Monday, January 4th 2016
HAPPY 2016 OPHELIA!
“Daddy, Daddy!?” floated the musical voice. A voice full of trust, love & passion. A gentle melodic voice full of curiosity. A voice so familiar, so close to my heart, so ever present in my consciousness. A beautiful singsong voice that permeated my heart and soul. A voice just like yours. Instinctively, I turned, an inner smile working its way to my lips. Though I could not see you in Central Station, Hong Kong, I felt your presence. It was your voice of yesteryear. It was the voice of a daughter whose dad wasn’t as nearby as she wished. The voice of a precious loved daughter. The child of four or five sounded just like you, Ophelia. So very much like you. So pure. So joyful. So delicate. So alive.
My eyes, though tormenting my heart, locked on the angel for a moment. It was not you. It could not be you. I quickly turned and lost myself in thoughts of you, Ophelia Hirakawa-Morice.
We were once such a team. A bond formed from family, love & trust. Dad & daughter. Daughter & dad. You & me. Ged & Phi. We were inseparable. We marveled at nature, delighted in each other’s mischievousness, and shared secrets that tickled our hearts & hurt no one. Totoro’s wisdom was omnipresent. The Cat in the Hat’s mischief tickled our fancy. The birds & insects we spoke to brought us such delight. The Wiggles’ fun & energy was infectious. You were my everything, my pride, my joy, the key to my heart & future. Stoic, patient, creative. Beautiful, gentle, caring. Fun, funny, loving. We loved each other farther than Dad’s trusty running shoes have ever taken him. Farther than from Numazu to the moon & back… remember those special moments we whispered in each other’s ear?
I wonder if you can still remember how it really was. Pre-parent-alienation courtesy of your mother. Our chats, our gardening sessions, you on your stool beside me as we cooked (extra cheese on our pizzas), aunty Cate & uncle Sean, our magical lego land wonder world, our walks & song, camping, beach days, evenings at the pool, aunty Rach & uncle Rich, milk & donuts at Mr. Donuts, Australia, movies on the couch together, Dad’s bentos, stories before bed, up in tree-houses with your cousins Luca, Allie, Billie & Christopher, chats in the big orange car, Ooka Kindergarten, your friends, my friends, your b’day parties, play-dates, Nandee & Pa, picnics, Katoh Kindergarten, Easter egg hunts, setting up the Xmas tree together, treasure hunts, Christmas morning, more books & stories, hugs & kisses…
Of course, it’s hard to separate real memories from your mother’s stories of me. I wonder how long it will be before she finds herself tangled in her own web of lies? Even before she took you, you told me of the derogatory stories your mother shared with you about me. At the time I just smiled… if only I knew. I imagine her thoughts may be mingled with your memories. Seek the truth Phi. The truth is important to who you are. And always remember, none of this is your fault; never has been, never will be.
Phi, sometimes memories = music. Sometimes. Every now and then I will hear a song that made you smile. I wonder if the same tunes still spark something inside you. The songs that brought you to life, made you smile, do a jig, and sing like nobody was watching (except Daddy) still tug at my heartstrings.
Here’s a song you never tired of. It’s by Fergie. She titled it: Big Girls Don’t Cry, and as you’ll be turning 14 this year, perhaps it’s fitting.
Truth be known, sometimes I cry when I think of you and the memories we share. What might have been?
The music floated between us. It was soothing, sometimes mesmerizing (more so after your mother took you away from me), often hilarious in the actions it provoked. You would dress up, I would dress up, and together we would throw our heads back and roar with delight as we danced in our crazy costumes. You looked princessly, Dad just looked like a BFG (big friendly giant). The music united us with smiles. It freed us from the persecution of others. The music captured our imagination and took us to another place, far from the tentacles of others. It released our spirits and offered us freedom of thought. We were alive as we danced and squealed. We were both not so good at recalling the lyrics, so instead we just made them up J
Before bed, it was a different sort of music we sought. Ballads with meaning. A father & his daughter alone with their thoughts. Ballads with rhythm and history. Tunes we never tired of. Lyrics fresh, alive & representative of us. The soft, gentle and emotive tunes attempted by your Dad = the smell of bedtime. After a big day at kinder, or after a weekend down by the beach at Izu, you were tired and just liked to listen. Sometimes you would just lie back & listen. During these times I would sing and wonder what you were thinking. But more often you would sit up and then lean into your Dad. I would sit on your bed with my back to the wall, your pale blue curtains to our right letting in some of the light from the night’s stars. Your head resting on my chest and the smell of your freshly shampooed hair was the perfect tonic to the end of the day. You and your pajamas, and a pile of books ready for our read-aloud. Harmony personified. A match made in heaven. I can almost hear the colors and smell the images when our music plays. I remember. Do you remember Phi?
So, as I listen to Big Girls don’t Cry for the tenth time this evening, I wonder if you think, there’s so much my Dad doesn’t know. It’s true, I can only imagine what’s in your heart. Your heart must feel imprisoned by the actions of your parents. We suffocate you with love. But if we truly loved you we would allow you to seek the truth. We would provide an outlet. The truth of your identity and past. Truth that remains trapped in your heart. It must be agonizing not being able to share your soul. I know it’s impossibly hard for you, because none of this is going to go away. I know, you know, and as much as your mother tries to ignore it, fight it, and imagine another future, your past is locked in. Your identity is irreversible as are the wicked actions of those who falsely try/tried to protect you. Truth eventually rises. I guess, I have this “Dad sense” that knows you know… but even that has its limits. So, I’ll keep writing to you… and one day, you’ll talk, and I’ll listen.
As I sit here, with our view of Victoria Harbour in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong, that little girl’s voice that jolted my heart in a HK train station can still be heard… “Daddy, daddy!?” You were once that voice. And that thirteen year old’s heart, the heart of my daughter, can still be felt and can still be heard.
