar Wilde
Monday, September 7th 2015
Hey Phi, it’s Uncle Richie’s birthday today. We’re both missing it. 46. Last night he had pizza with Nandee & Pa, Uncle Sean and all your Aussie cousins… Luca, Allie, Billie & Christopher. It was also Father’s Day in Australia. Nandee & Uncle Rich wrote to wish me a happy day… I miss you kiddo. I’m sorry I can’t be the Dad I wanted to be…
Yesterday I had a run at Victoria Park and left my sweat on a few walkers who kept walking three abreast. The 600m jogging trail is quite narrow, and despite signs in Cantonese, Mandarin & English stating “Joggers Only” more than half of the users are walkers. The walking I don’t mind, it’s just those that walk in pairs & threes blocking oblivious to those they block from passing.
After my exercise, we visited Toro in jail, then we headed to a nearby shrine to pay our respects and offer a tribute to the gods in the form of incense. I prayed for happiness! Yours, mine, ours.
Last night I made some cauliflower soup and some toasted sardine & garlic toast. Saturday I worked all morning preparing things for my classroom, and then in the afternoon we had a lovely dinner at my principal’s home in Tai Tam. Her flat is beautiful, overlooking a gorgeous bay and mountain range. Friday night after my run with Stan, we had ramen for dinner. Most peculiar as you kind of sit in a solitary cubicle to slurp your ramen; not sure I’m a fan… it wasn’t cheap either.
Thursday, September 3rd was a public holiday… PERFECT! I didn’t get to visit Toro as I had too much planning & preparation to do for my classroom. In the afternoon… oh, it’s terrible Phi… you know, I can’t remember what I did Thursday afternoon. Isn’t that bad?! You know what else is a worry? Recently Dad’s perfect eyesight has started to falter. Until last year, everything has been fine, but last month I even bought a pair of glasses from the 100 Yen shop! I don’t use them often, but they have come in handy a few times for writing and reading when the text (usually instructions) is too small. SAFE… I remember! We headed to Neko Street Thursday afternoon; there was curiously only one cat. It’s in Mid-Levels in a trendy area known as Soho. Super cool & interesting, perhaps a little like Jiyugaoka or that station next to Shibuya on the Toyoko Line… what’s it called??? Daikanyama, right?
Last Sunday, August 30th, after we had visited Toro and had lunch with Jin & Toby, we jumped on the ferry for Northpoint and visited Sophie & Maurice. It was about 7 years ago you met Mauve & Dara in Melbourne. They’re 13 and 15 years old now. I can’t believe you’re almost as old as Mauve… she’s so tall! And so are you!
Well Phi, that’s about it for now. Much love… Dad… XoXo…
DID YOU KNOW
There are just 15 months separating your Dad & your Uncle Rich.
Tuesday, September 15th 2015
Good evening Phi. Though I haven’t written for a week I have been thinking a lot of you. I have also been thinking some of your Mother. Running helps me digest the past… come for a run with me… how is your mother? I hope she’s okay.
I don’t understand her reasoning, but I see what she hopes for. She loves you, and it’s safer for her if you assimilate and become only Japanese. She doesn’t seek bilingualism for you because it might threaten the hold she has over you. But by being bilingual and bicultural, it will open your eyes and empower you. It will also bring you peace. Phi, multilingualism is a gift to be cherished. It helps us understand ourselves & the world. Both your parents should be encouraging your multicultural identity. Questions make us stronger.
Co-parenting could bring you so many inner smiles & peace. Unfortunately, the only form of consistency from the Family Court was its conspicuous ignorance of anything pertaining to co-parenting. Despite our rights [sic] to see each other, each time it seemed our rights were swiftly extinguished.
But amidst all of this, it was you, is you, who must hurt the most. Everyday, you must face situations that are loaded with dilemmas that are beyond your control and experience. Conflicting desires to please those close to you, no matter their motive. Perhaps, you just go to your bedroom and play with your things. Alone. Close the door to the world of conflict behind you.
I paid retainer fees to lawyers, bonuses despite their failures, and still nothing really changed. Back and forth to the Family Court, round and round we went, the lawyers danced and played their game. Three lawyers, four, if you count the second firm representing me (they sat as a panel of two).
How have I sustained myself during this ordeal? Well, having met C helps, but I also have family. Your FAMILY Ophelia. I have hope, and I have you. And I know you’re better than all this. You’re pure and gentle, and that my Angel, brings me energy & hope. Your spirit lives within in me, and helps guide me, maintains my focus.
What say you Phi? Time for truth? Time for a reunion? Time to travel through your identity?
Love Dad… XoXo…
“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” – Maya Angelou
Saturday, October 3rd 2015
Well, what an October Break. Dad is at the end of a one-week Autumn break. Last Sunday we took to the hiking trails and took on the Dragon’s Back with Jin & Tobie. After our hike we found ourselves in a village by the sea called Sheko. Dad took a swim and as it was still before midday, Tobie shouted us breakfast. Good coffee.
Monday, we woke early and took the #40 mini bus out to Repulse Bay, near where Dad works. We had a delightful swim before 7am, then wandered around, visiting a temple before finding our way back to Causeway Bay for breakfast. There was something very special about sitting on the sand after our swim at that hour. We had the whole day ahead of us, and already we’d accomplished so much. Saturday, Sunday, and Monday Dad ran… feeling good Bella.
Wednesday, we took the tram to the Western Market for a little sweet tofu pudding. Then we wandered around the Central Pier for a bit before deciding to take the cable tram to Victoria Peak. Classic views… we’ll take you there one day.
Thursday, we woke early and took a bus to Lantau Island. Fortunately we beat the crowds and were one of the first to board the gondola. At the top were a giant Buddha, a Wisdom Path to meander along, and a pretty impressive temple. At the foot of the gondola, we discovered some outlets, had lunch, and purchased a Bose stereo system. Woo-hoo! Now we can dance Phi!
Friday we woke early and ventured to Victoria Park. Me for a run, C for a walk. Later we visited Mutley in detention and shouted Tobie & Jin lunch at our favorite café in Kowloon. On the way back we did a spot of shopping in Aeon, then Dad cooked some chili con carne for dinner.
And today, October 3rd was the AFL Grand Final. The mighty Hawks were too strong for the Eagles. Go Blues in 2016! Go Phi!
Love Dad… XoXo…
“A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless.” – John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley