June 6th, 2021

Hey Phi,

I’m afraid I can only tell you very little in these letters of mine. For example, I’m not sure I can convey my feelings of euphoria this morning after hearing good news regarding my health. After leaving Adventist Hospital, I celebrated with a 50 minute run up into the surrounding hills & along Sir Cecil’s Ride.

As I ran, I thought of all the wonderful things in my life. The endorphins generated by my feet pounding the trails helped! Every little leaf I passed, dead or alive, appeared as a page in nature’s book. I thought of my wonderful Cc who has shown me so much positive support. I thought of you and how we learned the ABCs side-by-side. You’ll learn the alphabet of nature, too. This book is always open before you, but few of us pay any attention to it, or try to read it.

And yet, so often the simple things in life are the ones that bring us genuine happiness. A beautiful letter from a student or parent of a student (I received two yesterday – happy days!), a friend who checks in on you, the good will of a total stranger, the blackberries, blueberries & kiwi fruit that topped Dad’s mega-mix of muesli, seeds & nuts this morning.

So, Ophelia, how’s your HAPPINESS?

A Gallup poll of 149 countries reveals that Finland (four consecutive years) is the happiest place on Earth. Why is that? As a teacher, I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that they have no private schools? Every single school is a public school, extremely well funded, with each school extraordinarily well resourced. In addition, students & teachers are exceptionally well supported, academically, mentally, and from a wellbeing perspective, too. Any and every student with mental health issues, learning needs, and/or physical needs is provided for. My guess is the support network for students across the country makes each individual feel valued. That intangible feeling of being regarded as special, of being appreciated, of being valued surely assists anyone’s pursuit of happiness. Does our passport, our socioeconomic position, a fair & free education (like Finland’s), and opportunities afforded us also contribute to our potential happiness. My guess is, yes.

So, what makes me happy? Cc, memories of a shared life beside you, my family (your Nandee & Pa, your aunts & uncles, your cousins), Hadyn, Tim, Milton, Ralph, Stan & Cam. Their names are important to me, just like your friends are everything to you. Their friendships are paramount to my own wellbeing. Running the trails of Hong Kong and coaching kids who are enthusiastic about becoming faster, stronger, and fitter bring me feelings of euphoria; and it’s not just the endorphins the exercise provokes. Teaching intrinsically motivated students (students who are keen to learn & grow) brings me joy, too.

This list (you should all try making your own t-chart – all the good things in your life are listed on one side & all the bad things are listed on the other side) of things that makes me happy is long & comforting. But of course, there are things on the flip side of the Happiness t-chart.

Again, how’s your happiness?

Where do I start? Where do I end? Who am I to judge what happiness means to another? Perhaps your secret Pokémon or Pure Cure collection brings a smile to your dial? Maybe you dream of becoming the next Dr Suess? As it may be, you’ve weathered extreme hardship, yet I don’t hear you complain. Feasibly you’re tired of the mess your mother & I have created, but in all the photos I spy on Instagram, you’re still wearing a genuine smile. For all I know Phi, you know happiness, but like us all, you also know what’s on the opposite side of that t-chart.

My guess is that happiness stems from the value you put into nurturing friendships. Those friends share secrets, laugh between classes, goof off when it’s appropriate, and sometimes when it’s not. Those friendships extend virtually, headphones on, you & your cohort’s eyes sparkle in the reflection of the screen before them. Are you big into gaming?

But sometimes even these lasting friendships don’t seem enough. Sometimes a black fog takes over. It’s quite normal. Though we shoot for eternal happiness, it’s always a rollercoaster getting to the pinnacle.

Can any of us always be happy? No. Without black, there’s no white. Without cold, there’s no heat. Without frustration, anger, jealousy, and all those negative emotions, there wouldn’t be happiness. The grief gives happiness meaning.

Phi, “you’ll move mountains.” (Dr Suess) You’ll walk through many storms and you’ll be knocked down countless times. If we were always happy, then happiness wouldn’t be a thing. As Uncle Hayd says, give yourself permission to rest, wilt, and cry. I have. I just wish I had been kinder on myself. We all have rainy seasons. Accept them. It’s how we choose to move through our storms that teaches us something about grief, about loss, about healing, and about how wonderous it is to have a daughter. Pure joy.

Phi, finding ways to make our life more meaningful is the surest way to finding lasting happiness. Start with making your bed & saying “thank you” as often as possible. As cliched as it sounds, happiness stems from doing the simple things in life right. Again, as my beautiful mate Hadyn says, smile at yourself in the morning & you’ll shift yourself forward. When it rains, look for rainbows. When it’s dark, look for stars. Count your blessings, not your problems.

Phi, wouldn’t it be an excellent thing if all the people in the world were happy & content? (Jawaharlal Nehru). Kind is the new cool, remember that!

FINAL THOUGHTS FOR YOU

Marriage is hard. Divorce is hard. Choose your hard.

Obesity is hard. Being fit is hard. Choose your hard.

Communication is hard. Not communicating is hard. Choose your hard.

Life will never be easy. It will always be hard. But we can choose our hard. Pick wisely.

*Not my words. I copied them. Pretty profound, right!

Xmas 2020

WHAT I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS?

I want to listen. I want you to tell me about your friends. I want to see you with your Australian cousins. I want to see you smile.

What do I want for Christmas? I want you to tell me about your part-time job. Your worries. Your hopes. Your dreams. Your nightmares. Your classes. I want to meet your best friend & tell “Dad” jokes.

I want you to share your life with me. I want you to complain about the hikes we share. Laugh with me. Laugh at me. Hearing you laugh is music to my ear.

What do I want for Christmas? I want you to be part of the solution. Wear a mask & social-distance. I want you to be an activist, or an athlete, or a poet, or a unicorn. I want you to roll your eyes at me if you don’t like my advice. I don’t care, I just want to be with you.

I want you to spend your money making a better life for you. I want to take you shopping for new running shoes & a backpack. I want to sit beside you on a flight to the Pyrenees Mountains. I want to eat tapas & drink wine with you in Toledo.

What do I want for Christmas? I want to see you happy & healthy. I want to see you kneeling beside your Nandee’s Xmas tree in Melbourne. I want to run the trails of Hong Kong with you then sip coffee at an outdoor café & listen to you. I always want to be there for you. That’s what I want for Christmas.

Dad… XoXo

Ophelia

Ophelia,

Sometimes life can feel tainted, unrelenting, polluted, unforgiving. People push you, prod you, poke you, question you. Sometimes their intentions are just, constructive, empathetic, supportive. Sometimes those voices have an ulterior motive.

Life doesn’t have to feel suffocating. We all have those voices in our head that tell us we’re a disappointment. From time to time, these thoughts will slide to the surface. They will overwhelm us, pull us back to exactly where we started to doubt ourselves, suppress our courage, censor our identity, crush forgotten dreams.

We don’t need to listen to those voices. The voices that make us feel worthless, empty, meaningless, discouraged. The voices who cast doubt on who we are, where we came from, where we’re going. It’s important to sit back and question those voices. Do they help me become whole? Do they help me stay in touch with who I am? Do they help me understand my own identity? Do they really understand love?

Family that love you should warm you like the sun. Yes, we all need love, but family must also feel our pain. Love shouldn’t be restrictive. Love should be open and honest with us. Love shouldn’t hide events and people who helped shape us. Yes, we all need love, but we shouldn’t be barred, tethered or deprived from the love of those who remember us.