I wonder if you sometimes find yourself just sitting and wondering about your Dad. What happened to him? I wonder if you’re wondering about your Dad right now. Wondering where he’s disappeared to. Wondering where his heart is. Why does he fail to fill the void in my life? I wish I could… now, and every day hereafter.
So, Phi, because you’ve always been my Missy Higgins, here’s a little Missy Higgins for you… my Missy Higgins… I love you… XoXo.
Night Minds by Missy Higgins:
Do you remember how we danced?
“Not all those who wander are lost.” – J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of The Rings Though I left you alone with your thoughts, first to Cairo, and now Hong Kong, I am never far away. You are always with me… XoXo…
Sunday, January 10th 2016
Good evening Phi. A nice cool Sunday here in Hong Kong. It’s almost as fresh and crisp as I imagine it must have been yesteryear; before the smog of the giant industrial revolution rolled in. But it’s never really cold here; it’s a comfortable cold, almost makes you smile after the thick heat & humidity of the long, long summer.
I imagine it’s freezing in your part of the world, so how about a trip to Honkers to visit your Dad? I could take you to some scrumptious dim sum restaurants, we could ride a ferry across Victoria Harbour, hike the Dragon’s Back, visit the Giant Buddha together & make a wish, and do a little teenage gal shopping! What about it? Dad’s treat! You and me kiddo, together, side-by-side, smiles from ear-to-ear! We could also do a little book shopping in Hong Kong’s infamous book stores.
*The latest local news is that five Hong Kongese book publishers have been kidnapped by mainland authorities and abducted to China. China is denying the allegations, but it seems the abduction evidence against the Chinese authorities is overwhelming. The five publishers have all published books that highlight how the mainland authorities are cracking down on civil rights here in HK. Sounds like a good read, right? Liberty, justice & truth, rock on!
Anyway, it’s time Dad recommended a few books that I’m passionate about. As much as I miss reading to you every night, I am lucky to be able to read to my students every day. Yep, every day! I love it, and so too do my kidlets. Realistic fiction is Dad’s favourite, with its strong young female & male leads, and characters that kids can relate to. I enjoy reading fantasy to my kids too, such as Bridge to Terabithia (Katherine Paterson), Harry Potter J. K. Rowling, Flora & Ulysses (Kate DiCamillo), Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins), Savvy (Ingrid Law), Percy Jackson series (Rick Riordan), and Witches / Charlie & the Chocolate Factory / BFG (Roald Dahl). Which adventures have you read Phi?
But, it’s realistic fiction that really appeals. My number one read aloud of all time is Kensuke’s Kingdom (Michael Morpurgo). It’s an absolute classic, and it doesn’t matter that I’ve shared it 20 times with students over the years, the closing pages that highlight the most surprising and memorable friendship always bring me to tears (many of my students too). Ways to Live Forever (Sally Nicholls), Wonder (R. J. Palacio), Holes (Louis Sachar), Counting by 7s (Holly Goldberg Sloan), The Book Thief (Marus Zusak), The One and Only Ivan (Katherine Applegate) and Walk Two Moons (Sharon Creech) are also epic books to share. Have you read any of these mighty stories? The central characters face extraordinary hardships, hurdle some, but not all obstacles, and through persistence & grit, resolve (not often solve) some of the major problems confronting them. Because our readers can relate to the characters, the setting, the plot & the dilemmas faced, readers start to see through the eyes of the characters. You too can walk in the character’s shoes. As we dive deeper into the story, we begin to notice how the characters evolve & change. We learn from them, we empathize with them, we activate schema in our own minds. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to read together and discuss our connections, questions & predictions?
At home, I hope you’re reading with your mother, for education, information & pleasure. I hope you read together, read the same books independently, discuss together and make recommendations to each other. Phi, I really hope you have someone close who is invested in your reading life.
Here are a few titles you might like to start a conversation about. I hope one day soon we can discuss them…
Books especially hip for Girls
Esperanza Rising (Pam Muñoz Ryan)
The Diary of Anne Frank
The Giver (Lois Lowry)
Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes (Eleanor Coerr)
Counting by 7s (Holly Goldberg Sloan)
The Book Thief (Marus Zusak)
Charlotte’s Web (E. B. White)
Out of My Mind (Sharon M Draper)
Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins)
The One and Only Ivan (Katherine Applegate)
Walk Two Moons (Sharon Creech)
The School for Good & Evil (Soman Chainani)
Flora & Ulysses (Kate DiCamillo)
Ways to Live Forever (Sally Nicholls)
Bridge to Terabithia (Katherine Paterson)
Savvy (Ingrid Law)
Hatchet (Gary Paulson)
Danny the Champion of the World (Roald Dahl)
Tiger Rising (Kate DiCamillo)
Iqbal (Francesco D’Adamo)
A Long Walk to Water (Linda Sue Park)
Terrible Two Mac Barnett
Theodore Boone – The Accused (John Grisham)
Alex Rider (Anthony Horowitz)
Frindle (Andrew Clements)
Artemis Fowl Eoin Colfer
Absolutely Almost (Lisa Graff)
Kensuke’s Kingdom & War Horse (Michael Morpurgo)
NF: You wouldn’t want to be… series
NF: Horrible Histories
And of course, a children’s version of Oliver Twist (Charles Dickens) has possibly the best assortment of characters ever assembled in one book. The Nimbin (J. Wagner) is grand too (an Aussie Classic, as is Hitler’s Daughter (Jackie French).
I believe the Paul Jennings series would greatly appeal to you too. Jennings has a series of classic short stories that you can’t help but chuckle along with. His wife was actually my professor at university many years ago! True story. She wasn’t much fun. Jennings’ tales have loads of rascal adventures with the central characters getting up to all sorts of mischief.
Happy reading Bella! Love Dad… XoXo…
In your memory Phi… Missy Higgins – Ten Days
Saturday, January 16th 2016
Hey Phi, you know how we were just chatting about books, well, during the week Professor Snape from Hogwarts passed away. Alan Rickman was the perfect almost-villain throughout the books; little did we know his connection to Harry’s family. Rickman was also terrific in the movie Love Actually (we have to watch that together some day soon) and of course as the real villain in Robin Hood. He died too young; he still had so much to give… RIP Professor.
Last night we went to Trattoria Caffe’ Monteverdi, a quant little Italian restaurant a few subway stops away. The hosts were very friendly, she Hong Kongese, he Italian. All their pasta was handmade and from recipes from his hometown near Tuscany. Delicious! Next time perhaps the three of us can enjoy a little home Italian cooking together.
School started back after the luscious three week winter break last Monday. It was a bit of a shock waking at 5.40am after three glorious weeks of holiday. But, getting back on the running trails brought your Dad a smile or two. I ran home from school twice during the week, once taking the long route via Repulse Bay, Deep Water Bay, and then up & over the Wung Nai Pass, the other time up and over the mountains along the jungle trails. Wish you could have joined me (I wonder if Dad can keep up with those long cat legs of yours); the weather is perfect for running with daughters! Great views too!
At the same time, all your cousins seem to be happily camping by beaches in Australia. Summer time in Oz. Summer, sand, milkshakes, snorkels, bbqs, tents, sleeping bags, fish ‘n’ chips and flies! Cousins. Your cousins. They miss you Phi… we all do.
Love Dad… XoXo.
Phi’s cat dance:
You’re a very cool dancer! Walking in Uncle Sean’s fancy two-step shoes J
Monday, January 25th 2016
Morning Phi. You’ll never guess where I am this morning… at home. Sick? No. Mental health day? No. Typhoon? No. Guess again. School was cancelled by HK Education department. What? Yes, apparently, there’s a nasty virus going around and this cold weather is not good for primary school students, so, the department cancelled all classes in all Hong Kong primary schools! It’s kind of funny, because it’s not really that cold, but as schools here are not equipped with heating, they’ve decided to err on the side of safety. Good for me. I can write to you and do a little editing too.
In more interesting news, yesterday Dad met with Fred Wilson & Kim Conlin. They’re both from our Numazu days, and were both here in Hong Kong for a literacy PD conference over the weekend. Fred used to pick you up early from Katoh Kindergarten on Monday afternoons and babysit you. Then I would swing by after school and pick you up.
It was wonderful to see both Kim & Fred again. All the reminiscing brought a lump to my throat. Good people! And of course it was freezing cold. The PD participants nearly froze to death. Fancy the premier school in HK not having heating!
Saturday I ran home from the Tai Tam campus after the PD. Perfect running weather! Who’s afraid of a little frostbite? Oh, by the way, Dad started a fitness class for teachers on the Wednesday afternoons. Wanna join? We do interval training, or they’re also commonly referred to as stations. Each station last for just 45 seconds, but then you get only 15 seconds rest before you start the next station. Some weeks we do 30 different stations with a break after the 15th station, and other weeks we focus on just 12 stations, and do them three times each. Good fun and it keeps your Dad honest. There’s a special emphasis on a strong core, some cardiovascular endurance (skipping, stairs, more skipping, sprints), muscular endurance and strength. What do you say kiddo?
Oh, also on Saturday night, we farewelled Tobie & Jin, our Sydney dog lovin’ buddies. Alex, another member of our doggy quarantine group joined us for some sushi and a bon voyage beverage.
And on Friday, it was your Nandee’s birthday. She can’t Skype you, so Dad Skyped Nandee at school with my 22 fourth graders. What a b’day treat, hey!? She loved it and was tickled pink reminiscing stories of Dad as a child with my students. Your Nandee was 72 I think. It’s been over eight years since she saw you last… I wonder how much longer you will both have to wait until you meet again… Don’t leave it too long Phi… these are precious years we’re missing. Nandee & Pa aren’t getting any younger.
Last Sunday, January 17th we rearranged the furniture and ordered a cheap table from Ikea. The new setting feels fresh and a better fit. We plan to put the Egyptian coffee table (really it’s a door crafted by an ace Egyptian artist) up high, so it serves as a dining table for when you come and visit.
I love you Phi… XoXo…
WICKED WISDOM FOR GALS LIKE YOU
Run Like a Girl
Sunday, January 31st 2016
Hey Possum. How’s life in your heart? Stay strong, physically and mentally. Live healthy and make fitness a lifestyle choice.
C comes back from Japan today. It’s only been a few days, but I’ve missed her. Toro has been good company, but walking the dog just isn’t the same as living one’s life with one’s soul mate. She’s one of a kind Phi… I can’t wait for you to meet her again. It’s time you two got to really know each other. Wednesday morning C flew to Japan for the third court session regarding our tenants who turned our home into a refuge for animals. Crazy times, they’re still living there, refusing to pay rent, and housing 30+ cats and 10+ dogs in our home. Japanese courts F#$@C!*&?K!
To complicate things, Dad has been a bit on the sick side. I even went to the doctor Saturday morning about my cold and a couple of male related age problems. Needn’t worry Bella, received some medication and will do what the good doc says.
Friday was inquiry PD (professional development) with my colleagues. It was science related and okay-average as far as equipping us with solid pedagogical ideas for the classroom. The best PD is when you’re so inspired with approaches and ideas that you simply can’t wait to get back to the classroom to try a few tricks out with the kids.
In good news, it’s only one more week and it’s Chinese NY! Woo-hoo! We get some more time off! Nandee & Pa will join us here in Honky Town, AKA Hong Kong! It will be grand to see your Nandee & Pa. Nandee hasn’t been very well for long stretches over the past few years, so it’ll be extra special hosting them in the Orient next week. I’m sure Nandee will ask about you, she always does… but what can I tell her… my special “Dad-powers” only stretch so far… wish you could join us Ophelia.
Love & licks, Dad… XoXo…
Wednesday, February 10th 2016
Happy Chinese New Year to my mighty daughter! It’s good evening Ophelia, but actually, truth be known, it’s not such a grand evening. Dad is a little down as your Nandee & Pa should be here beside me this evening. But your very special Nandee has been battling another horrid virus that has bedridden her again. I’m sure she’ll come good again; she always does bounce back. She’s a fighter your Nandee. It was very last minute, but the doctor said that she just couldn’t travel, so they had to cancel their flights from Melbourne to Hong Kong over the weekend. Fortunately Aunty Rach worked some miracles out with Cathay Pacific, so they haven’t lost their flight. They can book again when Nandee is fighting fit and still visit HK sometime soon. Perhaps that will give you time to arrange a flight too. Wouldn’t that be a dream come true… surprising Nandee & Pa at the airport, you and me, side-by-side, hand-in-hand… XoXo.
Instead of showing your Aussie grandparents around our HK neighborhood, we had a leisurely local day. Both C & I have holidays to commemorate the Chinese NY, so we took a walk up to Happy Valley with Toro where we visited a small dog park. Toro was excited about meeting some other pooches, unfortunately, there was only one other dog at the pooch park, so Toro Chan didn’t get to do much socializing. He needed you there to chase up the steps! You needn’t worry, he’s not very fast, nor does he have great staying power.
Last night to ring in the Chinese New Year we invited Stan & his family over to watch the fireworks from our bay window overlooking Kowloon Bay/Victoria Harbour. Stan is my best buddy at school. They’re an awesome family, Samara is only a year older than you at 14, and Haydn is 16. They’re wonderfully mature and personable girls. You would just love them. Shame the three of you couldn’t have watched the fireworks together with us. In preparation, we cooked most of the afternoon. It’s a small kitchen, but we could of done with another pair of hands and your culinary skills. Next time…
Early on Monday morning, we joined an American tradition by watching the Super Bowl. We joined my American colleagues at Hyun & Johnny’s place from 7.30am; it was already half time when we arrived.
And Saturday, despite being a holiday, Dad went into school for 6.5 hours to fix up my classroom, create a poetry display, and tick a few boxes off. All that hard work and effort felt great! Would have been dandy to have your creative flair helping me on the new poetry display.
Then Friday at school we broke up for the Chinese NY. All 650 of the students enjoyed a great Chinese Assembly for G3 – 5 students. There was some cool dragon/lion dancing and an amazing woman from Shanghai, who literally in the blink of an eye (perhaps faster) changed costume. It was one of those open mouth moments when you don’t quite know what’s going on. Your eyes are fixed, mesmerized and stunned. Your eyes and mind can’t quite work out how she changes costume so quickly. Then gradually your eyes begin to sparkle matching your smile. Life is good. Wish you were there Phi.
I miss you Phi. I love you Phi. Thinking of you every day, of every week, of every month… every year. September 11th 2011 was our last visitation. I’ll never forget you taking my hand within seconds of leaving your mother. It’ll be six years this September since that magic moment… six long years without you… I still miss you Phi… more and more every day.
Love Dad… XoXo…
MORE MAGIC FROM HARRY
“We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.”
—Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Sunday, February 14th 2016
Happy Valentine’s morning Bella. This morning C gave me a Hario coffee syphon set. It’s a ripper, just like my own chemistry set. You should taste the coffee! Mmm! Not bad at all. The aroma of good coffee on Valentine’s Day smells so right, so good, so heavenly. Wish you were here for a milky coffee, or would you prefer a hot chocolate?
Our Aunty Maur slipped into a coma yesterday. Pa & Nandee had visited earlier in the day, she hadn’t been too good, but she was communicative. Evidently just after they left Maur fell away. God bless, she’s one of a kind and the very inspiration for these letters to you. She inspired me to create this Taj Mahal of letters just for you. I don’t know how long it will be. Fortunately I telephoned a few weeks back. Maur was her same buoyant, positive, wicked self, joking and gasping at the same time. She told me when she goes, she’ll visit your mother, just move a few papers, and perhaps whisper a little something in her ear. Sorry, I couldn’t help but giggle.
Seems I’m the bearer of bad news today. Your Nandee has been very sick. Her white blood cells can’t keep up the fight. The chronic fatigue seems rampant, and now, her liver appears to be a problem too. She had a bit of a cry with me on the phone. It’s terrible Phi; like you, she has always been so strong, so supportive, so rich in love. She needs you now Phi. She needs your smile, your embrace, your laughter. A boost from you could be the adrenalin rush she needs.
Do you remember Sam Lawson? Sammy is Kate’s son, Tim Lawson’s nephew. He’s larger than life and blessed to rock this earth. Sam turns 18 on Tuesday. Can’t believe he’s 18! Happy b’day mate! His family and friends held a surprise party at Nikos Tavern last night. It’s also Tim’s birthday this week. Pat (Tim’s mum & Sam’s grandmother) says our Timmy is not travelling all that well, poor bugger. The cancer is eating away at his body. It’s reduced him physically and mentally. Wish we could both be there to spread some cheer.
In good news, Dad’s cousin Vanessa is getting married later this month. In my mind I have a lovely image of the two of you giggling and bouncing on the trampoline at Nandee & Pa’s together. You’re too old to be a flower girl at her wedding now; you’ll have to stand beside your Dad at the looking out over Sydney Harbour. Sydney Harbour, now that brings back some memories… Den & Mike (Vanessa’s parents and my own aunt & uncle) have lived there since I was a lad younger than you. Our own apartment perched on the 11th floor overlooking Kowloon Bay/Victoria Harbour draws some parallels to my first trip north to the harbour city visiting my Uncle Mike & Aunty Den. Even now, I recall the flat they had right on the harbour. Pow! A delicious environ far removed from the then semi-urban Croydon. Well, before I knew what a poem was, your ginger headed Dad found himself sitting down by the dock. Sitting and pondering. Sitting and wondering. At that tender innocent stage of my life, I remember for the first time contemplating life. Perhaps the good Doctor, that’s Dr. Seuss by the way, who has always been more of an influence than Robert Frost (Seuss still rules my roost) must have got into my melancholy mind. From time to time, that inaugural moment of reflection comes to mind… and of course it reminds me of my cousins Vanessa & Amy, and my Aunty Den & Uncle Mike.
So, Dad’s mighty cousin is getting hitched! She’s a gem our Ness; hope we all meet again soon.
Last Thursday Dad had a great long run along Bowen Road, did my 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups and 30 chin-ups, and then met C for a Japanese lunch near her office. For dinner I tried a little gourmet cooking of my own: fried some cream cheese with spinach then let it sit on some chicken marinating for four hours. Served with roasted potatoes and a green salad with olives… not too shabby.
Friday too Dad ran along Bowen Road. It’s a good steep run of about 60 minutes. Actually the steep sections aren’t too long, but they’re very sharp and heart attack material! As I was running I encountered an elderly chap who had fallen and given himself a nasty forehead cut. He was bleeding quite profusely and as I passed his friends/family were just holding a few tissues to the cut. I stopped and told/showed them that they needed to compress the affected area and keep the patient awake. Fortunately an ambulance was evidently on its way. For dinner, Dad cooked risotto. There was plenty left over… fancy some?
Love Dad… XoXo.
“Let us step into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure.”
—Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Wednesday, February 17th 2016
G’day Bud. How’s things in Saitama? Super cold I guess. Sunday, after I had written to you, Cc and Dad went out to a smashing Italian-fusion restaurant for Valentine’s Day. We splurged for it wasn’t cheap, but from midday to 2.30pm we thoroughly enjoyed free flowing bubbly & delicious food. Our worst mistake was napping for nearly three hours after indulging in too much wine & food, so of course, Sunday night your foolish Dad couldn’t sleep at all. Baka ne! I took myself off to bed at roughly my regular time, somewhere between 9 – 9.30pm, but I felt like I had insomnia or jetlag. First world problem… who am I to complain!
Feeling good again now, but Cc is starting to come down with something. Yesterday I ran home from school. Beautiful. Absolutely lovin’ my run home. And this afternoon’s meeting I took my fitness class for faculty from 4.30pm. We had eight teachers today and a newbie from the Chinese section. I think your Dad pushed her a little too hard; she might not come back next week. A few planks, some push-ups, crunches, lunges, skipping, sprints up eight flights of stairs, chin-ups, squats and your old man is feeling pretty good. How’s your strength going Phi? Queen of the flexed arm hang? Gotta love a strong gal who loves a challenge.
Keep running Phi. We’ll run shoulder to shoulder some day soon. Let’s make it a 40 minute 10 km… wonder if I can still do that??? With you by my side, I think I could do anything! SUPER DAD!
Missing my inspiration… LOVE Dad… XoXo.
FABULOUS FIND 02
Sunday, February 21st 2016
Hey Phi, came across this powerful article today (she actually lived in Melbourne). As I read Michelle’s words all I thought about was you. I read it twice, the first time from start to finish, then the second time more slowly, more deliberately, with more and more and more connections. I paused often and wondered. Paused and thought of you. Paused and hoped one day soon I can help you through this. I really hope and pray that you might be interested:
What It’s Like To Be Half-Japanese by Michelle Reimann
Eurasian, half-Japanese, bi-racial, mixed race, hafu, hapa, double, hybrid, dual culture, TCK (third culture kid,) the axis of evil (yeah, yeah: I am German and Japanese, get over it.) However you choose to describe me my lineage is often one of the most frequently asked questions when I meet new people. I have been asked if I am Brazilian, Italian, Middle Eastern, Indonesian, Malaysian, Turkish, and basically every nationality under the sun. I can’t keep up with the flavor of the day in terms of political correctness anymore so for the purpose of this article I am going to refer to people like myself as halflings.
I mean this as a term of endearment, and also as a tribute to one of my favorite TV series coming to an end this week. True Blood had me going for seven strong seasons and I am already mourning the loss. The series explored the halfling protagonist Sookie Stackhouse’s (played by Anna Paquin) struggles with being half fairy, half human. Now, I admit what I am is not nearly as exciting as being half fairy but I can relate to many of Sookie’s trials and tribulations of being being caught between two worlds.
I am not speaking out on behalf of all halflings everywhere, but simply want to share with you my experiences of being what I am in Japan. I have never experienced racism but rather the us versus them concept — not discrimination but differentiation. I don’t have any painful memories. If anything, we halflings get special treatment in Japan. We are often viewed with a mixture of curiosity, awe, envy, admiration, adoration, sometimes suspicion or confusion and a barrage of other emotions.
In the sixth grade, I attended a public Japanese primary school for one semester. I received extra attention from my classmates as well as from students in other classes who I had never met before. They would stare at me and observe and comment on my movements. Some of this I still experience today. This kind of innate curiosity — like an exotic zoo animal released from the confines of its cage roaming free in their natural habitat. I can almost hear their thoughts — it doesn’t look like us, walk like us, or talk like us — but it speaks and understands our language and customs. It’s not Japanese and it’s not completely foreign. What is it?
It’s almost the opposite of bullying. People treat me differently everywhere I go. We are singled out for no other reason than the fact we are of mixed blood. And feeling those eyes on me… there’s a discomfort that comes with that. I will never be fully accepted by the Japanese as one of their own. I feel that Japan belongs to me, but I don’t belong to it.
There are always comments on which parts of my personality are Japanese, which are “foreign” (yes, anything non-Japanese is one big blob). In Japanese culture you are expected to be reserved, but I don’t hold back. I’m not really a fan of “reading the air” so I take the hidden out of the air and expose it. This is considered taboo. This may be more a cultural divide however, and something so ingrained into the Japanese way of life.
If I make a reference to a Japanese quote I am asked how I could possibly know that. How could I eat natto (fermented soy beans, popular Japanese breakfast food) or umeboshi (salted pickled plum) or ikura (salmon caviar)?
I am constantly spoken to in English despite my fluent and unaccented Japanese. At the airport immigration I am ushered into the line for foreigners to get my passport stamped. When I went to my local bank to open an account was told to head to another level where they handle foreigners. As a child model, my transportation and other fees getting to and from castings were covered, for the simple fact that I am a halfling. My surname is not legally recognized, since my family name, Reimann, is so obviously un-Japanese. When it comes to legalities, I must use my mother’s maiden name, Takatsu (I still retain Japanese citizenship).
Then there are the off-hand comments that mean no harm, but slowly grate over time.
You wouldn’t know because you’re a half.
You’re not Japanese, you’re a half.
Your Japanese is really good for a foreigner.
Are you a half?
I wasn’t expecting Japanese to come out of that face.
You’re a half? Let’s hang out.
You’re cute because you’re a half.
What are foreigners like?
(Gasp) The foreigner speaks Japanese!
But you’re not really Japanese. You’re a half.
Being exposed to this kind of treatment day in day out is a subtle reminder that I will never blend into the societal fabric. I’ve heard this being referred to as racial fatigue.
A couple of years ago, I attended my cousin’s wedding here in Japan. Living in Melbourne at the time, I flew in just for the wedding and had just minutes to spare as I arrived at the venue. There is a Japanese tradition at weddings where the family members and relatives of the bride and groom introduce each other before the ceremony. The groom’s family stands on one side in a line, with the bride’s family facing them. As one of the event coordinators ushered everyone into place, I spotted one of my cousins, the bride’s sister. I stood next to her, eagerly chatting away since this was the first we had seen other since my arrival. The event co-ordinator approached me hesitantly, “This is for family members only…”
I stared at him blankly. “I am family.”
With an almost pained look on his face, he repeated, “I need you to stand over there while the family do the introductions…”
This time I spoke with a little more force. “I am family. I am where I need to be.”
Now desperate to stop this gaijin (foreign) chick from ruining everything, he turns to my cousin and asks her to please tell her gaijin friend this is a family-only event.
I really don’t think he was prepared for her answer. “She is family.” With that, the event coordinator walked away looking dazed and confused. How could this foreign-looking girl possibly be part of this pure Japanese family?
There exists an incessant need to place labels of everything and everyone. Pure Japanese… that’s actually a term used in the Japanese language. Jun-nihonjin is someone who is born to Japanese parents in Japan, raised Japanese, and walks and talks like a Japanese person “should.” There are the hafus (halfling beings like myself) and also the kikokushijo which roughly translates to returnee; a Japanese citizen born to Japanese parents born and raised in Japan who has then spent a prolonged period of time overseas then returned to Japan. By this time, they have inherited “Western” values and walk, talk and think differently. They are no longer “pure Japanese” but are now “returnees.”
Japan is one of the most homogenous countries in the world with around 98 percent of the population being ethnically Japanese. Japan is a jus sanguinis country, meaning that citizenship is based on blood, rather than location of birth. However, there has been an increase in the number of mixed-race couples giving birth to children with dual citizenship (around one in 49 babies born in Japan today are of mixed heritage). That’s pretty surprising considering the country was closed to foreigners for almost three centuries.
I am not forgetting the advantages afforded to us halflings. Halflings often grow up speaking two or more languages fluently, integrate well into other cultures having been raised in a multi-cultural household, and hold keen worldly views. As a child and teenager I did struggle a bit with not fitting in with the Japanese clique. As soon as I accepted what I was, the struggle quietened and I could let the comments and stares roll off me. I am so grateful to Australia — a melting pot for so many nationalities — for adopting me. I had no trouble assimilating in Australia, and to this day I think of it as my home.
Some people say mixed race kids should be called “double” instead of “half.” I’ve never been called double and I have no desire to be. I just wanted to be whole.
I’ll never forget the day my dad picked me up from school one day. I was 8 years old, and struggling to find balance between who and what I was. The words my father said to me have stayed with me all these years.
“You are Japanese. You are German. You are Australian. You are a child of the world — a global citizen. You are not half of anything. You are a whole. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.” And I haven’t.
Beautiful. Powerful. You. Don’t you think? How’s your English coping? Still top of the class, or have the infamous grammar buffoons they call teachers in Japan strangle “communication” out of English? I hope, we all hope English is meaningful and purposeful for you. We pray that you still dream in English. We hope it’s a passion for it is an integral part of your beautiful identity. It would be grand to read to you in English. All the best books lose something in translation, so for you to hear/read the Harry Potter magic, Roald Dahl’s tales, and Michael Morpurgo’s classics the way they were written, with no translator second guessing, now, that my gorgeous princess would be a gift. The gift of bilingualism that was yours once… but taken from you. Don’t give up Phi. Never give in. Believe.
Dad ended up taking Cc to Dr. Eric yesterday. She’s had a miserable cold but wouldn’t go to the doctor. Stubborn. Just as well we did visit the good doc because as it turned out, she has influenza! Poor thing had a 40 degree plus fever. She’s sleeping again now which I guess is good for the body’s recuperation. Shh… we’ve got to be quiet.
So after Cc was tucked into bed, I took off to Starbucks after one of my parents gave me a gift card. Wouldn’t ordinarily drink their rather bland and over priced coffee, but what can one say to a complimentary coffee?! Cheers. I gave Cc some quiet time and while sipping milky kids’ coffee Dad did some work on my very “happening” Reading Conferences book. I got the idea off Maggie Moon at the recent literacy PD conference I went to. Thus far, I’m pretty happy with the results… would love to show it to you one day soon. Again this morning I took the liberty of utilizing the coffee voucher at a local café. The book is coming along swimmingly!
