Tuesday, January 3rd 2017
Hey Ophelia Hirakawa-Morice (Ophelia Ishijima),
Happy New Year Princess! What will happen this year? I wonder if it will be the year of your first kiss, some volunteer work with the homeless, a letter to Prime Minister Abe, or perhaps a reunion with your Dad?
Another year goes by without the joy of telling you a story, nor the adventure of taking you camping. 2016 passes without the satisfaction of being able to teach you to body surf, or waiting for the right wave together, smiling, laughing, treading water together. Another 365 days slip by without sitting down to dinner with you. We missed the kinship of building an open fire while we camp. Another 12 months without chuckling as we sing another song together, nor the chance to create & fly our own kite. Are you too cool to sing with Dad? We could have run in fun runs, hiked mountain trails, swam rivers, and watched sunsets, together. We could have written stories, cooked epic meals, rode our bicycles through forests, and enjoyed any number of chapter books, together. Alas, only in my dreams… This year, perhaps, 2017, will be our year. The year Ophi & Ged get their act together.
So, how are you? Need to talk? Need someone to listen to your heart? Need a shoulder to cry on, someone who believes in you, who will always support you, always love you… Ophelia, you can call me here in Hong Kong on +852 5188 0089. We have so much catching up to do. So many stories to tell, so many laughs to chuckle, so many tears to release, so many hugs to sooth our souls… I miss you so much, Ophelia.
How’s your Mum doing? Is she okay? I hope she loves you even more. I hope she’s no longer afraid – she needn’t be afraid.
I wonder if anyone gives you the opportunity to open your heart. I wonder if they realise the significance of easing your heavy heart. Is your heart heavy, or do I just imagine your pain? I wonder if anyone asks you, “Can you remember living with your dad?” and “What do you remember about your dad?” I wonder if you don’t want to remember, because everything is so mixed up. Perhaps, you’re sick of trying to remember, or trying to forget, and maybe, you just want to be where you are now, because you have enough to deal with everyday. I understand that. Being a fourteen year old bicultural, bilingual teenager in Japan is enough. It’s got to be tough. I hope you have friends who are just like you. Perhaps you just want to look to the future and put all this behind you; because none of this is your fault. Maybe, you’re very quiet, because there’s something inside you that knows that everything is not right. A noise that won’t go away. A voice that needs to know. Something that pushes you to want to know the truth of your Dad, his whereabouts, his thoughts, his heart, his story – but you’re afraid to ask. Afraid you will hurt the feelings of someone close. I understand that. Perhaps no one will listen, but you can hear what’s inside you – hope. And that hope is the truth. And that hope is someone else is reading this, and deep within, they know the truth, and they know what’s right. My hope is that they are there for you, there to listen, and here on our beautiful earth to do the right thing by you. You deserve the love and support of your Australian family. Love is love.
Like you, I’m learning so much everyday, and the more I learn, the more I realize how much more there is to know about love, respect, integrity, and truth. In many ways, my mindset has a good deal to do with you. I remember how your smile always had a way of catching. No matter my mood, no matter how bad my day may have seemed. That moment when I opened the door or rounded a corner to pick you up from kinder, to see your smile as your eyes met mine, before I knew it, I was smiling, too. Then, your voice, sparkling & so joyous to see me. Contagious. No gift in the world was worth more than your voice, your smile, your eyes – what I’d do this very minute to hear your voice. The happiness you brought me & others was just so profound. Someday, someday soon… may 2017 be the year we reunite. I miss you so much, Phi. We all miss you. As I sit here & remember, all those moments bring me hope.
Inside of your Dad, the many pieces that were once broken are mending. Less & less, my anger & frustration boils to the surface. Though, it’s true, there are moments that I still threaten to spiral downward. Yes, I have moments when I do feel strange, raw, torn, and all jumbled up. But these agonies are no longer able to take control of my life. I don’t let the darkness shape who I am. I used to feel as if one mighty gush of bad luck, or one sharp extra burden would shatter me into a zillion pieces. But when I imagine you alive & well, an inner smile loosens the chains on my heart. I am winning, thanks mainly to my beautiful C, and our love. She is the one, I have no doubt, not even one. She’s a life-changer, a godsend, a soulful warrior, whose goodwill will bless you, too, in the years to come.
Ophelia, life can be sweet, if you see it that way. My family, my friends, and C make me believe. They make me a better version of myself. Family, friends & love can heal anything. We must keep our hearts & minds open, if we are to truly appreciate the beauty of waking with a smile every morning. Give thanks for the goodness that surrounds us. Make your own luck, and if you like it not at present, learn from it. Really, life is what it is, and no amount of grieving will save a lost soul. Mine included.
I say to you, my beautiful daughter, Ophelia Hirakawa-Morice, keep coming up with lists of dreams, and hurry to tick off each of those challenges and adventures. Learn a third language, then a fourth. Play the mandolin after reading Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – a brilliant book! What about hot-air ballooning with Dad, in Cappadocia, Turkey? What do you say to building our own kayak and hitting the Franklin River and its rapids in Tasmania? There’s still so much time for us to hike the Appalachian Trail, together. We can build a cabin in Hokkaido – gomi no ie! Remember our visit there together? It was just the two of us and 15 days in Hokkaido. Never say, never. We can revisit Hokkaido, together. We can walk our dog on a remote beach only reachable after a trek of 12 plus kilometers, with our shoes & socks off, of course… See the world, your world, with fresh eyes, Phi. Nothing is impossible.
This could be our year… XoXo… I LOVE YOU! Dad…
BTW, Dad is in Melbourne – your favorite part of the world for many years. C Chan left January 1st, so I’m here alone now. Sadly your Nandee has been most unwell for about 8 months. For most of our trip she was bedridden, but on C’s last night in Old Melbourne Town, your grandmother sat up on the couch and ate dinner with Pa, C & me. It was a dream come true to see C gently massaging Nandee’s hands & feet.
Do you remember searching for Totoro at one of our favorite picnic spots beside Mount Fuji? What about the Anpan Man Museum in Hokkaido?
Thursday, January 5th 2017
Well, it’s that time again. Time to leave Australia, Phi. Came close to tearing up when your Pa said goodbye to your Dad at the airport, but I managed to hold it in. Well, most of it. You won’t find a better man than your Pa. He’s the most gentle, generous and caring soul. He’s been the most amazing Dad to me. I so admire him, and hope that as I age, I become more and more like your Pa.
It’s a shame you weren’t here with C & Dad. We had a fantabulous time. Your cousins, like you, are all growing up. So much has changed, and yet, so much still remains the same. Family is family. We missed you then, and we miss you now. Over the past couple of weeks, you were everywhere. Your smile, your moments, your goodness has left its mark. We all remember you. You’re omnipresent. A wave of joy that once washed over us. From photos of you on fridges and in picture frames, to remnants of your belongings, and your name in conversation. Your impact still lives with us – your Australian family. We miss you, Ophelia.
Two mornings ago, Dad had a run with Uncle Tony, Nandee’s big brother. Incredible! He must be around 78 years old, and we ran probably around 15km! He’s an inspiration, and certainly his fitness ethos is something I will strive to continue to make a part of my life. As we jogged we had a good chat about family, about his sister (your Nandee), his kids (my cousins), and of course, you, were front and centre. We ran from Ringwood out to his home in Donvale, and enjoyed a coffee with Aunty Margo. As I sipped my coffee, I recalled an Xmas we had celebrated at Tony & Margo’s with family. In my mind, I could see the exact spot you and Uncle Jeff had had a chat about one of the pictures you were drawing. It was a picture of an elephant. Jeff said, “That elephant has a long nose!” to which you replied, “Jeff, it’s not a nose, it’s a trunk.” Ace! There are memories everywhere in Australia… we all miss you Phi, especially your Dad. You’re a legend… please contact me this year… XoXo…
And now, we’re back in Causeway Bay, Honkey Town. Weather is good, and together with C, Hong Kong feels a good fit – just like home. Last night I flew into HK without my HK ID card. When I was aboard the flight, I realized my mistake and allowed it to worry me (especially when I discovered that I had packed the card in with my checked luggage); fortunately at immigration, it wasn’t a problem at all. Phew!
Today, my cousin, Tristan, and his beautiful family spent the day with us. Tristan’s partner, Grace, met Tristan in Singapore. Originally her parents are from Taiwan. They have three girls, Franky, Jo and Lucy. You would have just loved them! We had a lovely day showing them around Causeway Bay. Jo & your Toro became best mates.
So, how’s your Mum doing? Sometimes I worry for your mother. I think she’s bothered by someone like me, someone who sees the world differently to her. Your mother shouldn’t be worried, though – I just want a chance to love you, too. I won’t waste any energy on revenge. You see, we don’t need to compete for your love. You don’t need to make any choices. You needn’t choose – there’s enough love to go around, and your heart is big enough to flourish like it once did.
Your mother loves you, but she needs to free her dark secrets, or she will forever have a hard time “allowing” anyone outside of her inner sanctum to love you. Again, she needn’t worry, I don’t let revenge twist my soul and torture my dreams – nor should you… or your mother.
There’s no denying you and I poured our hearts into the relationship we had forged. It’s only cruel to ignore the bond that we shared. It’s unjust and nonsensical. It’s like setting fire to a prayer; or caving in a heart that is innocent and good. No one should play god and deny you the love of your Dad, your Nandee, your Pa, your aunts, your uncles, your cousins. Their love, support & good wishes should not be denied. Why would anyone seek to obstruct a love with only good intentions?
I believe in second chances, and third, and fourth, and fifth chances. I believe in seeing “good” in people, and making the most of what comes our way. Your mother’s goodness is in the love she has for you. But love can be blind if only seen from one angle. Love must be open to questions, and honest with answers. If we lie, we only lie to ourselves. Love must presume good intentions. True love, genuine goodness, allows us to be the person our dogs think we are. I genuinely believe that – our dogs think we’re gods. If only we were as loving and free of jealousy as our canine friends. Love is robust & beautiful. Family is everything. Truth is truth, and love is love – and neither is meant to be manipulated.
Phi, when you’re reading this, give yourself a second chance. It doesn’t matter how many chances you need. It doesn’t matter how many times you fail. Just keep getting up. Dad is waiting patiently. Sometimes not so patiently. But I’ll always be here for you. It doesn’t matter if it’s 2017, or 2027, I’ll always be waiting with open arms.
Ophelia’s mother, when you read this, time is running out for some of Ophelia’s family… we all need a second chance. We don’t live forever. I wish Nandee would get better… she misses our Phi, and needs one of her medicinal smiles & hugs.
Ophelia, LOVE, love, and more love Dad… XoXo…
“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” Vince Lombardi
Saturday, January 14th 2017
How’s things in “samui” Nippon? Here in Hong Kong, it’s a bit of a pseudo winter, but a welcome relief from the thick heat of the long exhaustive summer. We love Honkers, and love the fact that it’s actually seasonal. It’s fantastic to be able to put on a long-sleeved shirt, a jumper, jeans and to feel comfortable. We had the option of working in Singapore, but the constant, everyday heat would have been a slog.
Tonight, Dad meets Ryan, a former colleague from Cairo American College (CAC) who now works at Beijing International School (BIS). He’s at HKIS with his basketball team. It’ll be good to catch up again, and talk about our Cairo days together. We taught grade 5 together. I wonder if you would have enjoyed CAC with us…
During the week (Monday), Dad started back at school. Already, I’m missing my Allies (x2), my wonderful niece and my former student. Ally was in my class until December, and with her calm, quiet and caring ways, she reminded me a lot of you. Unfortunately, her family had to return to America, but I’m sure we’ll keep in touch. And, your cousin, Allie, she was just charming when we were in Oz over Xmas. She still has a burning to reconnect with you, even though she was so young at the time we lost you. I love that about our Allie.
Friday, January 6th, Dad went into school to prepare for Monday with my students. I have two new students starting, one from India/New York, and one from Canada.
Started the NY with my fitness class Monday. We had 8 teachers attend; we did our planks, burpees, push-ups, crunches, dips, skipping, reverse planks, bird dog, side crunches, kick ups, on and on. I wonder if you were still living with me, would you also join us exercising every Monday after school? Dad also ran home Tuesday (up and over Violet Hill – one day I’ll count the steps) and Thursday (via Aberdeen and up Wong Nai Chung Gap Road). It’s the best of both worlds – working at the south end of Hong Kong island, Repulse Bay, and living in Causeway Bay at the north end of the island. Awesome running trails!
Fitness for life! Run for life, Phi. I love you, whether you’re a runner, or not.
“Don’t let what you can’t do stop you from doing what you can do.” John Wooden
Thursday, January 19th 2017
Fancy a hike this weekend? The weather is looking perfect!
Not too much to report, although Dad was spoiled again today with PD with Vicki Vinton at HKIS. The school I teach at brings in many of the world’s best Professional Developers. Today, Vicki helped us with literacy. Later in the year, I have an opportunity to see Jo Boaler, a math guru in San Francisco!
Now, where were we last time we wrote? Ah, yes, we were talking about second chances, and how everyone deserves them. Don’t get me wrong, second chances don’t turn everything around, but they do give us time to reflect and be better people. After all, isn’t that our major goal in life – to be better versions of ourselves? I’m no Jesus, no Buddha, no Dalai Lama. In front of the TV with my bowl of chips, I can be as lazy, selfish, and as disappointing as the next person. But I’m prepared to “own” my inadequacies & my mistakes. I believe in righting wrongs, and I’m not too proud to admit my selfish ways, and apologize. I’m sorry, I wasn’t the husband your mother hoped I would be. I’m sorry the relationship your mother & I shared didn’t work out the way we both expected it to. I am sorry for a good many things, and I regret saying and doing other things. At the same time, I am prepared to own those wrongs, and move on. To forgive myself, and to forgive others. To be honest with myself and the truth. Deep in our hearts, everybody in your families, knows the truth. Everybody.
In the corporate world of dog-eat-dog, your Dad would be a miserable failure – a lie burns my cheeks. A falsehood puts a sting in my throat that makes the words catch. Saying something that is not true makes my eyes water, and so they should. Planned, prepared, purposeful lies are evil. A deliberate lie hurts more than your own soul, it hurts others. And until a genuine apology comes along, the hurt festers & lingers.
BTW, Dad is in Melbourne – your favorite part of the world for many years. C Chan left January 1st, so I’m here alone now. Sadly your Nandee has been most unwell for about 8 months, again. For most of our trip she was bedridden, but on C’s last night in Old Melbourne Town, your awesome Aussie grandmother sat up on the couch and ate dinner with Pa, C & me. It was beautiful, indeed.
Happy, positive, hopeful. See you soon! Love Dad… XoXo…
READ THIS QUOTE TWICE
“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” Henry Ford
Thursday, January 26th 2017
Australia Day, Phi, or perhaps Invasion Day is a more accurate descriptor of what happened when the First Fleet arrived in Sydney, Australia, in 1788. Terra nullius – vacant land, that’s what the British called it all those years ago.
Tomorrow, Dad doesn’t have to be up at 5.15am, because Friday we have professional development (PD) out at the Tai Tam campus. The literacy cadre will work on upcoming units of Poetry & Biographies… not too sure how much fun that is going to be; though I do love teaching both units.
Monday, Dad coached his fitness for faculty, and we had three new faces! 15 sweaty teachers skipping, planking and crunching away! Fifteen, that’s the most we’ve ever had! Happy coach! Tuesday & today Dad ran home. Tuesday, Dad ran the glute busting but beautiful Violet Hill (450 meters to the top and thousands of steps), and this evening, along the foreshore of Repulse Bay and Deep Water Bay. Both routes have sensational views; just wish we were running home together, with C Chan waiting to greet two sweaty runners. It’s perfect running weather at the moment. I love Hong Kong’s winter, just as we loved Cairo’s winter. I’m not sure I could cope with 365 days of summer like they do in Bangkok or Singapore.
Last weekend I was fortunate enough to attend (January 21st and 22nd) the literacy conference at HKIS. Some magic names presented: Stephanie Harvey, Debbie Miller & Vicki Vinton. Your Dad is very lucky to work at a school such as HKIS. The PD we are invited to attend is world class. All of the above presenters are extremely well known literacy experts in education. Just recently, Dad hosted Dan Feigelson in his room for more Reading Project PD. Lucky, lucky!
Your Dad… xOxO…
YOU DO HAVE A VOICE, PHI
Can’t believe you’re going to be 15 this year… “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” Alice Walker
Monday, January 30th 2017
Happy Chinese New Year Phi!
Just tried to post a parcel to Nandee & Pa, but it’s a public holiday, so the post office is closed. C has researched and purchased some Chinese medicine that will help boost Nandee’s immune system. When we arrived in Melbourne over Christmas, C had brought with her the same traditional Chinese medicine, and Nandee had perked up considerably – hopefully the post office is open tomorrow.
Saturday, Toro & your Dad ran into school at Repulse Bay. Alex & her dog, Echo, joined us from the top of the mountain, Park View. Along with Kristie, the three of us worked on a social studies unit, then we ran home again. 20km and feeling grand! How’s your running going? Are you entering the Tokorozawa half marathon?
Last night was the CNY fireworks (Sunday), but C has been carrying a virus for the past week, so we had to cancel our guests. Sunday morning, Dad again went into school. Busy, busy, busy… but I don’t mind – I LOVE my job! I’m a lucky man with many, many bright things in my life… Just missing one thing, you.
Love Dad… XoXo… Perhaps February you’ll contact me…
“The more you give away, the happier you become.” Unknown.
A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, your Dad ran the Tokorozawa Half Marathon in 76 minutes. Hard to believe, but it’s true. A couple of weeks before that, Dad ran an Urawa 10km in 33 minutes! I can hardly believe it myself!
Wednesday, February 1st 2017
Hey Ophelia Hirakawa-Morice,
Will this be the month you contact me? I wonder. I wonder what you’re thinking, what you’re doing, what you’re planning to do this week, this month, this year…
It’s 6.15pm. I’m sitting down with a blueberry/banana smoothie after my workout. Ran 8km (roughly – 10 laps of Victoria Park), 100 Club of push-ups & crunches, 40 chin-ups, 3 x 16 lunges, 3 x one minute planks (maybe four – lost count), 15 kick-ups (straight legs) and 3 x 45 second squat(s). Feels good, but it would feel better knowing you’re leading a fit and healthy lifestyle, alongside your Dad… I can help you with that. Uncle Rich can help you with maths & Uncle Sean can teach you to climb…
Yesterday, Dad caught up with Ryan, Summer, Opal & Miles – down from Beijing, gotta love CNY holidays! Ryan, a former colleague from CAC was actually down to HK recently (late last year) with his basketball coaching gig. This time he brought Summer and the kids. We all had vegetarian yum-cha for lunch.
Monday, being Chinese New Year Break, Dad ran out to Tai Tam for a bbq with Stan & family, and Jason & family. Even though it’s apparently winter, all I needed was my running shorts and t-shirt. Toro braved the distance, and ran with me to & fro. Coming home was pitch black, foggy and somewhat spooky. Beyond the mountains on the south side of HK island it’s a surprisingly natural landscape. There are few buildings, so few lights, and with the thick fog, we literally couldn’t see anything beyond the light from my head lamp. Poor little Toro was quite frightened, and struggled to keep up. But rather than be left behind, he found a little extra and got his little legs up and over the mountain.
Alright Possum, time for a shower. Love Dad… XoXo…
TAKE A CHANCE PHI – SEEK THE TRUTH
“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.” Amelia Earhart
Here’s my blurb to my story:
MY WRITER’S NOTEBOOK
If you had to choose between your mum and your dad, who would you choose? Bailey grew up in the shadow of a missing mother. A child’s guilt that somehow the disappearance of his mother was connected to him. So many questions, so many nightmares. Where was she, and could there be truth in the dreams that frequented his nights? His agony was the secret his father kept from him. And then his father dumped him 9000km from home. New passport, new life, new awakenings, and a reunion with unexpected consequences. Join Bailey on his journey, in his search for truth.
And here’s chapter one:
I wasn’t allowed to use my Writer’s notebook at school. At Japanese school we didn’t write stories. Sometimes the teacher asked us to write a journal over the weekend, or to write about what we did over the Spring break. But these pieces always read more like a list than a story. Often we did kanji practice, the practice of scribing neverending, impossibly intricate Chinese characters. But usually we were assigned loads of comprehension exercises. As much as they challenged me, there was not really a whole lot going on in my head. I would have much preferred to write a story about kicking the winning goal, or a persuasive letter addressed to the principal outlining why longer recesses were necessary, or even an informational text about the health benefits of cola in school drinking fountains. All of these such stories, had been penned months earlier in my Writer’s notebook.
I missed writing whacky stories about characters with traits not unlike Josh, Patty and me. Strangely, I longed to sit with the audience at the foot of the Author’s Chair and listen to one of my classmate’s read their writing. I missed losing myself in my writing, the original thoughts that accompanied descriptive writing, and the creativity and collaboration that our partner-work provoked. If only Mr. Guzzard could hear me now… living the life of a writer!
And so, I started writing my own personal memoir. Not at school, but in the lonely hours at home with my only company, my Writer’s notebook. Not the most thrilling memoir; I don’t become a child genius or invent anything other than a parachute that supported an egg and survived a drop from the third story. You may laugh with me, cry with me, or just think me completely selfish in the search for my mother and the truth. I do not complete a world first beyond building a lego version of Tokyo Tower to 3.85 meters tall; but this is my story. It is honest and true. It happened. I was 12 years old when my life changed forever.
It all began when my Dad dropped a bomb. For the first 3846 days of my life, everything was peachy, then suddenly my world came to an end. Dad and I were at my grandmother’s home. I call her Nana, I don’t know why, I just do. Nana had prepared dinner again when Dad dropped his bomb. I don’t mean the stinky variety, I mean news you never expected. Bad news. Whenever Dad did drop a stink bomb, however, he never tired of saying, “Hey Bails, pull my finger!” When I was younger, I used to fall for Dad’s jokes all the time, innocently pulling his finger only to be greeted by a loud trumpet type boom wafting from the seat of his trousers. Eye watering alert! Stink bomb! Now, would your Dad do that?
So, that evening the three of us were again gathered around Nan’s dining table. We often ended up at Nana’s, or at our place. Just Nana & me that is, because Dad sometimes worked late. He worked in finance, and apparently that meant he had to stay at the office late to see what the markets were doing in New York, Tokyo and London. Just the three of us you’re wondering. Well, yes. My mother, was the missing piece in the puzzle.
I remember that evening being a cold and wintery night, just perfect for an unexpected bombing. Everything was perfect. We were just finishing Nana’s famous ham & pea soup. It was the thick and hearty soup that Nana thought was my favorite thing in the whole world. That and a crusty loaf of bread with lashings of real butter. Scrumdillyumcious! You see, Nana and me are really close. I guess she’s like the mother I never had; so when she asked me what I wanted for my birthday last year, I had had a sudden pang to please her and said, “Ham & pea soup, what else?”
So, guess what I got for my 10th birthday? Lego? Guess again. X-box? No such luck. Ham and pea soup was alright, I guess. Actually it was wickedly delicious as far as warm gooey green sludge goes, but it wasn’t a chocolate ice cream cake with extra cream on top, nor could you pour it all over the floor and create something other than a muddy sweet collage-concoction with it. What I should have said was, “Oh Nan, you know you don’t have to get me anything… BUT, if you really and truly want to get me something, there’s a cool lego Star Wars kit I’d do my homework for everyday for the next billion years.”
Nan read books, loads of them. She even read kids’ books and tried to talk to me about them. Character traits, plot, sub-plots, themes, imagery… yeah, whatever. But Nan was cool. And, to be truthful, when she read to me, the books always ended up being better than any movie made about the book. Whenever she read, she always had a cup of tea and a biscuit. She somehow managed to make the biscuit last for ages. She looked happy with her tea and book, even when she started to concentrate. When she was engaged in a book, she looked over the top of her glasses. I don’t know why she bothered to wear glasses.
Anyway, the rain was coming down outside, and I had just picked up my soup bowl to lick it clean. Nana was pretending to be angry with me for poor dining etiquette, saying she would “box my ears” for licking the bowl, when Dad started on one of his guttural coughs. This usually meant, pay attention, everybody out of the pool and listen up! I lowered my bowl with a grin. Nan gave me a wink, and tried to point at my nose by looking down her own nose and wiggling it a bit. A bit of green gooey soup was hanging from the tip of my nose. I had put extra cheese in mine. I tried unsuccessfully to sniff it up. Then I tried to lick the soup from my nose because it had started to tickle, but my tongue refused to extend that far. Dad waited, somewhat patiently, but not so full of his usual good humour. He looked down at his hands, frowning. Something was wrong.
“How was school?” he ventured.
I was about to say, “Same, same,” but Dad hated me saying that. In real terms, it was kind of his fault that I was about to turn myself off from his boring question because at Back to School Night, we had put together a video of classic alternative questions for parents to ask their kids. My favorite question a parent should ask their child at the end of the day was: ‘If an alien appeared in your classroom and captured one of your classmates, who would you want it to be and why?’ The teacher of course, duh! Anyway, instead of saying, “Same, same,” I forgave Dad for his lame question when I remembered Patty had got into trouble, like only he knew how. So I told Dad.
“Again?” he questioned, his eyebrows raising as he shook his head in disbelief.
“Yeah, had to stay in at lunch recess.”
“Did you get involved?” His eyes narrowed. I shook my head. “What did he do?” Dad asked semi curiously.
I giggled at the recollection of images filling my head, even though I didn’t get Patty’s joke at first. “Mr. G asked a question about fractions.”
Dad looked confused. “Fractions?”
“Yeah.” Like most 11 year olds, I wasn’t big on the details.
“So?” Dad prompted me.
“Patty told him ‘Henry the Eighth’”
“What was the correct answer?” asked Dad when he’d stopped laughing.
I thought for a moment. “Dunno.”
“What was the question?”
Quite suddenly, Dad looked serious, like he’d just remembered something. He leaned forward with his elbows on the table. My eyes eagerly hoped Dad was about to tell me that he could take me to the football this weekend rather than going to the office. Instead, his voice thick with doubt said, “I’ve taken that job in Japan.”
Nan’s hand moved slowly to her open mouth and she nodded gravely in disbelief. Then as she looked at me, she started to very subtly shake her head. Her fingers pressed to her lips as if she didn’t know what to say. As for me, my eyes shot out of my head and ended up in Dad’s soup bowl next to his mushy peas. There was a moment of total silence. The clock ticked loudly on the dining room wall. The dog in the neighbor’s yard barked at a possum or the shadow of a swaying tree. Then my bottom lip started to quiver. Before the first tear splashed in my empty soup bowl I stuttered, “There’s zero chance of me going to Japan.” Then I pinched my nose defiantly and said, “I’m staying with Nana right here!” My teeth were clenched and I could hear my violent breathing through my nose. Just before my blood boiled, I hurled a sting at Dad, “Nana looks after me most of the time anyway!”
Before Dad had had a chance to explain, I stormed to my room, much like Mr. Guzzard our 5th grade teacher. Mr. G was always throwing a wobbly at our class, and as he did so, the veins in his neck would pulsate, and his face would redden like a ripe tomato.
I sat at the foot of my bed noticing for the first time that the patterns in the floorboards looked like they had seaweed floating through them. Why Japan? Why now? Nothing made sense. Why seaweed? Was there a connection? My chest convulsed in torment and questions I needed answering, but not from Dad, not now. I simmered in mega misery. I felt tentacles wrapping around me, suffocating me, destroying all my hopes in life.
Needs some revising. Needs to be read to my fourth graders for their valuable feedback, but otherwise, I’m quite happy with it. What are your thoughts? Would you like to read more? Chapter two, next time I write to you.
Okay, my little legend with the long legs, til next time. Love Dad… XoXo…
“Why fit in when you were born to stand out.” Dr. Seuss
Friday, February 3rd 2017
Just received the best text from my mum, your Nandee, Deirdre Morice – she’s feeling quite a bit better! She even went to a café! Walking, talking, eating at the dining table with Pa, and even up to a trip in the car! I’m so happy for her, and for your Pa. She’s missing you and has been battling this awful chronic fatigue syndrome for the past 9+ months. In more good news, your Nandee was also accepted into a UK study on the disease. Hopefully, the study will bring some definitive conclusions. When we visited your Nandee & Pa over Xmas, C found some immune boosting Chinese medicine that seemed to give Nandee a lift. Indeed, mentally it provided a positive shift in her mental wellbeing. Courtesy of that little positive lift, C & Dad sent another package of the Chinese medicine Wednesday – hopefully it passes through customs in Australia without a hitch!
Thank goodness for C and her thoughtful generosity… I love her!
Alright Phi Fai Pho Fum, say a prayer for your brave Aussie grandmother, and her loving & caring sidekick, Pa.
Here’s chapter two of, My Writer’s Notebook:
NANA YODA Versus DARTH DAD
I sat there as mad and as helpless as the flies I often captured in summer and whose wings I clipped. The raised voices of Nana and Dad, filtered through the door. By the sounds of their sparring, Nana was in as much shock as me. No doubt Nana Yoda, my protective Jedi knight was taking the battle up to Darth Dad.
Nan and I are best of friends. We’re each so very proud of each other, and we don’t mind telling each other so, especially in front of other people. When my pals talk about how great their mothers are, my only comeback is something like, “Nan makes the best ham and pea soup in the galaxy.” They chuckle good naturedly, even though they don’t like soup.
And Nan, usually not too far away, squeezes my cheeks and says, “My dear Bailey gives the best hugs in the world.” That’s kind of embarrassing.
The voices of Nan and Dad drifted elsewhere, so too my mind. Japan, why? Why can’t we stay here? We studied Japanese at school, which was about as much fun as memorizing my times table back in third grade. I still didn’t know them properly. The only good thing I knew about Japan was what Haruka’s mum had told us on Japanese Day at school. Even that learning got me into trouble. Haruka’s mum, Mrs. Osato, did a talk about Japan and those fat wrestlers that wear diapers in the name of sport. We watched a video of these goliaths with huge bums bumping and slapping each other around a dirt ring. These super fatties were called sumo wrestlers and they were absolutely enormous, which surprised me, because Haruka was tiny and we all thought Japanese people were too.
At lunchtime that day, Josh, Patty and I really embraced Japanese Day. We grabbed our art smocks and wrapped them around our bums like daggy diapers and wrestled each other in the mud behind the art room. It was awesome fun because the 2nd graders thought it was an official part of Japanese Day, and like all good audiences cheered us on dutifully. That was until Grumpy Guzzard heard the raucous and sniffed us out. I swear if I had had a dream where I had picked my nose, he would miraculously find out about it and announce it for all to hear during morning meeting. In any case, when he discovered us covered in mud and our art smocks worse for wear, he had blown a head gasket and lined us up in front of the principal’s office.
The weekend after Japanese Day at Patty’s sleepover, Josh had laughed so much about our sumo mud wrestling that his breakfast cornflakes had catapulted out of his nostrils. Patty’s mum didn’t think it was as funny as us.
I sat on the floorboards numbing my bum and wondering how long I could stay mad at Darth Dad. I sucked softly on my lower lip. My leg started to go to sleep. I remembered when I was little, I used to lay as still as possible when my legs went to sleep. Adults were always saying how important sleep was for young, healthy, growing bodies, so I figured my legs could do with a sleep too. I didn’t mind the tingling, it was a comforting distraction.
Rain was coming in through the open window, but I didn’t care. In between feeling sorry for myself and tracing the patterns on the floor, for some strange reason Haruka’s first day at school in third grade drifted into my mind. We had all laughed at her pathetic attempts at introducing herself in English, but we hadn’t laughed at her times table speed. She was a wiz! After that, she was like a cute stuffed toy. She didn’t or wouldn’t speak and walked the school alone with a weird crooked smile on her dial. Maybe it wasn’t a smile at all, but more like the pain my twisted face was now showing.
My fascination with the floating seaweed patterns on the floorboards was waning; besides the crack in my bum was threatening to implode. I got up, clenched my fists and beat my bum like a war drum readying myself for the impending battle with Darth Dad.
Nana Yoda and Darth Dad were still going at it behind enemy lines. Despite Nan’s ongoing battle with diabetes, she was still a force to be reckoned with.
It was then that I noticed our third grade class photo. For the first time I noticed Haruka was actually standing next to me. I looked at my goofy grin, not a care in the world… and her smile. Only it wasn’t a smile at all. In fact when I looked more closely, I noticed the defeat in her eyes didn’t match her masked nervous excuse for a smile. Her eyes betrayed the look that she was at a funeral, not surrounded by friends at school.
There was a sudden knock at the door and Dad cautiously entered. I looked around for my light saber but figured Nana must have had a tidy up. I thought I remembered leaving it in a nice pile of toys, dirty sox, soccer shorts and unfinished homework. He looked at the open window. I could tell straight away he was pretty relieved I hadn’t flown away. Peter Pan and escape, why hadn’t I thought of that? I could have been tearing down the street in the rain in my socks. That would serve him right.
Dad sucked in a big breath and eased himself down beside me. Sometimes Dad would sit next to me on the floor, never for long though. He was always too busy. So he said. Most of the time he sat at his computer with his forehead wrinkled. By now my tears had dried up, so I concentrated on not blinking so that crocodile tears would eventually come. But I was too angry to cry again. How could this be? It’s just not fair. Dad edged forward a little, forming the beginnings of a lie. He started with an ice cream branch, “Bailey, I bet you didn’t know Japan has a Disney Land.”
I had never been to Disneyland, but I also didn’t want to give any ground, so I grunted something inaudible, then added, “Tell someone who cares.”
There was a long silence. Dad was having trouble steering the conversation. “Bailey, to be truthful,” said Dad as he heaved his huge frame nearer and sat down on my bed. “I don’t have much choice.”
“What do you mean?” I pounced. “It’s simple, just stay where you are, keep your own job.”
Dad took a long deep breath and slowly blew it out, “I can’t.” He put his hands up helplessly. “My job’s been made redundant.”
“Re-what?” I spat at him.
He winced and put his lower lip over his top lip, probably trying to make me feel sorry for him. It didn’t work, besides who can feel sorry for a towering giant of 195cm. It must be great for seeing over fences I always thought. He ran his fingers through his ginger hair, not too dissimilar to my brown mop, though mine was darker. In any case, I did stop slicing him with my eyes and looked away. “It means my Melbourne job isn’t there anymore.” He paused and breathed deeply again. “But there’s an equivalent job in Yokohama, which I’ve accepted.”
Dad also seemed to be staring at the seaweed floorboards with a bruised helpless look on his face. “I’m sorry Bailey,” he said in a thin voice, his hands open and apologetic.
I could see he wasn’t enjoying this discussion anymore than me, so as the ice between us started to melt, I let him go on and on. He talked quietly as he sketched a picture of a grand Japan. He tried to take the sting away by talking of Universal Studios, climbing Mount Fuji, riding bullet trains, watching professional baseball and soccer, bla bla bla… He finished by promising he would take me to the football this weekend. He gave my curls a quick rub, then left adding, Patty and Josh could come too.
“I don’t want to go to Japan…” I mumbled. I hated the sniffling, weak voice that came from my lips.
“Why won’t you tell me about my mother?” It was a simple enough question.
He didn’t look startled. He never looked surprised when I asked. “I’m not ready.”
“I wanna know!” I almost screamed.
“You’re not ready,” he persisted. His voice calm.
“I’m 11 years old, I wanna know the truth!”
Dad closed the door with care, then almost immediately his head appeared again. He gave a pathetic cough, his Adam’s apple bobbing in and out. He announced, “One day son, I promise.” He swallowed hard and opened his mouth as if to tell me something, but he held his tongue.
“What!?” I mimed, still frustrated and bitter.
Then he dropped a real bomb. “Your mother is in Japan.” Then almost as quickly he added, “That’s all I’m saying… for the moment. Please don’t push the subject Bailey.”
I kept my head low, considering the crazy implications. I nodded sensing a hurt my Dad had never shared with me before.
Then he added, “Nana’s coming too.” I wondered why Nana was suddenly interested in football, a weekend outing with Josh and Patty, but I still wouldn’t look at him. She never came to the football. Then he was gone. Like a snowball in the face it hit me. My grandmother wasn’t going to the football at all, she was going to come with us to Japan.
What do you think buddy?
Love & licks, Dad & C… XoXo…
WICKED WISDOM FROM ARISTOTLE
“It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.” Aristotle Onassis
Saturday, February 4th 2017
Chinese New Year comes to a close. Hit Victoria Park again this morning. Did my old-man interval training, running 10 laps (when am I going to make it 12???), and at the end of each lap mixing it up with 100 push-ups, 100 crunches (100 Club – get into it!), 3 x 16 lunges, 3 x 45 second squat(s), 3 x 60 second planks, 40 chin-ups, and 3 x 20 dips. Not too shabby for 48 years old!
After my morning exercise, I went to the supermarket in search of tahini. I needed the elusive ingredient to make my own homus. Took a little finding, and not especially cheap at about 80HKD, over 1000 yen, but that’s Hong Kong – expensive! Then I made my first homemade homus: lemon juice, paprika, garlic, salt, cumin, extra virgin olive oil & of course, the signature ingredient, tahini. It was excellent. For lunch, Dad put together garlic bread with homus, haloumi, and our left over prosciutto & risotto from last night. Brilliant!
This evening, hoping to catch up with Lucy Ashdown – do you remember Lucy from our Katoh days? She was/is a great mate of Pat’s, and I’ve just learned that she is also a colleague of our mate, Nathalie Chotard. Presently they are both working in Kuala Lumpur, and Lucy is here for a conference. This summer C & Dad are hoping to catch up with Nathalie in Paris! Won’t you join us?
Last night we had Anna & her dog Kaiser over for dinner. Dad made a risotto, C the salad & a chocolate cake… Mmmm. You would love playing with Toro & Kaiser!
Love Dad… XoXo…
WHAT SEEDS ARE YOU SEWING, PHI?
“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.” Robert Louis Stevenson
Sunday, February 12th 2017
Dear Running Machine Phi,
We (mainly Dad, but C did join me for some part) watched the Hong Kong runners finish the 5km, 10km, half, and marathon this morning as we walked Toro. The news said some 80,000 people ran! Unbelievable! I got caught up in the cheering, the euphoria, the goodwill of the runners and those cheering them on, so much so, that I think I’ll run next year. What do you say Bella? We could enter the 10km race and be the first father-daughter team home. We could aim to run a sub forty-five minute 10km time! Not too sure I can do that anymore, but with you beside me, I think anything is possible.
In more sporting news, on Monday, Coach Morice had 11 participants for the Wellness Session. Tuesday, Dad started tutoring an American girl in grade 4. She needs a boost in confidence in math, but thus far she seems very intrinsically motivated to make personal progress.
On Wednesday & Thursday, your old man ran home. I just love my runs, the health kick they provide, and the lifestyle that Hong Kong provides. I hope you can visit soon and run some trails with Dad.
On Friday, Dad enjoyed a fascinating field trip to Cross Roads with the Student Council. Cross Roads is a super NGO that provides support in the form of manpower [sic – the noun should be humanpower], logistics, and supplies to those in need. They help after natural disasters, war, refugees fleeing their homes, etc. Our Student Councilors listened to a fascinating talk given by a fellow Australian, DJ. He took the kids through different scenarios that are presently happening in the world right now. He magically & effectively made everything feel very real. Then he took us through a simulation where the students had to walk for water – water to drink, water to bath, water to wash, water for livestock and farms. The students carried the water to and from, then only the first 10% to finish their water run were entitled to attend a school simulation. The other 90% had to wait, and wait, and wait. It was a powerful simulation that our students will carry with them a long time.
In more news, this week I’ve planned a Wellness Week for faculty/staff/students:
UP WELLNESS WEEK February 13th – 17th
Upper Primarians, next week HKIS will have a Wellness Week. The big kids at Tai Tam have all sorts of things planned, but because our schedules don’t really match, we thought we’d get in early and offer a few choice suggestions just for us!
MONDAY Fun & Fit (for faculty/staff)
If you’re interested in a 45 minute circuit-training session every Monday, then join us in the Faculty Lounge or 6th floor cluster area from 4pm. We rotate around stations working on muscular/cardiovascular endurance, flexibility & strength.
*Grab some vitamin D with your colleagues. Enjoy your lunch or a cuppa in the sun this week.
**After a dose of vitamin D, grab a paddle & enjoy a giggle & table tennis in the faculty lounge all week!
For kidlets: Ropes will be left beside the blue blocks on the 5th floor playground for everyone to skip all week. *Karla will lead G3 kids Monday at 1-1:15pm.
TUESDAY Homeroom Wellness Challenge
Challenge your students to come up with a Wellness Challenge for the class. You might like to:
- Schedule mind breaks – take your age and add two to get the number of minutes you should study before taking a quick mind break to stretch or move. In 4B2 we plank for 45 seconds (ask Don Drake!)
- Discuss/research the importance of remaining hydrated. Graph your daily fluid intake.
- Discuss/research the importance of sleep. Graph your weekly sleeping patterns.
- Stack the chairs and do a whole class standing up.
WEDNESDAY Homeroom Healthy Snack
We eat an insane amount of sugar every day (one teaspoon equates to 4 grams – check that packaging). Investigate packaging labels and do some real life math. Lead by example and encourage all kids to bring only fruit/veges as their snack/share.
*Don’t eat sweets/candy when you need to be switched on – Your digestive system will “borrow” blood from other parts of the body, including the brain, to break down the carbohydrates in sweets. Try frozen grapes or slicing apples and tossing with cinnamon.
THURSDAY – Meditate in the Morning
Lead your students through some breathing & relaxation exercises. Cami has some great ideas to share or you can find loads of five minute videos online.
GoNoodle.com is another place for quick in-class activities at a variety of energy levels: from calm breathing to dancing. Be Grateful.
Laugh your way through meditation: if “ohm-ing” isn’t your style, trade meditation for comedy club: laughing can give you a mental boost similar to meditation (Learn more about making laughter your own type of meditation.)
FRIDAY Hike Home (for faculty/staff)
At 4pm we’ll meet by the fishies (5F) and scramble to the junction above the developing LP site. From the junction, Stan will flog a group over The Twins and into Stanley. Karla & son will hike & sing their way to Tai Tam. Danielle & Ged will head back to the big smoke along trails & catchment to the reservoir (Wong Nai Chung Gap). From the reservoir, hikers can take any number of buses home (Aberdeen, Ap Lei Chau, CWB, Wan Chai, Central, Stanley, Repulse Bay).
Love & licks,
I LIKE THIS ONE – A LOT
“If you look at what you have in life, you’ll always have more. If you look at what you don’t have in life, you’ll never have enough.” Oprah Winfrey
Wednesday, February 15th 2017
Hi Phi. How’s things with you? Next month, you’ll finish up year 8, or is it year 9? Isn’t it terrible, I can’t keep track of what year you are at school.
Monday, my amazing Student Councilors, Ava & Colette, did a presentation to our class regarding their trip to Cross Roads last Friday. Super impressive! The empathy they showed is amazing. Over the weekend, they must have spent hours and hours preparing and planning their high impact digital presentation.
Hope you are benefiting from such a diverse education. Leadership opportunities, global diversity & perspectives, and chances to develop individual inquiry projects.
Love Dad, now and always… XoXo
Here’s chapter three:
Mum was coming home from the hospital, like she had always promised. We would be a family again, a real family. Like she promised. Mum and Dad would take it in turns cooking, cuddling and teasing each other in the kitchen. I would creep into the kitchen and catch them just as they were about to…
A moment of weightlessness. My mind not so much confused, more so refusing to function properly. Then my mind shifted to Lala Land, that sometimes uncomfortable place between sleep and awake. I half lifted my head from the pillow, then exasperated, let it crash down into the pillow. Another dream about my missing mother.
I blinked my eyes several times trying to recall the sweet moments of my dream. Someone familiar was singing. It wasn’t cold, far from it, but the few strands of my dream that came to mind made me shiver. Could I believe that my mother would ever return to me? I awoke to Nana singing along to the radio and Dad playing with my toes and singing, “Rise and shine lazy bones!” My trusty nose could smell Dad’s coffee brewing and a hint of peanut butter, and something rustic and grassy in the air. I opened one eye and Dad gave me a grin. Dad was a bit of a licorice all-sort. Sometimes quiet and serious, no doubt remembering my mother. Did he still love her? But just as often he was wildly exuberant, full of loud laughter and boyish jokes.
I was tired, exhausted like I hadn’t slept in days. I rubbed my eyes and saw my lego pirate ship on display and started to hope Dad’s new job had all been a terrible nightmare. The same old Buzz Lightyear clock was ticking away, the same Manchester United calendar was on the wall. Relief surged like a wave.
It was then I remembered the 11 hour flight. Realisation came swift and niggling. I was lying on the floor in Yokohama, Japan. My surrender was complete. I fell back on my pillow gazing at the ceiling, searching for something familiar that wasn’t there. My bunk bed was not my bed, instead I was lying in my grave. Actually I was on a thin mattress called a futon, which you folded up and shoved in a cupboard especially designed for hiding such things. Huge, deep cupboards. Quite a wicked idea considering most people lived in tiny high rise apartments. Besides, if you didn’t fold your bedding away each day, there wouldn’t be enough room to spread your lego all over the floor. Dad didn’t have lego to spread all over the floor, so he had a bed. Nan had a futon like me. In months to come, I was already estimating that the sliding futon cupboard, could hide me, and a dozen of my new friends, with room to spare.
I almost cried there and then, but Dad tipped me off the futon on to a tight bunch of matted straw called a tatami mat. It was a light-green color that would fade to yellow in time. That explained the grassy smell. Sounds prehistoric, but the Japanese as I was soon to discover have a good many weird and often wonderful customs. For example, my bedroom was a 6 mat tatami room, it could never be a 4 mat room because custom dictates that the number 4 signifies “death” and is considered extremely unlucky in Japan. Given the circumstances, maybe moving into an unlucky 4 mat tatami room would have seemed more appropriate.
Dad started on the death tickle. Tickle. Giggle. Tickle, giggle, tear. Tickle. Tears. I squealed and kicked out at him while we wrestled over the straw mats that covered the floor. I was whimpering and just about to lose control of my bladder, when Dad pulled me close and whispered, “Everyday is a good day.”
There was no lemon tree for Dad and I to water that morning because we lived in an apartment with nothing but a long narrow concrete balcony. From what we had seen of Yokohama, it was dull. It was abrupt and brutal. Concrete seemed to favor trees, in any case, we hadn’t sighted a citrus tree. Sorry, I should explain. You see Dad had a theory that if you peed on a lemon tree it would bring a good harvest of lemons. Apparently it was best to pee on the tree first thing in the morning. Good harvest or not, I wasn’t even going to begin looking for a lemon tree in Yokohama, as far as I was concerned, lemons tasted like pee anyway.
Dad had lots of crazy and fun theories. One of my favourites was whenever we went through a tunnel, we had to hold our breath. Dad said it had something to do with a buildup of carbon dioxide in tunnels, but I suspected it was just a game of habit he loved to play. Back home we had held our breath in the car as we passed through tunnels. We didn’t have a car yet, but we had been through some amazingly long tunnels on the bus and train.
I was later to learn that Japan has what you might call podium finishes for tunnels, that’s gold, silver and bronze medals. Dad reckons their engineering feats are the ants-pants, the best and safest in the world. I guess they have to be expert builders considering Japan has more earthquakes than any other country in the world. There’s one tunnel in particular that stretches 76 km joining the main island of Honshu with the northernmost island of Hokkaido. It is called the Seikan Tunnel and is the longest train tunnel in the world. I tried to make it with lego once, but I ran out of lego after it exited my room.
Fortunately for our lungs, Dad and I haven’t been through that tunnel yet. When we were on the bus though, the passengers seemed unusually quiet, and I’m not sure what they thought of a towering giant and his son sucking in air in huge gulps just before tunnels. Most of them ignored us, but as we ventured deeper and deeper into tunnels, and our faces became redder and redder, the more curious onlookers, couldn’t help but take a peek.
Dad & Stan (Student Council Moderators) are steering the G4 Student Council into organizing a celebratory day for the Upper Primary support staff. All the cleaners, cooks, security, and office staff that typically go unnoticed will be made to feel extra special. We’re collecting gift vouchers as prizes. We’ll provide food, drinks, flowers and hampers of chocolate, fruit, biscuits, coffee, tea, etc., as prizes, too. Stan’s class and my class are also interviewing each support staff member, and then we’re going to write an individualized biography to capture that support person’s life. We’re also involving each class in the Upper Primary (all 27 classes). Each class will be responsible for writing thank you notes to a different support staff member, then the Student Council will take all the thank you notes and create a poster-collage for each cleaner, cook, security guard. Pretty cool, hey? Service to the community – get into it!
Monday, February 19th 2017
Who did you spoil for Valentine’s Day on Tuesday? I’m sure there’s someone special, right? As a late Valentine’s celebration, C and Dad had an amazing lunch of lobster, prawns, sashimi and lamb chops. It was a buffet style at Le Mandarine, with C loving the crab legs, and Dad plowing into the Thai prawns and the New Zealand lamb chops. I wonder what would have been your signature dish. I have grand memories of you chomping on lamb chops, too, just like Dad. That, and you used to love slurping your tomato sauce spaghetti. Oh, we also indulged in free-flow champagne – you would have had to pass on the alcohol. Next year, let’s do Valentine’s Day together, you, C & Dad.
Love & licks, Dad & Cc… XoXo…
Have I told you how much I love Cc? I’m ever so lucky to have found my perfect soul mate. She’s so beautiful, in so many wonderful ways. Already, she’s done an extraordinary number of things for you, and me, and us.
GOTTA LOVE THIS ONE:
“No one is perfect, that’s why pencils have erasers.” Unkown
Monday, February 27th 2017
You’ll never guess where I am. Dad’s taking a wellness weekend abroad! I’m in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand with Stan, my HKIS G4 buddy. We flew into Chiang Mai Friday night, found our hotel, and then wandered the streets of this fascinating city. We found a restaurant beside the river and ordered a salad and a fresh mango shake. No beer! Saturday morning, we had an omelet at the hotel for breakfast, then explored the streets of Chiang Mai. For lunch, we actually had Vietnamese, then later, after a siesta, Dad had an indoor workout. Saturday evening, we explored the night markets, but as we knew we would have to carry anything we purchased on the upcoming hike, we didn’t purchase anything. After dinner, Dad’s bum threatened to implode, so I had to do a runner and get back to the hotel ASAP! Almost didn’t make it! Sorry, too much information.
Sunday, 6am, we were ready for our trek. We were picked up at the hotel and driven three hours to near the northern border with Myanmar. Our eco-trek leaders were a Thai lady and her father. We were joined by three Germans and a Swiss father & son. A beaut bunch of people. We hiked past tiny villages, skirting rice paddies & farms, and onward up into the surrounding people-less mountains. For lunch, a fire was prepared and rice was pushed inside bamboo, stuffed with chicken and vegetables, and placed vertically over the fire. In 10 minutes time, we had an amazing lunch deep inside the jungle. The smoke ensured the mosquitoes stayed away from our bush tucker lunch. That evening we hiked into a tiny mountain village and slept on straw mats inside a hut on stilts. It was surprisingly cool, which may have kept the mosquitoes away. We had a grand time chatting and sampling the farmer’s rice wine.
This morning we hiked down into the heat. Just before lunch we stopped by a picturesque waterfall and cooled our hot & tired bodies. We saw monkeys, a snake, and we ate sugar ants, too. Then, after lunch, we drove back down to Chiang Mai and straight to the airport. I probably need a shower right now, but it can wait. Tonight we’re hoping to grab the last train from the airport, 12.30AM to Central, then onward home to Causeway Bay. It’s going to be one tired Mr. Morice tomorrow at school! But, OH, what a grand long weekend!!!
Here’s to hiking together sometime soon… this year? Love Dad… XoXo…
“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” Unknown
Sunday, March 5th
You would have loved the last week with us. We didn’t have one cute, rather cool dog, but two! Today Kaiser (a chubby black poodle) went back to Anna’s place here in Causeway Bay. It was actually pretty cool having two dogs; they kind of entertained each other, and because they’re both old souls, they’re easy maintenance.
Tonight Dad baked a pasta with beef mince, olives, red kidney beans, and a Mexican type sauce. Typically during the week, Chef C cooks, and over the weekend I try and pick up the slack. I ran this morning after walking both dogs, 100 push-ups, 30 chin-ups, 20 lunges, 3 x 60 second planks, and 3 x 15 kick-ups. Doesn’t feel too bad, and because the weather is still far from hot & humid, exercise at this time of year is lovely!
Last night, we treated ourselves to some scrumptious prawns with loads of chili, garlic & ginger. Mmmm! All washed down with a bottle of crisp fruity chardonnay.
Here’s Dad’s next chapter:
CHEERS BIG EARS
On our first morning in our new home in Japan, the three of us sat down for breakfast. “Cheers big ears!” Dad raised his coffee mug. It didn’t matter if it were wine, water, mango smoothie or his favorite beer, he always raised his glass for a toast. ‘Cheers big ears!’ he would bellow with a smile.
“Same goes big nose!” Nan and I chorused.
Almost immediately he spat his coffee back into his mug.
Cheekily I said, “Dad, don’t worry, everyday is a good day… remember!?” I was still chuckling to myself when I spooned a heap of cereal into my mouth. Then it was my turn to spray my cereal all over the table.
Nana displayed a curious grin. Her eyes narrowed on the sugar bowl and she dipped her finger into the sugar. Her eyebrows arched as she said, “Salt!”
The night before, the three of us had felt like ‘Dora the Explorer’ exploring our local neighborhood. We ended our field trip at a supermarket. It was an unreal experience. There were so many items that we were clueless about. Milk looked like milk, except with so many varieties and all in Japanese we couldn’t work out non-fat from reduced-fat from full-cream milk.
Nana had obviously had the same problem with salt and sugar. Understandable really, as they had both come in clear plastic packaging with odd Chinese characters. Already, I understood that many of the characters the Japanese used in their writing system originated in China.
Dad and I had been too busy wetting ourselves at a package of diapers to assist Nana in what I preferred on my cereal. That’s sugar rather than salt, in case you didn’t know. We had come across this huge advertising poster of a baby with a bare bum, and guess what the brand name for the diapers was?, ‘Baby Moony!’ We laughed so much, we both almost needed a diaper of our own.
Guess what else freaked us out? We bought two loaves of bread for only three people and finished every last crumb by morning! You might be thinking Nana and Dad’s cooking repertoire stretches to toast, sandwiches and bread ‘n’ butter pudding, but in fact the loaves of bread we bought only had six slices! Some of the loaves left on the shelves only had four slices! I guess number four was an unlucky number in anyone’s book.
As far as Dad was concerned, he thought our excursion to the supermarket was the ants-pants. You see, he is a bit of an adventurer when it comes to food, so when his greedy eyes locked onto free food samples at the end of just about every aisle, it was like heaven on a lollipop stick.
Once back in Australia he had even eaten a crocodile hamburger… by choice. I didn’t even need to dare him.
Neatly presented on tiny food trays were little bits of meat, pickles and vegetables on toothpicks. And they were just the food we recognised. In Dad’s huge hands the trays looked like miniature doll trays. With my mouth open I watched as Dad’s freckled and muscular arm reached for another offering. The hair on his forearm lit up golden beneath the bright fluorescent lights of the supermarket. He smiled at me nodding his head encouragingly. “Go on Bails, try a bit.”
“What is it?”
“I don’t know. But it tastes great!” He placed the toothpick back on the tray still nodding his head at the deliciousness of the treat. As he replaced the tray and thanked the lady behind her serving bench, his arm straightened and I noticed the loose pink skin on his elbows look like the wrinkled folds of a monkey’s bum.
It was odd, unlike the marketing types in supermarkets back home with their fake synchronized smiles flicking the likes of me away, these ladies actually encouraged me. I was starting to warm to the adventure of Japan. So with a little prodding from Dad, I tried a few samples. There was a tangy, bitter, pinkish plum that tickled my toungue not unpleasantly. Then the lady offered me a bit of something resembling a carrot but cut like a flower that tasted fishy. Around the next aisle a different server offered me dumplings that looked like squashed slugs. The fact that this particular food seemed to represent garden slugs that had been stepped on didn’t seem to register with my daggy Dad. In fact iron-guts, Dad, had seconds of the squashed slugs. There were all sorts of tit bits, all shapes and sizes, all the colors of the rainbow, and he tried everything. He was astounded by the variety, on and on he tasted exploring the flavors, colors and textures he never dreamed existed. By the time we got home, he had eaten a 27 course meal, and couldn’t even finish his ham and pea soup.
After Nana had controlled her giggling, she apologized that there was no sugar for Dad’s coffee and none for me to sprinkle on my cereal. Naughty Nana added that there was plenty of salt for tonight’s fish and chips. I took my bowl and spoon into the kitchen and Nan skipped past me. She may be my grandmother, but she’s pretty quick on her feet.
Well Possum, that’s about all from Dad. Hope things are relaxing a bit as you near the end of your academic school year. I miss you… we all miss you… XoXo… Love Dad.
“Try and be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.” Unknown
Sunday, March 12th 2017
Hi Ophelia. March 2017. A decade ago, March 2007, you were nearing the end of another kinder year at Katoh Kindergarten in Numazu. We lived together. Just the two of us… was it all a dream… your first six years of life beside your Dad…
And now, you’re going to school in Tokorozawa. I wonder if you’re living with Noribaba and Jiji; after all, their house is just around the corner from your school.
Speaking of education, I’m at school tidying up, putting up a new display on Reading Projects, doing some administrative work for school, and for tax purposes, too. I could do with a hand – you could put some colourful borders on my literacy anchor charts, and finish off the titles on my new math poster.
Last night we had a grand meal at Sarah & Trey’s. They’re our US buddies from HKIS. Sarah teaches G5 and Dad teaches G4. We arrived in Honkers at the same time, stayed at the same hotel, and became friends. Trey is quite the chef; last night he made hogies (I’m not too sure how to spell “hogies”, but I’ve heard American actors refer to them over the years on a good many US TV shows), a crispy, warm roll with three different meats, and three different cheeses. We also sampled his home brew beer. Quite tasty!
Yesterday morning we walked with Toro, then I did some school work from home, and in the afternoon I watched a bit of the AFL with Melbourne upsetting Adelaide. The Demons versus the Crows. It was good to see the Demons win. In 2017, it’s a much more even competition. The salary cap has evened things up, and even if a top team is a little off their game, a lower team can really give them a surprise.
In 2017, one would expect a lot of things to be fairer, more even & equitable for all… but it’s not always the case. Some things never change…
Wednesday afternoon, Dad ran home from Repulse Bay. Thursday, my colleagues and I had a look at our new classrooms at Tai Tam. Next academic year, August 2017 – June 2018, the Upper Primary (Grades 3 – 5) are moving to the Tai Tam campus while they renovate and extend our existing building. Not to waste a second, Dad ran home from the Tai Tam campus, too. It’s quite remote, being at the south-east end of the island, so one would think it’s farther to run to/from, but in fact, if I run straight up and over the peak (450 meters), it’s only about 60 minutes. Happy days!
While we’re on the subject of exercise, Friday, March 10th was track & field day, also at the Tai Tam campus. The fourth graders took the bus to TT, and after our events, we all hiked back to Repulse Bay enjoying a picnic along the way.
Would have been grand to hike with you, Phi. Dad could have made you a bento. Do you still have a peanut butter sandwich or two? What about a slice of camembert, some konyaku jelly, cherry tomatoes, and sliced cucumber with a little salt and lemon juice? Yes, I can prepare two small sesame seed rice balls wrapped in nori, and two tiny sausages… What about a sausage roll??? Ah, I loved making your bento, and popping it all neatly in your Kitti Chan bento…
Love Dad… XoXo…
“Never let the things you want, make you forget about the things you have.” Unknown
Saturday, March 18th 2017
Morning Phi Chan.
Dad is a baldy again – more of that later. This morning, Dad, C & Toro walked down past the Wan Chai pier. We often follow this circuit, and look out over Victoria Harbour before the ferries and HK wakes. On our way back to our flat, we sometimes indulge in a coffee, usually courtesy of one of my students, and the coffee vouchers they present me throughout the year.
Thursday was Saint Baldrick’s at HKIS. Dad, and two brave boys in his class, Chris & Lucas, raised over 5000USD for children with cancer. It was a lot of fun, and Dad even had his own cheer squad from his class. About eight students from my G4 class created posters, and stayed until 7pm to see Mr. Morice have his head shaved again.
Also, this week was Book Week. We had Michael Buckley, the author of The Sisters Grimm with us all week at the Upper Primary campus. How spoiled are we? He was terrific, too. Classes had private sessions with the writer, where he told us his story, and little bits & pieces about living the life of a writer.
Tomorrow, Dad runs in an HKIS fun run at Stanley. It’s a 10km road race – fancy running alongside Dad? Last night, we treated ourselves to some Japanese at a local restaurant. It’s always popular, with often a line of hungry patrons waiting; actually, though tasty, it was not nearly as good as the real deal in Nippon.
In more news, Dad & C head to Tokyo in two weeks time. We can eat awesome Japanese food, together! It will be during Dad’s Easter Break – will I see you…
Oh, before I forget, I’m enjoying a book recommended by one of my students; it’s titled The Night Gardener. I think you would quite enjoy it, too.
Hope we see you soon, Phi. I miss you… love you… can’t wait to be beside you… XoXo…
*I’ll write to your mother to see if we can meet during Easter… wish me luck. Though you’re too old now for an Easter egg hunt, I’ll get you an Easter egg or two anyway… XoXo… Dad.
A LITTLE BIT OF BRILLIANCE
“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” Albert Einstein
Sunday, March 26th 2017
Hi Ophelia. How’s your sailing skills? Have you ever been sailing? More of that theme later…
Thursday, March 23rd & 24th was the Student Led Conferences (SLC). My students had been preparing for the better part of three weeks, so the conferences went pretty smoothly – parents seemed impressed by the level of maturity, learning, and expertise.
To celebrate the end of the SLC, quite a group of G4 teachers went to the Yacht Club Friday night after school. Carrie is a member at the Yacht Club, and instead of going to the Middle Island Club, we went to the Causeway Bay Club. They have bowling, which as you know, Dad is not particularly talented at – remember, bowling together in Tokorozawa??? Dad, however, scored 152 & 142!! Woop-woop!
During the week, we also had our Poetry Slam for G4 in the CAN, and it was Fantasy Draft Night Tuesday evening. I missed most of the draft because I’ve recently been tutoring a fourth grader in math after school every Tuesday. Back in Melbourne, Uncle Rich and Uncle Sean readied their teams, and in Sydney, Uncle Allen was busy drafting his own team. There’s another group of three coaches in Yokohama, mates of Dad’s from my Saint Maur days. And back in Melbourne, Ashley, who you met down the beach, at Barwon Heads many moons ago. It’ll be interesting to see how Dad goes this year, seeing as he foolishly drafted three ruckman – I only really need one. Anyway, it’s a lot of fun, and the banter amongst us ‘wannabe’ coaches is often hilarious.
Alright Bella. Time for the defending Fantasy Champion to do something about these three ruckman. Wish me luck! XoXo… Dad…
When Dad and Uncle Richie were in primary school, we did a sailing course at Elwood. I had a crusty old skipper, Barnacle Bill, who wasn’t much interested in teaching kids, or perhaps I wasn’t a good learner. We learned in a tiny yacht called a ‘mirror’. It’s 11 feet long (about 3.3 meters). Pa had bought a mirror called Tweedledum. It had a white hull and gave us a lot of fun when we camped.