Family should not freeze you in their contempt and hate for an imaginary demon. Love shouldn’t be restrictive. Anger can shackle love and corrode our belief that anything good can happen to us. Anger, animosity, revenge eats away at our entire soul. It can spawn a victim mentality that everything is always someone else’s fault, that the world is unjust, that misfortune follows.

Phi, don’t allow that to happen to you. Make your own decisions, shape your own future. You’re not betraying anybody if you follow what is truly in your heart. In tough times, we need tough dreams. We need courage, spunk, daring, but more than anything, we must be true to ourselves.

Phi, when you’re ready, take responsibility for your own actions and needs. Be aware of the root of any sense of powerlessness. Practice gratitude. Be kind and true to yourself. You can do this. You need to fight for yourself, Phi.

Let me know when you need me to listen.

Dad… XoXo…

Happy 18th!

Happy Birthday Phi!

We all hope that your 18th was a day of celebration, joy & cheery good times. We all hope it was untroubled, uncensored & unflustered.

Here’s a couple of photos of your b’day presents. Let me know where to send our goodwill, good wishes, your b’day card, and the package with its ribbon.

Today, like every day, I wish that I could give you a whizzy-dizz, but I’m almost certain I couldn’t lift you, let alone swing you around. Perhaps just a picnic after a hike? Or perhaps we could share a drink at an izakaya…

On a Dad note, it’s naive to lay blame at your Australian cousins, your aunts & uncles, your Nandee & Pa. All they have ever done is love you… They miss you Phi. Regardless of whatever keeps you from reconnecting with me, don’t shut out your Australian identity. Your family patiently awaits.

At the same time, I’m happy to cop your anger, your questions, your grievances. It goes without saying, I probably deserve a good dose of the reality of your past decade.

My own ten years of battling the Family Court of Japan and the High Court of Japan have not had the benefit of rose-tinted glasses. Despite their toothless consequences [sic] to the swelling tide of selfish parents who choose to ignore their suggestions, there has been unexpected rosy retrospection. I honestly feel that I came out the other side a better person. I’m less arrogant, have become a listener and less of a talker, and I now know the difference between empathy & sympathy… I cry with a good book, even in front of my students.

So, if you need someone who will listen, I feel that you need to be heard.

It’s also so important you know that I harbor no ill will toward your mother. She loves you. I get that.

Let me know when you want to talk about university, tuition fees, travel, family, and who you are.

Go with care… I love you…

Dad

*Here’s an article you might be interested in (Washington Post).

Sunday, August 9th 2020

Hey Phi,

How’s it all going in Japan during these tumultuous times? I trust you’re doing the right thing by your family & friends, wearing a mask, washing your hands thoroughly, social distancing, and restricting yourself to sensible gatherings. I read about the spikes in our hometown, Melbourne, and the present place you lay your head, Tokyo, and I can’t help but worry. In Australia, the issue at hand is very much behavioural. Unfortunately, too many nuff-nuffs (bakas) ignore the health advice of the experts. Here in Honky Town, we’re experiencing a third wave. There are 4000 active cases and worryingly quite a few community transmissions.

It doesn’t seem that long ago, late May, that after 13 weeks of home learning, we cautiously welcomed the kidlets back for half days at school. AT LAST! Things were going swimmingly well, Covid-19 wise, so an August start was looking rosy, but with the recent spike, next Thursday marks the start of the school year, online no less. On a bright note, I’m moving to G3 after five years in G4. Really looking forward to freshening things up & learning with new colleagues!

I wonder if circumstances were different, our stars were aligned, and you were living with us, how strong or strained our relationship would be? It’s a time of great anxiety, a seriously challenging setting with additional rules & expectations, so, how would our dad-daughter relationship stand up? No one teaches you how to be a good father. I know I’ve made mistakes. I know I have said things I have regretted. I know I could have shown more empathy. I know I should have risen higher when others went lower. I still need to spare myself from making judgement or showing resentment. I’m still learning, but that’s a good thing, right? Having said that, I feel lucky to have learned from the best. Your Pa, my dad, though I often didn’t know it at the time, he was the best dad. He was always there for me. He still is. Despite my many failures, he’s never given up on me. I’ve learned loyalty and hopefully after many decades some quiet wisdom. 

For parenting skills, I also look to my great Canadian mate, Stan. He has two daughters, Hayden is starting her second year at uni, and Samara is about to begin her tertiary education. His relationship with his gals is so tight. It’s inspiring, brilliant. I hope you’ll afford me a chance to at least try and replicate my own father’s calming support, and Stan’s selfless spirit.

So, yeah, I think about my role as a father. What about your role as a daughter? How does that work? Well, I think you’re beginning to realise that there are an infinite number of dimensions outside our own. There are links & connections that bind us, entwine us, even strangle us. Within these relationships, there are known knowns, even known unknowns, and there are unknown unknowns. Think about that. Don’t be too angry & upset to question the evidence. You might be interested in reading the 80+ letters written to the Family Court of Japan that overwhelmingly supported our relationship. There are letters from your kindergarten teachers, our Japanese neighbours, our dentist, the mechanics across the road, friends, family, even some of your mother’s former friends. Your cousin Allie’s letter, addressed to the judge, still remains my favourite.

I hope that when you’re reading this some of your memories are the same as mine. But I also hope that some of your memories are different. When we finally reconnect (again), I hope that your memories embolden mine. I remember that sometimes you used to use your imagination to retreat. Sometimes that worries me, because I so hope that these days you use your creative energy to fly.

Your 17th b’day dinner!

I trust that you can help me colour between the lines, help me remember the smiles that I’ve forgotten, and jog the laughter that slipped from my memory. Yes, we’ve lost time. Whole chunks of life have been wrestled from us. But we can’t be separated from time. Time is constant, but our memories survive. Losing you is constant. Missing you is constant. Loving you is constant.

I know one thing. We can’t go on without looking back. But as we do look to the past, we just have to be sure we’re not building a sense of resentment. We can’t harden our hearts against those who love us most. Let’s cling to those beautiful memories and let’s learn from our mistakes, and the mistakes of others. Let us not lay blame, but let us remember that those who cannot look to the past are sadly condemned to repeat it.

Here’s a few more letters that I sent to your email or Instagram account. My apologies, some of my thoughts are severe. Nonetheless, for the record, I sent them… perhaps unwisely.

I love you,

Dad… XoXo…

Ophelia, (sent Dec 31 2019)

I so missed you in Australia. Another Christmas without you. Everywhere I went in Melbourne there were memories of you. Everywhere I looked there were photos of you. Nobody has forgotten you… we just miss you more & more every day.

More than anything, I want to be a part of your life. I want to support you emotionally and help you make a difference. I want to help you nurture your identity and bilingualism.

Last week in Australia, I twice visited Billie & Luca’s mother, Cate. Cate & Sean broke up some years ago, but they put co-parenting in front of their differences. Despite Sean & Cate breaking up, Nandee & Pa still enjoy a cup of tea with Cate. Sean & Cate are honest with each other. They respect each other and recognize the fact that they both love Billie & Luca. They put Billie & Luca first. Because of their mature relationship, Billie & Luca feel loved & comfortable. Your cousins don’t need to choose between Cate & Sean. It was great to see Cate, give her a hug, and enjoy a cup of tea together.

When your mother & I divorced many years ago, I had hoped we could work together to bring out the best in you. To encourage a parenting partnership, I created a co-parenting contract signed by your mother, Jiji, Noribaba, Nandee, Pa & me. When you were just 17 months old & your mother left, we all agreed to put you first. We agreed not to go to court; instead my goal was to work together with your mother to make you a happy child. To be fair, I gave your mother exactly half of all the assets/money I had earned/saved over the years to that date, over 11,000,000 yen. Nobody asked me to give the money to your mother. No court ordered me to pay her 11,000,000 yen. Put simply, I felt it was the right thing to do. It kind of felt good too; it still does.

It was to be a fresh start for your mother & me. You lived with me and I paid the 60,000 yen per month for your kindergarten. I expected no money from your mother, instead I encouraged her to complete her doctrate, find a job, and be a mother to you. Sometimes she came to Numazu to see you. Sometimes she even stayed for the weekend. She slept in the living room. You and I slept upstairs. We gave her a key to our second home in Numazu. We even invited her camping. She cried in a show of gratitude. I trusted her.

Then your mother took you and prevented us from seeing each other. Suddenly she stopped communicating with me. Soon after, she took me to the Family Court. She refused to reply to my emails or talk to me on the phone. She insisted all communication should go through a lawyer. Your mother broke the agreement that she signed. She broke the trust & goodwill of the agreement your grandparents, Noribaba, Jiji, Pa & Nandee signed. Again & again she broke the visitation agreement the Family Court advised. Your mother broke any trust we shared. She denied our relationship. Nandee & Pa flew from Australia several times to see you; she denied them a chance to see you & broke their hearts. I paid millions & millions of yen in lawyers’ fees to see you, but your mother blocked my every move. When your mother used her ex-husband’s influence to have me surrounded by six police officers when we attended your Bunkasai (School Festival), I had had enough. She broke me.

Phi, I’m sorry. I cannot trust your mother to do right by you. Instead of using the money I gave her to look after you, she used the money on holidays, lawyers & courts to keep you & me apart. How can I trust her to use any money I give fairly? How can I believe her?

Ophelia, you’re welcome to live with us. You’re old enough to decide. If you decide to live with us, I will not dictate who you can see. You will be free to visit your mother, Yoko, Jiji & Baba, whenever you wish. Not three times a year, as many times as you like. I will not decide what is best for you. That decision is your decision. I understand how important your Japanese family is. They love you. I will not take that relationship away. Even if someday you turn against your mother, I will encourage you to forgive her, and visit her. I do not wish to undermine your mother. She is your mother & naturally important to you.

Again, I want to support your decision-making process, but I need to know that your mother is not manipulating things behind the scenes. At no stage will I ever pass money to your mother again. I’m sorry, but for too long I presumed good intentions from your mother, only to be tricked again & again. Your mother has lied & bent the truth on too many occasions. I cannot trust your mother to do the right thing by you.

Again Ophelia, it is your future, nobody else’s. Don’t let your mother’s narrow viewpoints shape your life too much. Seek to understand all perspectives. There is wisdom in listening to all sides. Be open to new ideas & challenges. That is how we grow as people.

I am here to help & support you. I am here to listen.

I love you and so much want to be a part of your life, again.

Let me know when is a good time for me to visit you in Japan, or I can pay for your flight to Hong Kong, or Australia. We have much to discuss. Emails will never be enough.

Love always,

Dad… XoXo…

(sent Dec 25 2019) Morning Phi,

Merry, MERRY Christmas! How was the Festive feeling this morning? Were the lights sparkling, presents beneath the tree, and the smell of holly in the air? I guess Saya is young enough to show excitement anticipating Santa’s arrival. Hoping you received my card & necklace in the mail… and this morning my gift to you hangs from your neck.

This morning when you woke, was the house nice and warm? I imagine it’s cold & uninviting outside. How much “kid” is still in your heart? Christmas isn’t the same without kids… Do you still get excited about Christmas?

Reminiscing, we used to get so involved in the build-up to Xmas; cutting down a pine tree in the outskirts of Numazu (Senbon or up in the hills), decorate the tree, put the lights on, and then we’d write our Christmas cards together. Perhaps your highlight was setting up the lights in the front garden… your nightly smile was priceless.

Then on Christmas Eve, we would carefully fill a glass of milk for Santa, and place two cookies on a plate nearby the tree. It was difficult for you to get to sleep on December 24th, so Dad read loads of Christmas books until your eyelids were heavy. In the morning I would usually wake first, wondering when your tip-toeing little steps would rush into my room & jump on my bed. I would swallow you in a big hug and carry you downstairs. Sure enough, your eyes sparkled when you noticed the milk glass empty and just the crumbs of the cookies remaining. Father Christmas had been! I miss those moments and that closeness we shared. Nothing is the same without you. Do you remember?

So, what’s your plan for the day? Are you having a special breakfast, lunch or dinner? I guess you’re catching up with friends & exchanging gifts. Did you bake your loved ones some Christmas biscuits? What did you get for your mother? How is she? Give her a hug for me.

Australia is just not the same without you.

This morning Dad ran into Ringwood Lake at 6:30 am. It’s about a 6 or 7 km loop. I thought of you as I ran, so wishing you were matching my stride, as we chatted, laughed, smiled, reminisced… At the lake I did my exercises while visualizing you playing on the playground. Do you remember Ringwood Lake? It’s got such an enormous, rustic, engaging playground. I imagined you playing, squealing, climbing, laughing while I did 100 push-ups, 100 crunches, 30 chin-ups, 3 x 90 second planks, 3 x 50 second side planks, 60 lunges, 3 x 50 second squats. Fitness keeps my mind positive, my body alert & healthy… the cardio makes me accountable & fills part of the void left by your absence.

80 minutes later, I was home at 39 Andrew Crescent, Croydon South. Pa was still in bed (he’s hurt his back), but by 8 am Nandee was up cutting up strawberries, grapefruit, banana, blueberries & raspberries for breakfast. After exercise, fruit, muesli & Greek yoghurt to start the day.

On my run home from the lake, surprise, surprise, I noticed a café open on Xmas day. Very unusual for anything much to be open on December 25th, so here I am writing to you.

This morning at 11 am, we’ll go to Rich & Rach’s place in Camberwell. Allie & Chris will be swimming (we’re expecting a top of 27 degrees Celsius), and Sean, Lauren, Luca, Billie & Tish (Sean & Lauren are acting as foster parents for Tish – hoping to adopt her as their own child). We’ll have Christmas lunch together, hand out gifts to the kids, talk about you (your Dad usually cries), then we’ll head back to #39.

Alright, Phi, I’ll let you go. Let’s talk soon.

Your family in Australia so much want to be a part of your life. Wouldn’t it be great to be jumping in the pool in Melbourne on December 25th 2020!

Love Dad… XoXo…

Though I may never carry you on my shoulders again, I hope we go jogging side by side.

Though we may never ride to school together again, I hope we climb mountains, watch sunsets and swim in the ocean again & again.

Though we may never read another book before bed together, I hope we go to the theatre soon.

Though I may never cut your fingernails again, I hope we can cook together.

Though I may never bounce you on my knee again, I hope we hug again & again.

Though we may never draw pictures beside each other again, I hope we visit art galleries & museums together.

Though we may never play dress-ups again, I hope your dad can take you shopping again & again.

I love you Phi… 

Dad… XoXo…

(Nov 9 2019)

Ophelia,

My family & friends are so proud of you for reaching out to me on Sunday, May 12, 2019. Every day I give thanks for how lucky I am. Your bold, courageous actions bring me much happiness.

My hope is that one day soon you will feel pride in who you are. More so, you’ll embrace your identity and blossom as a unique individual. As I have said many times in the past, you’re Japanese and Australian. You should be very proud. You’re Hirakawa & Morice. Your identity is bicultural. You’re unique & beautiful. You are the only Ophelia Hirakawa-Morice on Earth. You are caring, honest and respected. I am so proud to be your dad.

Last month you turned 17, you have likely been thinking a lot about your future. It’s time to make your own decisions. Now that you have had the courage to reconnect with your Australian family, though it may make your life difficult in some ways, it also brightens your future, personally & professionally. Professionally, because being bilingual opens doors. If you’re fluent in both English & Japanese, companies will be keen to give you a job. Interesting & challenging jobs that pay well. Rewarding jobs that provide opportunities to travel.

On another note, being bilingual also opens hearts. You will make new friends, be able to travel, and of course spend quality time with your family in Australia.

Now is the time to act. Now is your time. More than anything, I want to be a part of this new life. I want to support you emotionally and help you make a difference. I want to help you nurture & grow your bilingualism. When you were six, you were perfectly bilingual, fluent in both Japanese & English.

Over a decade ago, somebody in your life made a selfish decision by taking away these opportunities. Opportunities to be loved & supported by two families. Opportunities to live and see different perspectives. Opportunities to walk in the shoes of others. Over the years, your Japanese language skills have dominated. Your English language skills have slept.

Now, you are in a position to awaken your English language skills and broaden your horizon. But not just that, to find who you are.

It won’t be easy. It will take some work (particularly your English writing), but if you want to regain the gift of bilingualism, you can do this!

You have several things in your favour:

One, you’re young enough to regrow your English.

Two, you have people who love & care for you, and most importantly, want to help & support you.

Three, you have options. Lots of options.

Again, here are just some options:

  1. After high school in Japan, you could take a gap-year in Australia. You could live with Nandee & Pa, your aunts & uncles, and reconnect with your cousins. Your spoken English would improve rapidly. Nandee could help you with your writing & reading.
  2. After high school in Japan, you could take a gap-year in Hong Kong. You could live with me. I can act as your teacher, and at last be a “dad” to you. We can holiday together, and we can visit Australia, too.
  3. After high school in Japan, you could go to Australia and go to high school for 12 months.

*For all of the above, I would happily help fund this new direction in your life.

**Taking a gap-year is a solid idea. It will give you time to think about what you really want to do.

  1. After high school, you could study at a college or university in Japan. Ideally, a college/university that has a strong English course. During the vacations, you could travel to Hong Kong & Australia.

*If you choose to study in Japan, I need to know that I am going to be a part of your life if I am going to financially support your studies. When we met this summer, you hugged me, we cried, we laughed, we talked, we smiled. I had reason to believe that I would again become your dad. Someone you could turn to for support. Someone you could trust. Someone you could confide in.

Then you told your mother about me. You told me that you argued with your mother about me. I’m so sorry, because none of this is your fault. Since you told your mother, all communication between you & me, you & your Australian cousins, you & your Australian grandparents has shut down.

I don’t wish to undermine your mother, but the fact remains that when this all started she refused any form of co-parenting and denied all visitation (all the visits we were denied are documented in opheliaanddad.com). All the facts on your mother refusing to directly communicate with me & her anti stance on co-parenting are with the Family Court. She shut down all communication between us, and insisted the only communication should be through lawyers. I have countless files from lawyers documenting all of this. It should also be noted that when we divorced I gave her over $120,000 Australian dollars (your mother & I have bank statements proving this transaction). I had hoped that she would use this money with your interests in mind. Perhaps you could ask her why she didn’t set aside some of this money for you…

I want to support your decision-making process, but I need to know that your mother is not manipulating things behind the scenes. At no stage will I ever pass money to your mother again. I’m sorry, but for too long I presumed good intentions from your mother, only to be tricked again & again. Your mother has lied & bent the truth on too many occasions, and that is why I have sought the services of a lawyer. I cannot trust your mother to do the right thing by you.

In this paragraph, I will sound like a parent. Probably, you won’t like what I have to say, but, I need to know that you will apply yourself. My own parents encouraged me to attend university, but they did not pay for my education. I respected their reasoning, because some people spend the money of others and collect diplomas & degrees, but never use the skills & knowledge they learned because they never enter the workforce. This is an abuse of the financial generosity & goodwill of others. I took student loans and paid for all my university courses. It was my own money, but I was never bitter about my parents not paying my tuition; rather, I saw the money I spent on my degree, my Masters & other courses in education as an investment.  

Ophelia, it is your future, nobody else’s. Seek to understand all perspectives. There is truth in listening to all sides. Be open to new ideas & challenges. That is how we grow as people.

I am here to help & support you. I am here to listen.

I love you and so much want to be a part of your life, again.

Let me know when is a good time for me to visit you in Japan, or I can pay for your flight to Hong Kong, or Australia. We have much to discuss. Emails will never be enough.

Love always,

Dad… XoXo…

(Oct 25 2019) Hey Phi.

How are you? How are you feeling at this moment?

I hope you feel you have the support you need. I hope you can speak the truth in your heart. I hope you have people in your life who listen, really listen. I hope you have people you can lean on, people who understand your bilingual and bicultural identity, people who respect and empathise with who you are. People who don’t try to change you.

Be yourself. Be proud. Be the one and only Ophelia.

I love you.

Dad

Sent from my smelly running shoe phone 📞

(Oct 20 2019) Phi,

I’m worried about you. I know I shouldn’t be worried, I know you’re just busy with friends, school, your part time jobs, modelling, studies, family and life’s hurdles.

I’m also grateful for 2019. Grateful that this year you reached out to me, not once, not twice, but three times we met. You helped make my life whole again. After almost eight years of not seeing you, you filled a hole in my heart.

On your birthday, take a moment to reflect and appreciate the small things in life. Your ability to smell the deliciousness of Japanese curry rice and the first time you learned that the voices of Mickey and Minnie Mouse were married in real life? (So cool, right?) Or how about the fact a group of pink flamingos is called a ‘flamboyance’? Do you enjoy the feeling of new crisp bed sheets? I love putting my head on a fresh pillow slip💕

The small things are what make up life when we don’t have time to notice. Love. Song. Dance. Laughter. Smiles.

Stay strong. Work hard. Make your studies meaningful and purposeful. Dance like nobody is watching. Love like there’s no tomorrow. Be the person your dog thinks you are…💕Be true to yourself…

Every day I wonder how you are, what you’re thinking, what you’re doing.

Sometimes I wish I could still hold and protect you. When I dream of us, you’re still six or seven. My little Ophelia who used to climb all over me, sit on my back while I did pushups, sleep in my arms as I cradled you standing in the train.

But it’s better this way, you’re 17. You’re independent, mature and working hard to make sense of your life.

Let me in. Let me know you are okay.

I so wish to see you again 💕

Love dad…💞

Sent from my running shoe phone

(September 29 2019) Phi,

So, my amazing daughter, what shall we do Tuesday/Wednesday?

How about jogging around Sayamako together? Or we could go for a walk around Kokukoen. We could workout at Inariyamakoen. I could meet you in Hanno and we could go for a hike at Nagatoro.

Do you need new running shoes? We could go to the Iruma outlets and get you a new pair🎉

Can’t wait to see you on your birthday month, October!

Love always,

Dad

Sent from my running shoe iPhone

(Sep 19 2019) Phi,

I’m so proud of you for reaching out to me. Every day I marvel at how lucky I am. You make me very, very happy!

I hope you are starting to feel some pride in who you are. You’re Japanese and Australian. You’re Hirakawa & Morice. Your identity is bicultural. You’re unique & beautiful. You are caring, honest and respected. I am so proud to be your dad.

In less than a month, you will turn 17. You have likely been thinking a lot about your future. Now, that you have had the courage to reconnect with your Australian family, though it may make your life difficult in some ways, it also brightens your future, personally & professionally.

Professionally, because being bilingual opens business doors. If you’re fluent in both English & Japanese, companies will be keen to give you a job. Good jobs that pay well. Good jobs that provide opportunities to travel.

Personally, because being bilingual also opens hearts. You will make new friends, be able to travel, and of course spend quality time with your family in Australia.

Now is the time to act. Now is your time. You need to nurture & grow your bilingualism. When you were six, you were perfectly bilingual, fluent in both Japanese & English. Over the years, your Japanese language skills have dominated. Your English language skills have slept. Now, you are in a position to awaken your English language skills. It won’t be easy. It will take some work (particularly your English writing), but if you want to regain the gift of bilingualism, you can do this!

You have several things in your favour:

One, you’re young enough to regrow your English.

Two, you have people who love & care for you and want to help you.

Three, you have options. Lots of options. Here are just some options:

  1. After high school in Japan, you could take a gap-year in Australia. You could live with Nandee & Pa, your aunts & uncles, and reconnect with your cousins. Your spoken English would improve rapidly. Nandee could help you with your writing & reading.
  2. After high school in Japan, you could take a gap-year in Hong Kong. You could live with Chinami & me. I can act as your teacher, and at last be a “dad” to you. We can holiday together, and we can visit Australia, too.
  3. After high school in Japan, you could go to Australia and go to high school for 12 or 24 months.
  4. After high school, you could study at a college or university in Japan. Ideally, a college/university that has a strong English course. During the vacations, you could travel to Hong Kong & Australia.
  5. After high school in Japan, you could take a gap-year in Japan & Australia. During this time you could prepare for college/university.

*Taking a gap-year is a solid idea. It will give you time to think about what you really want to do.

It’s your future, nobody else’s. Use your head, and follow your heart.

I am here to help & support you. I am here to listen.

I love you and so much want to be a part of your life, again.

Dad… XoXo…

(Sep 6 2019) Hi Ophelia,

I know you’re very busy with school, friends & your part time jobs. I love the fact you are working part time. Respect. 

Next weekend I will fly to Japan hoping to see you. I will be in Japan Saturday, September 14 to Monday September 16. What about a small birthday celebration for your 17th? Just you & me? 

Love always,

Dad… XoXo

(Sep 3 2019) Hi Phi,

I’ve wanted to hear how you are and yet I’m kind of glad I haven’t, as I hope this means you are happy, busy and smiling.

I just feel lucky to have spent time with you this year (TWICE 💕).

It’s also comforting to know that tonight we’ll be looking at the same moon, and in less than two weeks, I will be in Japan. If you have time, I would love to celebrate your birthday together.

Please let me know if there’s anything I can help you with.

Dad.

Sent from my running shoe

August 25 2019 Phi,

How are you? It’s raining today in Hong Kong, so the temperature has dropped a little.

I don’t think I can be in Japan for your 17th birthday in October. I’m sorry. 

Instead, I have booked a short weekend trip one month before October 15. I could meet you for a birthday dinner, Saturday, September 14. Or, any time Sunday September 15. Or, I could meet you for brunch Monday, September 16. I fly back to Hong Kong Monday afternoon.

Let me know which date & time suits you, my Birthday Gal… 17 already… Wow!

Love Dad… XoXo…

(August 6 2019) Hey Phi,

Today you arrive in Korea. How is it? How’s your host family? I guess you’re looking forward to shopping & some yummy Korean food tonight!

In two short months you will turn 17. Already, you are so grown up. So mature, so confident… As a young lady, it is becoming your time, your life, your choices.

We would love to see you in Australia at Christmas this year. It would be a dream come true for your Australian family. Can you imagine the tears of joy you will bring to your Nandee & Pa? Summer in Australia with your cousins… swimming in Allie’s pool, bbqs & the beach!

No one should deny you such wonderful opportunities. You have been denied your beautiful bilingualism & your loving Australian family too long.

Listen to your heart… Nandee needs you…

Also, selfishly I would dearly love to celebrate your birthday this year. I would love to give you your birthday gift in person, hug you, and take you out for a birthday dinner. I can fly to Japan to see you between September 28 to October 3. Let me know what you think.

Love always,

Dad.

(July 6 2019) Hey Phi,

We’re back in Hong Kong now. 

Today we talked with Allen & Brenda. They & their children, David, Nicola & Tim, are very, very happy to hear our news. Nicola & Tim want to reconnect with you. Do you mind if I tell Nicola & Tim your email address? Tim’s email address is: timt97@gmail.com

I’ve been thinking that you should write a journal in English. You could write your story & slowly but surely your English will come back to you. It won’t be easy, but if you give it your best, your English will come back to you.

Nandee & Pa are super keen to reconnect with you too. Their email is: moricede@hotmail.com

I ran to Victoria Park this morning & yesterday at 6am. It’s a little cooler early in the morning, but the humidity is draining. It will be good to run & hike alongside you soon.

Sunday, August 2nd 2020

Hi Ophelia,

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted. I was kind of hoping that I might have made my last post around this time last year, but I guess you of all people know why I’m back. When we met this time last year after seven years, nine months & nine days of separation, you, my beautiful daughter, walked straight up to me & gave me a magically wondrous hug… at last. At that moment I knew what was in your heart. I will never forget that life-changing moment. Thank you. 

We met twice in late June 2019, then I returned to Japan in September & we met once again. Thank you. I suggested that you needed to let your mother know that we had met. It would be better coming from you than somebody else. Even though you told me in tears that you and your mother only argue when my name comes up, I still feel it was the right thing to do in informing your mother that we had resumed our relationship. It must have taken tremendous courage. Part of you must have felt that you had betrayed her. I get that.

Then your mother contacted me and stated I could see you three times in 2020 if I paid her money. No comment from me. Is it fair of me to ask you, How do you feel about that? I think I know. I just wish I could listen to you again.

As soon as your mother became involved, almost as expected, my emails to you were returned, my phone calls unanswered, and my texts were immediately blocked. So, where to now?

I was on top of the world after you contacted me. Contact from you, instigated by you, was the greatest gift anyone had ever given me. We smiled, we laughed, we talked, we listened. Yeah, we cried to, but they were tears that needed to fall. You were in contact with my beautiful nieces, Allie & Billie, your cousins. That family communication was smothered too… again. How do you feel about that?

Even with Covid-19, Trumpism & a belligerent China bullying where I lay my head, I thought that this was going to be our year. Even with the new strains of fact-resistant humans, not to mention empathy-resistant humans, you my bewdiful gal, had given me such hope. Still, after your courage, there’s always a flicker of buoyant, determined belief in my heart that you will one day soon, once again reach out. As Paul Kelly says, From little things, big things grow.

I just want you to know that I will never give up on you. I want you to know that you can talk to me about anything. 

Anyway Phi, here are a few of the letters I’ve tried to send your way:

Phi,

How are you? Hot & humid in Nippon?

Sunday was May 31, 2020. It was your old-man’s 52nd birthday. All-day Sunday, from dawn at push-up park to dusk from our balcony, I checked my email & my Instagram to see if there was a message from you. It’s okay. I don’t blame you. I never will. None of this is in any way your fault. In any case, most of me thinks that you were too young to remember my exact birth date.

This time last year you gave me hope, you gave us all hope. You had bravely reached out to me. We were writing to one another and your dad had a feeling that he was the luckiest person on Earth. We were weeks away from meeting in person for the first time in 7 years, 9 months & 9 days. Then we met. Anyone would think that after almost eight years of waiting, your dad would know exactly how to act… fortunately, you took the initiative and walked straight up to me and hugged me. I will never forget that moment. Never.

In October this year, you become 18. In many parts of the world, you’ll be considered an adult. Things will change. Officially your mother’s grip on you won’t have as much authority. Even now, the many roadblocks she chooses to put in place is in direct contradiction to both the Family Court of Japan and the High Court who encouraged the resumption of visitation the last time we bothered to appeal for their toothless intervention. Inwardly, however, her wrath will remain omnipresent. A daily stranglehold that you must navigate.

Becoming an adult opens doors, provides you with new freedoms, but society will have different expectations of you, too. 

Even more than those angels watching over you, I would love dearly to help that transition into adulthood. Not just because I have missed a decade of your childhood, but because most nights I dream of you. Even in sleep, you’re still a part of my life… even if in my dreams you’re always around 6 – 8 years of age. The reality when I wake is that you’re no longer in primary school, that I no longer scoop you up in my arms every morning. In fact, as of June 2020, you’re in your final year of high school. It doesn’t stop me thinking & hoping that you’re going to need me… soon. 

There’s stuff around these days that I didn’t have to face when I was growing up. I didn’t have to navigate social media. I was fortunate to be able to grow old and learn sensitivity and empathy slowly, gradually. I was afforded mistakes. Mistakes with few consequences. I’m so grateful there was no FB, Instagram or WhatsApp when I think about how self-centred I was. As a 17 year old, the only obstacles and temptations that I faced were alcohol, cigarettes & perhaps some marijuana. In real terms, it was really only alcohol as I was/am blessed by a healthy/sporty peer group.

It goes without saying that though I’ve missed nearly every second of your last decade, I hope you’ll call on me from time to time in the coming ten years. I’m not sure that I can lay claim to any wisdom, however, I have a good many stories of foolishness to share & learn from.

Moreover, your daggy dad dares to daydream of the decades to come. If you choose to have children, I want to be the bubbly grandpa sprinting to the end of the pier with his grandchildren and launching into the sea or lake below. Hopefully, I’m wearing shorts! I want to have more Dr Seuss, Michael Morpurgo, Mac Barnett & Gary Paulson books on my shelves than titles like Cutting for Stone, Animal’s People, Days Without End or Pachinko. Having said that, I hope we get to sit down on a wintery night with a bottle of cabernet-sauvignon somewhere in the mountains, comfortable in front of the open fire talking books. I want to pull out the same box of Lego you & I used to play with. By the way, I still have your train set. You loved it so much, I couldn’t bring myself to give it away. It’s in storage in Japan bursting to be greeted. Would you like to see it? 

Today, tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, and every year thereafter, I want to make you feel special, and if I can do that by making my grandchildren feel special, then, that’s just PERFECT. Some day, I want them to laugh at me & with me.

Though an ocean, baggage claim, immigration, planes, trains & automobiles separate us, it doesn’t stop me every day wishing I could reach out & cup my wrinkly hands around your precious hands. Phi, it doesn’t have to be this way. You don’t need to choose. Over time, stories change, they shift, they take different paths. Sometimes there are forks… which to choose? Sometimes you have to grit your teeth & plough straight ahead. Sometimes those tough decisions will make you. Sometimes you have to forget the smooth, flat concrete path, and you need to summon the courage to climb the tree, with its warts and all. 

Adulthood, with its many twists & turns, will become your new “new”. The paths you choose will have elements of your childhood, your teenage years, but also elements of what’s to come. Like the feel of the tree’s warts on your bare feet as you climb the tree, some situations will feel familiar. But some things stay the same, too. Like, how I love you more & more. 

Remote love hurts but it also provides clarity. I can draft a letter to you, then come back to it days later with fresh eyes. Slash the lame stuff (admittedly, I probably miss the worst stuff – SORRY!), add details to the parts that need stretching, and insert a metaphor that came to me on a mountain trail in my sweaty shorts

So, how’s the family, Phi? I’ve been thinking about your mother, how Covid-19 is affecting your lives, managing family anxieties and grievances. Support her & love her. She probably needs you more than ever right now. 

With your magical touch, you can spread the kindness pandemic. In light of what’s happening on the streets of Hong Kong, the US, the locusts in India & Ethiopia, gently remind your loved ones to let us all be kinder. Let us all be better versions of ourselves. Let us appreciate the simple things in life, like running barefoot on grass, hiking mountain trails, a picnic for two.

Your family in Oz? Well, your Pa misses you… he’s having trouble with his heart. Pa will be 79 in a few days! Your Nandee misses you so much. Don’t let your parents’ hassles get in the way. Reach out to your Aussie grandparents… your Nandee & Pa won’t live forever. Then there’s your cousins, Luca, Allie, Billie & Christopher. Allie & Billie were ecstatic to connect with you on Instagram last May (2019), but equally disappointed that all communication stopped after you told your mum you were in contact with me. I don’t know what I can say to embolden you, other than to listen to your heart. I wish I could have protected you. I wish I could have supported you. I wish I could have been there for you, to listen.

I look forward to seeing you again soon & seeing that beautiful soft smile. So hope there are angels watching over you.

Go with care, 

Dad… XoXo

Here’s an article that was in The Age that sheds a little light on the nightmare for so many kids & parents in Japan: Child Abduction in Japan

Hi Phi,

How’s winter in Japan? Hope you’re heading to the snow. Are you a snowboarder, a skier, or do you just prefer the onsen?

Any news from your end? How are your studies going? Any thoughts about studying abroad?

What about we get together for some extended quality time in 2020… We could do a foodies tour of Seoul, Korea, attend cooking classes together. What you say, Phi? My treat.

I could come to Japan and we could retrace our steps in Hokkaido. We could rent a car, take the ferry to Otoro … go camping near Furano, watch sunsets together at Shikotsuko, climb mountains together… even visit the Anpan Man museum again💕

We could also surprise Nandee and Pa and visit them in Melbourne…

Let’s get together…💓

Dad

Hey Phi.

How are you? How are you feeling at this moment?

I hope you feel you have the support you need. I hope you can speak the truth in your heart. I hope you have people in your life who listen, really listen. I hope you have people you can lean on, people who understand your bilingual and bicultural identity, people who respect and empathise with who you are. People who don’t try to change you.

Be yourself. Be proud. Be the one and only Ophelia.

I love you.

Hey Phi, every day I wonder how you are, what you’re thinking, what you’re doing.

Sometimes I wish I could still hold and protect you. When I dream of us, you’re still six or seven. My little Ophelia who used to climb all over me, sit on my back while I did pushups, sleep in my arms as I cradled you standing in the train.

But it’s better this way, you’re 17. You’re independent, mature and working hard to make sense of your life. Let me in. Let me know you are okay. I so wish to see you again 💕Love dad…💞

Phi, on your birthday, take a moment to reflect and appreciate the small things in life. Your ability to smell the deliciousness of Japanese curry rice and the first time you learned that the voices of Mickey and Minnie Mouse were married in real life? (So cool, right?) Or how about the fact a group of pink flamingos is called a ‘flamboyance’? Do you enjoy the feeling of new crisp bed sheets? I love putting my head on a fresh pillow slip💕 The small things are what make up life when we don’t have time to notice. Love. Song. Dance. Laughter. Smiles.

Phi,

I’m so proud of you for reaching out to me. Every day I marvel at how lucky I am. You make me very, very happy!

I hope you are starting to feel some pride in who you are. You’re Japanese and Australian. You’re Hirakawa & Morice. Your identity is bicultural. You’re unique & beautiful. You are caring, honest and respected. I am so proud to be your dad.

In less than a month, you will turn 17. You have likely been thinking a lot about your future. Now, that you have had the courage to reconnect with your Australian family, though it may make your life difficult in some ways, it also brightens your future, personally & professionally.

Professionally, because being bilingual opens business doors. If you’re fluent in both English & Japanese, companies will be keen to give you a job. Good jobs that pay well. Good jobs that provide opportunities to travel.

Personally, because being bilingual also opens hearts. You will make new friends, be able to travel, and of course spend quality time with your family in Australia.

Now is the time to act. Now is your time. You need to nurture & grow your bilingualism. When you were six, you were perfectly bilingual, fluent in both Japanese & English. Over the years, your Japanese language skills have dominated. Your English language skills have slept. Now, you are in a position to awaken your English language skills. It won’t be easy. It will take some work (particularly your English writing), but if you want to regain the gift of bilingualism, you can do this!

You have several things in your favour:

One, you’re young enough to regrow your English.

Two, you have people who love & care for you and want to help you.

Three, you have options. Lots of options. Here are just some options:

1.     After high school in Japan, you could take a gap-year in Australia. You could live with Nandee & Pa, your aunts & uncles, and reconnect with your cousins. Your spoken English would improve rapidly. Nandee could help you with your writing & reading.

2.     After high school in Japan, you could take a gap-year in Hong Kong. You could live with Chinami & me. I can act as your teacher, and at last be a “dad” to you. We can holiday together, and we can visit Australia, too.

3.     After high school in Japan, you could go to Australia and go to high school for 12 or 24 months.

4.     After high school, you could study at a college or university in Japan. Ideally, a college/university that has a strong English course. During the vacations, you could travel to Hong Kong & Australia.

5.     After high school in Japan, you could take a gap-year in Japan & Australia. During this time you could prepare for college/university.

*Taking a gap-year is a solid idea. It will give you time to think about what you really want to do.

It’s your future, nobody else’s. Use your head, and follow your heart.

I am here to help & support you. I am here to listen.

I love you and so much want to be a part of your life, again.

Dad… XoXo…

Hi Phi, I’ve wanted to hear how you are and yet I’m kind of glad I haven’t, as I hope this means you are happy, busy and smiling. I just feel lucky to have spent time with you this year (TWICE 💕). It’s also comforting to know that tonight we’ll be looking at the same moon, and in less than two weeks, I will be in Japan. If you have time, I would love to celebrate your birthday together. Please let me know if there’s anything I can help you with. Dad.

Phi,

Though I may never carry you on my shoulders again, I hope we go jogging side by side.

Though we may never ride to school together again, I hope we climb mountains, watch sunsets and swim in the ocean again & again.

Though we may never read another book before bed together, I hope we go to the theater soon.

Though I may never cut your fingernails again, I hope we can cook together.

Though I may never bounce you on my knee again, I hope we hug again & again.

Though we may never draw pictures beside each other again, I hope we visit art galleries & museums together.

Though we may never play dress-ups again, I hope your dad can take you shopping again & again.

I love you Phi…

Dad… XoXo…

Time we went jogging together

Phi,

 

Though I may never carry you on my shoulders again, I hope we go jogging side by side.

 

Though we may never ride to school together again, I hope we climb mountains, watch sunsets and swim in the ocean again & again.

 

Though we may never read another book before bed together, I hope we go to the theatre soon.

 

Though I may never cut your fingernails again, I hope we can cook together.

 

Though I may never bounce you on my knee again, I hope we hug again & again.

 

Though we may never draw pictures beside each other again, I hope we visit art galleries & museums together.

 

Though we may never play dress-ups again, I hope your dad can take you shopping again & again.

 

I love you Phi… XoXo…

 

Dad.

 

*Hope we can celebrate your 17th birthday together… It’s eight long years since we celebrated together…

July 2018…

Friday, July 6th 2018

 

How’s my tall talented athlete this evening?

 

This morning I awoke with Cc around 6am and took Toro with me for a little Morice Boot Camp. 3×10 chin-ups, 3×16 lunges, 3×20 crunches, rest, then 3×20 push-ups, 3x45sec squats, 3x45sec reverse planks. How’s your summer training going? Hope you’re keeping fit and giving the high jump, the long jump and the 800 meters a go this summer!

GedPyramidJumpShot.jpg

Stay strong, Phi, mentally & physically. It must be so hard on you, but you know, you don’t have to choose. It’s your birth right to love two families & to be loved by them both. It’s who you are. Australian & Japanese. Hirakawa & Morice. Miso soup & vegemite. Sumo & Aussie footy. You needn’t choose… they’re all part of you. They’re all wonderful. Take your time. Be true to yourself. Listen to your heart. Listen to the truth. We love you. Always will. Always have.

IMG_0646.jpeg

Looking forward to showing you HK. This is our night hike view…

So, what’s Dad up to? Well, it’s School Holidays & today as Cc is working, I’ll take Toro to the SPCA for his vaccination and a fancy-smancy haircut.

IMG_2937.jpeg

Look who’s in my wallet…

It’s wonderful to be on School Holidays and have time to exercise & read! I’ve just finished reading Animal’s People and have started The Gift of Rain. Loved Animal’s People!!! Five big stars!

 

Yesterday (Thursday) 6.15am, Toro & Dad ran toward Mount Parker. We stopped for a few chin-ups, push-ups, squats & crunches along the way. It’s a good 80 minute run… and hot! Much of the day Dad spent revising his chapter story and in the evening I watched the Cats versus the Swans. At half-time Dad prepared some beef tortillas with lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, cream cheese & salsa. Yummo! Shame you didn’t drop in as we had enough for three…

IMG_2936.jpeg

Wednesday 6.15am, Dad & Toro did their boot camp at the local park. Plenty of chin-ups, crunches, planks, push-ups, lunges, kick-ups, dips & side planks. I’m also doing three sets of 2 minute skipping. Then we booked Toro in for his check-up at the SPCA. Dad did a little grocery shopping and dropped the eggs, again. Broke five of them but managed to recover two of them – they’ll go into tonight’s salmon with cream pasta.

 

Tuesday, Dad & Cc flew back from Nippon. Monday, we met the lawyers, the judge and an architect/engineer at the house. Awful stuff… I don’t know how Cc copes. It’s so depressing after all the work we have put into our house. In the evening we enjoyed sushi with Cc’s family.