Friday night we had dim sum in Central. It was good although we had to line up for 30 minutes and Cc was starting to feel dreadful. She was looking weak and had a shocking nagging cough. That night she even beat me to bed and that hardly ever happens.
Love you kiddo. Go with care. Dad. XoXo. I think the following quote from Sir Harry Potter sums you up:
“I am what I am an’ I’m not ashamed. ‘Never be ashamed,’ my ol’ dad used ter say, ‘there’s some who’ll hold it against you, but they’re not worth bothern’ with.’”
—Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Saturday, February 27th 2016
How’s my Angel? Did you go for a run this morning? 3km in under 18 minutes? Or bang on 5 minute kilometers for a sweet 15 minutes? Dad is still running, but only just. Age AND my big toenail on my left foot tore off this morning! YUCK! Ouch! Too much information? My running route home from school is steep, steep, steep. My old bones, especially my knees (patella) and toes (phalanges) take a beating each time I come down from the Wan Nai Pass above Happy Valley. Anyway, beneath my toenail it had been a bloody mess and threatening to come off for a couple of weeks. So this morning I gritted my teeth, closed my eyes, prayed to the Toe God, and tore the last part off. Surprisingly it feels a lot better already.
So, after performing my own toe surgery, I washed Toro in the bathtub, then let him run crazy on the podium floor (7th floor) to dry off a little. He’s very good when you wash him or groom him. One patient and passive little fellow is our Egyptian Terrier! I know you would just adore our little pooch. He’d love to have a play with you too.
Still got some credit on that lucky coffee voucher I scored from one of my kids, so did a little school work in a local Starbucks this morning. Terrible coffee… they need a bit of Melbourne’s café culture magic here in HK! This afternoon we are planning to do a little of our favorite yum-cha for lunch. Would you like to join us Phi? You’ll love it! They give you a form full of tasty morsels and you just check off what you like. I think we can order three each and share, what do you think Ophelia? Nine different dishes for the three of us should do it. Actually, that might be too much. Hope you’ve become a big eater bella!
Tomorrow the mighty Blues take on the Bombers. Footy is back for 2016! YEAH! Go Blues! Unfortunately it’s going to be a long year for Carlton… just as well I’m some 9000km away from football crazy Melbourne; not too many people to tease me after we lose week after week L Actually it’s only the pre season, but it will still be nice to see a few of the new boys in navy blue go around.
Yesterday it was my cousin Vanessa’s wedding. Ness is from Sydney, daughter to Den & Mike, and sister to Amy. We have a gorgeous photo of you & Ness giggling away on the trampoline at Nandee & Pa’s. I’ll see if I can find the PHOTO to show you some day soon. I remember you and Ness being so close on that day. You came in from jumping on the trampoline all red in the cheeks, giggling, and looking very conspiratorial together.
Poor C has been battling the influenza. It’s really knocked her around. She’s been mighty brave considering how much the fever and aches & pains knock your body around. She had the first three days off work this past week, but was still lethargic & listless Thursday & Friday at the office. She really needs to take it easy this weekend.
At school my kidlets have been writing the most amazing poetry. I’m ever so proud of them, and their bravery with words & emotions. They’ve written the most powerful, provocative and genuine poetry I think I’ve ever had the privilege of guiding. Much of their writing I’m keeping copies of to show my future young poets. As a class we’ve even published our own anthologies.
You’ll be pleased to hear that your 47 year old Dad had seven teachers come to his fitness class Wednesday. Gotta work on a strong core. I miss the interval training and cardio work out with my track & x-country teams! Later that night Dad cooked lasagna for dinner. Perfect night for a little Italian cuisine.
Next weekend Cc & Dad will visit Japan to meet our lawyer, real estate agent, and some renovation companies. Not the most pleasant trip in the world for we need to brace ourselves for the mess our tenants have left our home in. I’ll stay with Milton, so that will bring some cheer. Fancy seeing Dad? You can visit me at Milton’s pad and see the wood deck Dad built as a housewarming gift for Milts. Oh, by the way Phi, Dad bought you a cool lime purse with a silver cat symbol on the sleeve. I’ll send it to you Saturday morning… Love Dad… XoXo.
Found another perfect Harry quote for the moment:
“Don’t let the Muggles get you down.”
—Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
And a CLASSIC TUNE to keep our spirits up:
Over the Rainbow – Bill Frisell
Thursday, March 17th 2016
G’day, g’day Ophelia. Phi, sorry, it’s been a while since I’ve sat down and written. No excuses, just busy with school and now that Cc is working fulltime Dad has to pick up a bit more of the slack around our home, like shopping, cleaning & cooking. It’s grand having a second salary roll in!
Guess what Dad did for the third time this evening. For Saint Baldrick’s (coincides with Saint Patrick’s Day) I had my head shaved with the proceeds raised going to research toward children with cancer. The new buzz cut feels pretty good and can’t wait to get this more aerodynamic head out on the running trails J Managed to raise around 700USD so pretty happy about that too.
Weather here is just perfect. Perfect for everything. Even as I slip by Deep Water Bay each morning around 6.30am on my way to school the committed swimmers are slapping their strokes. Brings me a smile every day as most of them are on the other side of 60. But they all exude positivity, determination and buckets of optimism. Hope I’m beside them one day in the future. I know I would like that; a swim before 7am and the whole day to look forward to.
How’s things for you Phi? I guess right about now you’re finishing your first year of Junior High School, Spring holidays, and then in April you’ll begin year 8… where did all those years go Tiger?
Anyway Bella, it’s time Dad hit the bed. Ralph arrives today next week, and as Dad has Spring Break we should get up to plenty of fun! Care to join us? The plan is I’ll take him on a few trails, just walking mind you. I want to get him fitter, show him how good it feels, and that while we hike, there’s also plenty to see, and lots to look forward to.