Friday, March 31st 2017
Hey Phi, another quarterly missive goes your way with love, love, and more LOVE. I wonder if you’ve noticed these letters from Dad, yet. I wonder if you even have access to these letters from your Dad. I wonder what you’re thinking… I miss you – some things never change… XoXo.
This afternoon, Dad organized a little celebration for Danielle’s 40th. Danielle is our team leader this year and doing a grand job. She teaches in the classroom opposite Dad, and she joins our fitness class each Monday. She’s a ripper person – I think you would like her.
Tuesday this week, believe it or not, Dad was sick and I ended up staying home. I hate being home, but it was just as well, as Dad slept until midday, woke for a bit and then napped again in the afternoon. It was good to re-energize, but oh, it’s always so much extra work to stay home.
By Monday midday I was feeling poorly, so Dad cancelled our 4pm fitness class – only the second time in two years.
Well Phi, till the April – June quarterly. Hope we see each other soon. I miss you, Phi. Always have, always will… XoXo… LOVE Dad… XoXo…
Five Ethics of Life
Listen, before you speak
Earn, before you spend
Think, before you write
Try, before you quit
Live, before you die
Chapter five, for you:
MY CHINESE JAPANESE TEACHER
Even the water tasted different in Japan. Of course, I tried drinking it from the bathroom tap too, but it was just the same as the water that came from the tap in the kitchen. I loved to drink the water from the bathroom tap after I had pretended to brush my teeth. It tasted the best.
“Why don’t you drink the water from the kitchen faucet?” Dad asked. “With a cup?”
I looked at him like he had rocks in his head. “It’s no secret the bathroom tap water tastes better,” I told him.
“It’s the same water, you Wally!” he said.
I didn’t believe him. I didn’t use a cup either. Just bent down close to the faucet, cupped my hands, and slurped. It tasted better that way. It smelled good too. Lovely.
I had just finished brushing my teeth when the buzzer for our apartment went off. I wiped my mouth with my sleeve and rushed to the intercom to see who it was.
Mayumi, a lady from Dad’s office stood in the doorway. She had a nice smile and kind eyes. Mayumi had agreed to take us to my new school, Satsukigaoaka Elementary School. It was such a long, impossible to pronounce name that Dad never, ever got it correct.
Mayumi seemed friendly enough, but she didn’t seem to grasp the gravity of a hang-man’s noose hanging around my neck. On the way to meet the principal in her car, she chatted as if we were going to Disneyland. She told me to expect 40 or so kids in my class and looked at me as if I was her favorite doll. Favorite toy is right, the pull-string cowboy Woody from Toy Story. But in my eyes she was Sid, the toy-torturing witch taking me to the dentist. I didn’t mean to be rude, I just couldn’t figure out where 40 eleven year olds would fit in a single classroom. Did we have to share desks and seats, I wondered, only half jokingly.
I wanted to try a new school about as much as a fish is keen on trying something tasty off the end of a hook. Mayumi swung the car around a bend, passing a mother on a bicycle with two passengers. She was balancing a sleeping baby in a baby seat over the front handle-bars, and a toddler was enjoying the ride, sitting happily in a second seat over the rear wheel. Weird but cool.
Moments later, I slunk back in the car, and wondered where that feeling of a month earlier had gone, that boyhood conviction that nothing ever really bad could happen to me. I closed my eyes and pictured Patty with his brown chocolate curls and Josh’s stupid grin.
With the taste of peppermint toothpaste still in my mouth, we arrived at Satsukigaoka Elementary School. The first thing that struck me was that there was no grass. Instead there was just a wide open space. That expanse of space from the concrete front gate to the four storey building in the background seemed to be compacted dirt. In the corner by a single tree there was a playground that wouldn’t have looked out of place at dinosaur Dad’s old school. The building itself looked about as inviting as a hug from the toy-torturing Mayumi. There was obviously a lot of excess concrete around in 444BC, because everything seemed to be made of concrete, even the playground. From where I stood, open-mouthed and gobsmacked, I guesstimated the slide was the same cold, grey unforgiving concrete. This school was certainly a page out of Mr. G’s history book. I wondered if the Flintstone’s school had had concrete chalkboards too.
I didn’t have time to test my guesstimate, nor the slipperiness of a concrete slide because we were met at the main entrance. Slippers were laid out waiting for us. Slippers? The toy-torturer instructed us on the curious habit of Japanese schools having indoor shoes and outdoor shoes, not to mention gym shoes. At first I thought Sid, I mean Mayumi was pulling Woody’s string, when she told us there were special slippers for the toilet too. I know it wasn’t her fault that I had been dumped at this school, but I was 11 years old and it was hard not to connect the two. Mayumi told Nana that I would need a pair of uebaki indoor shoes, and another pair that would just be used in the gym. She showed me through the labyrinth of shoe lockers to where the fifth grade lockers were.
It was curiously quiet as we shuffled along a long corridor past several classrooms. Occasionally we heard a murmur of evidence that there were children in the classroom, but it was quiet enough to hear Dad’s slippers skidding across the floor. Dad’s mammoth hoof meant his slippers kept shooting here and there across the slippery shiny floor, so I had loads of time to notice the displays. It was definitely a school of sorts, but even I could tell the displays lacked something. They were colorful enough, but there was a certain sameness to the presentation.
I was lost in thought looking at about 40 pictures of what appeared to be the same flower when I noticed Mayumi was holding a door open and motioning us in. It was the principal’s office.
I sauntered in to hear Nana trumpeting on and on about her only grandson, and how I had been learning Japanese for the past four years. The principal had her eyebrows raised slightly, her thin lips smiling but skeptical. As far as Nana was concerned, I was a linguistic genius. I guess I was pretty reasonable at Japanese, especially if you wanted to talk about the numbers 1 to 20 all day, but what Nana didn’t know was that my Japanese teacher wasn’t even ridgy-didge Japanese, she was actually Malaysian-Chinese. Mrs. Trang had spent 12 months in Japan at some point in her life, qualifying her to be our Japanese teacher.
After what might have been a synchronised swimmer’s smile directed in my area, the principal who didn’t speak English talked to Dad through Mayumi and largely ignored me. I sat and listened and felt pasty and panicked. The principal didn’t seem to be wearing much makeup. She looked short, but there was definitely a glow of power about her. Her hair was thick and greying and cut short around her roundish face. My mouth fell wide open as she dictated recess details and Mayumi translated. There was no morning recess, no afternoon recess, and lunch recess was just 20 minutes. I couldn’t believe it. I started to protest, but Mayumi whispered, “Not now Bailey.” I barely heard her rebuke. Somehow it felt wrong to speak English too loudly in the principal’s dungeon.
Maybe Mayumi had translated it all wrong. For a start, how could a school allocate 30 whole minutes to eating lunch? Patty, Josh and I munched through our sandwiches in about three minutes, then sat straight-backed for the next seven minutes hoping Mr. G would let us out a minute early. He rarely did, but an extra minute kicking the ball around was sweet.
The next bomb was hearing that lunch was served at school. The principal explained the health benefits and how the students partook in the serving and cleaning up. My mind wandered to the octopus and other unrecognizable morsels Dad had sampled at the supermarket.
I surprised myself by backtracking and boldly asking the principal about recess. At first she seemed startled, but she quickly regained her composure and less patiently repeated what she had earlier stated. As she somewhat patiently repeated herself, her gaze remained steady and firm. There was an awkward pause when nobody seemed to know what to say, then the principal looked directly at Mayumi, Mayumi smiled, but her smile wasn’t returned. Just grand, I hadn’t heard wrong, and I’d made an enemy of the principal. It only got worse. With a plastic smile she presented the 20 minute play period after lunch as if it were some mighty reward. Back home where I should have been, we had had almost an hour to run riot… on grass no less.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, I didn’t have much time to digest this timetable from hell, because it was time for a school tour.
A moment later we were off. The principal not so much guided us, as herded us. She showed us the toilets, and yes, there were toilet slippers, pink and blue ones. I wondered if you did a “number one” in the blue slippers, and a “number two” in the pink ones. She walked us to the gym. It was pretty good. We hadn’t had a gym back home. After that she showed us the pool. That was even better.
I thought we were returning to her office as she explained that we did both music and art in the classroom. But she suddenly stopped outside a classroom. The fifth grade classroom.
The principal knocked and a wave of panic surged through me. She took my shoulder and coaxed me through the door. The room hadn’t been quiet, but I realized now that it had been far from silent. 40 pairs of eyes locked onto me. I stood there breathless feeling very much like a caged animal. My flaming ginger-brown curls matched my burning cheeks. My heart was racing as the principal introduced me. I wanted to introduce myself in Japanese as my Malaysian-Chinese Japanese teacher had taught me, but no words came from my mouth.
A fraction of a second earlier I managed to nod a grimace at my new teacher who was new herself. Miss Uematsu was a first year teacher who didn’t look much older than myself. Mayumi prompted me through a short self-introduction. I am not sure that the sea of faces understood my stuttering Japanese, but they listened, and with a nod from Miss Uematsu dutifully clapped.