Wish me luck Phi… Love Dad… XoXo.
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St Augustine of Hippo
Sunday, March 27th 2016
Hey Gorgeous, how’s trix in sunny Saitama? Did the Easter Bunny find you and your sister? One is never too old to join an Easter egg hunt J So, how was your Easter Sunday yesterday? We all enjoyed a chocolate in your memory, and hope as you munched away on one of the eggs you found, you too spared a thought for your cousins, aunts, uncles, Nandee & Pa back in your other home, Australia. Poor Allie could have done with a visit from her eldest cousin. She needed some cheering up as she ended up in the Royal Children’s Hospital with appendicitis over the Easter weekend. Bummer, but she looked a brave soul from this side of the lens. Aunty Rach sent some photos and told us that the nurses and doctors were impressed with your cuz’s manners. You could write to her; I know she would just love to hear from you.
So, where are we at, Well, I’m on a lovely long Easter Break. Another holiday, you ask!? Yeah, it’s a great school calendar, just lovin’ it! Dad even enjoyed a four day work week last week finishing up Thursday afternoon. Ralph arrived that evening, although he very nearly didn’t because he managed to get off at the wrong bus stop. All ended well as we walked toward each other from opposite directions on busy Hennessy Road and suddenly almost bumped into each other. Happy days! Cc had the Friday off too, so that was perfect timing. Cc also has tomorrow (Easter Monday) off as a public holiday. Easter in China! As one wanders around it’s hard not to notice lots of Catholic and Protestant schools. Wonder how big brother (China) feels about the Christian influence here… they certainly didn’t like it during the Cultural Revolution.
It’s grand having my mate Ralph here. We’ve been using every hour of every day thus far to explore the sights, sounds, tastes of Honky Town. I think Hong Kong is just right for Ralph, the perfect cup of tea. I can see him living here. In fact, Cc and Dad have been dropping hints that he should relocate to HK. It could make perfect sense in the near future because he will finish up with Nippon Denso (Melbourne) next year after two plus decades with the Japanese giant. Friday the two of us managed to get lost in Mong Kok and the whole time he was just laughing and smiling at the poor job his tour guide (me) was doing.
Right now, we’re sitting down having a solid bourbon and cola and watching the world slip by our 11th floor view of Victoria Harbour. Been thinking of our Aunty Maur, Nandee’s health, and your wellbeing Phi. Beyond the glass window brash, vibrant, bright Hong Kong is still very much alive. The sun has truly set, but the lights of HK are a sight to behold. The weather has been ideal, hovering around 20 degrees Celsius and low humidity; hope it holds until Nandee & Pa arrive. Yes, Nandee is on the mend and they’ve rebooked their flights arriving here in April J
Dad has been making Ralph hike with me to lose a kilo or thirteen. He seems to really enjoy it, so I hope he makes a bit of a lifestyle change. Right now, he’s massaging cream into his sore legs after another great hike today. It’s wonderful though; he’s very upbeat and shining, AND tonight he’ll roast some potatoes in duck fat! Yummo! Early this morning the three of us took the ferry from Central to the southern side of Lamma Island. From the port we hiked north to the main ferry terminal/town and enjoyed a bit of lunch, then we continued on to a small dock in the north of the island that Cc and Dad had never been to. Just as we were coming down the trail we spied the small ferry docking, so we had to do a mad sprint to catch the occasional ferry back to Aberdeen. Success.
On Saturday (yesterday) the three of us hiked Dragon’s Back. It’s a ripper, but unfortunately it’s regarded as the premier hike “to do” in HK so it was crazy crowded. Fortunately we arrived early enough to beat the crowds, however, it’s not a hike I think I’ll do in a hurry again… just too many hikers. The first time Cc & Dad hiked the Dragon’s Back we did so at 6.30am and there was nobody there, but by 9am it had started to look like a Tokyo Disney queue.
Anyway kiddo, I had better help out Cc & Ralph in the kitchen. Sure smells good J Are you positive you won’t join us? Water cress & spinach in a spicy garlic sauce, roasted spuds in duck fat and plenty of meat for growing bodies like yours! If you get a chance, take it. If it changes your life, let it…
Love Dad, Ralp & Cc… XoXo…
“They are travelling cheaply, with that touch of indolence and occasional luxury that comes only from having real resources. They live in Levis and sunlight. Sometimes they brush their teeth in streams.” – James Salter, A Sport and a Pastime
Wednesday, March 30th 2016
Hey Kiddo, feel like a hike? Uncle Ralph is starring on the trails although it seems like his wheels may have finally fallen off. He looks a bit sore and achy in the legs but the cold glass of chardonnay seems to be helping. Today, according to Ralph’s i-phone app we hiked 17km around The Peak. We took bus #15 to the top, had a wander around and then finally weaved our way down into Aberdeen.
Monday we took a day off hiking and instead went to the toy market in Wan Chai, and then some yummy yum cha for lunch. After lunch in Central we wandered around Soho, the Cat Street and later Dad watched the some Aussie football. Blues didn’t look too bad in patches. Cc made some great curry rice for dinner.
Yesterday Cc went back to work so Ralph & I went out to Stanley in the south of the island (an old English garrison). After a coffee, from Stanley we hiked The Twins past Dad’s school and back north toward the central business district and Causeway Bay. 14km, some grand views and a wicked hike. I’ll upload a pic or two for you to see the amazing contrasts of nature and skyscrapers. Also Tuesday morning I had my ear suctioned at the Adventist Hospital. I can suddenly hear! Heaven! After another big hike we treated ourselves to a nana nap, walked Toro, paid a few bills, and then finally hit the market for a bit of grocery shopping for dinner. Ralph & Cc had a night away from the kitchen and Dad made chili con carne.
Well Phi, it’s time Dad signed off on another missive. Love you, always will. Dad… XoXo.