 

Sunday, Dad helped Mr. Osato in the garden with some weeding & composting, then I ordered a second pair of reading glasses. Later, Cc’s friends, Katsu & Yumiko picked us up for lunch at Sitar; it’s an outstanding Indian restaurant. Truly, it’s some of the best Indian I’ve ever eaten… hopefully someday soon, we can enjoy a meal there together. Later we went to the OK supermarket and Shimomura – Cc loves Shimomura, I love the OK supa!

IMG_2354.jpeg

Uncle Timmy & Dad…

Saturday morning I joined Mrs. Osato & Minori at a community farm to learn a trick or two about vegetable gardens. At 4pm I caught up with my childhood friend, Ralph. We headed to Milton’s for a few drinks on the deck. Later we all went to an Izakaya. Do you remember Ralph? He visited us in Numazu and we often met him in Melbourne. I first met Ralph when I was only 12 months of age. We’ve been great mates ever since. Ralph brought his son, Matthew (he’s about the same age as you), to Japan for a holiday… father & son… isn’t that beautiful! Wouldn’t it be great to travel together!? Where would you like to go?

CIMG4296.jpg

Hong Kong… can you believe it!? You have to run to get here 🙂

Friday morning I worked in the Osato garden, trimming and pruning trees. In the afternoon I went to the Outlets and bought Cc a Kate Spade bag, a bracelet & a necklace. I also snagged myself some sox (socks) & jox (underpants).

 

Thursday, I went out to the house to do some pruning. Ralph met me there with his son, Matthew. Later I went back to Ralph’s hotel in Hamamatsucho for a shower. Then we headed out to an izakaya for dinner.

IMG_1682.jpeg

X-Country Championships

Well, buddy… we missed you again, but while I was in Japan, I thought of you every day… XoXo… LOVE Dad…

 

 

Sunday, October 14th 2018

 

Ophelia,

IMG_0636.jpeg

Happy Birthday!

It is with a curious sense of calm that I write to you on the eve of your 16th birthday. Happy birthday for tomorrow! Hope it’s everything you dream of & more. I miss you so much on your birthdays. I can’t help but think of brighter times when I put on a party for you. There was the horse (Spirit) cake, the Kitty Chan cake, the playground cake, the presents, the laughter, your friends…

IMG_0637.jpeg

The pain of living apart from you has not been erased, indeed it heightens around this time every year; as it does at Christmas. It’s now half your life that I have been distanced from you. Seven years is a lot of precious memories.

IMG_0638.jpeg

Hope you like your b’day present… XoXo

I wish I could have been there for you. I wish I could have listened when you needed someone to talk to. I wish I could have supported you with your learning, your identity, your passion for life.

CIMG4315.jpg

Can’t wait to show you HK…

Two weeks ago, we were in Nippon. I was keen to see you as the letter below indicates. Alas, it was not to be. In any case, we managed to find a beautiful sporty handbag for you. Actually, C discovered it, and thought a sixteen year old princess might like it. Happy birthday… I hope you like our gift… XoXo…

 

Recently C discovered that you were attending a school in Hanno. I hope you enjoy school and have found a supportive group of friends. I took the opportunity to write to the high school principal:

 

“Mr. Tatsuya Arai (High School Principal),

 

I am the father of your student, Ophelia. 

 

I am visiting Japan from Hong Kong Wednesday, October 3rd and hope to meet with you or Ophelia’s teacher. I am keen to learn how I can best support my daughter, her bilingualism, and her identity.

 

I look forward to meeting you and am impressed with the progressive educational philosophy Jiyunomori Gakuen espouses.

 

Yours faithfully,

 

Gerard MORICE.”

 

Strangely, within days of writing the above letter, I received an email from your mother. She ignored my plea to resume visitations; instead she requested money.

 

 

Good evening Phi,

 

I’m sorry that I haven’t written in so long. Maybe the above broke me, because it’s now Sunday, January 6th 2019. It’s been too long, I know. Happy New Year Bella! I hope the Year of the Pig becomes the greatest year of your life. I hope 2019 we reunite. I hope 2019 is the year you rediscover your identity, reconnect with your Australian family, and set your path for a happy, engaging & adventurous future. A future where nobody shackles who you are. A future of integrity, laughter & passion. Already your story has touched so many lives; it’s time you broke out of the Saitama bubble & rediscovered the world, your world.

RIMG0028.jpg

Fancy sitting on this deck Dad made? We can laugh & sip our favorite drinks…

So, what’s Dad been up to? Well, at 2.30pm on Thursday December 20th we flew to Hanoi, Vietnam. We had a lovely two nights in the sleepy capital. We stayed in a cool hotel in the old quarter.

IMG_1311.jpeg

Returning from my morning run in Hanoi

Each morning, Dad rose at 5am and ran with the locals around the lake. I even found a chin-up bar.

IMG_1429.jpeg

Merry Xmas 2018…

Then Cc & Dad enjoyed a scrumdiliumpcious breakfast of mainly fresh fruit… the passion fruits were divine. During the day, we explored, walked and enjoyed the local cafes. Vietnam does some good coffee! For lunch one day we caught up with one of Cc’s Vietnamese friends from her Paris days. After lunch she took us to her brother’s café & taught us all about Vietnamese coffee. Very cool! She even gave us 500 grams of coffee & a little Vietnamese coffee press.

f2bc19a5-316e-43b5-8933-f14697a29ad0.jpg

Dad’s Tuesday Fitness Class. You should join us, Phi!

On the 23rd we flew into Phu Quok; it’s an island south of Cambodia, but it’s still Vietnamese territory. We stayed in a tiny resort on the north coast of Phu Quoc. We had arranged to meet our buddies from Yokohama, Yuki & Sonia (Spanish). Their son, Andoni had just turned two. The five of us had a magnificent time… shame, our Ophelia couldn’t join us. We had a beautiful spacious room that overlooked the swimming pool. There was just the one restaurant, so we ate there for lunch & dinner, too. Surprisingly, it wasn’t too expensive. One night we all jumped in a cab and went to a fish restaurant… YUMMO!

IMG_1430.jpeg

At 12.10pm on December 27th we flew to HCM. Sonia teaches at an international school in HCM, so we had our own tour guides! It was our first time to HCM, and despite some reservations, we both loved it. Again, the coffee was good, our hotel was comfortable & affordable, the food was brilliant, and there was plenty to see & do.

IMG_1431.jpeg

Sunday December 30th at 11.30am we flew back to HK. In Vietnam, I managed to work-out nearly every day; in fact on Phu Quoc as the sun rose, your Dad was out there running, jumping, hopping & sweating. Between January 1 & 6 I did some serious work-outs that brought a little pain to the old muscles.

 

On Monday, January 7th Dad went back to school…

IMG_1441.jpeg

How can I forget you. Do you remember your hot chocolate mug?

I’m so hopeful that this is the year we will meet again. I wonder if that is a smile on your face as you’re reading. How did you find our blog? Where are you as you read? You needn’t worry about your mother & father. I certainly don’t want to cause any friction. It’s about you, not about your parents. The world is big enough for both your mum & dad… your heart is ample for both of us. You needn’t choose. It’s your right to be loved by both families. It’s who you are. It’s your identity, your destiny, your heart… no one else’s.

edafccfd-e086-40e1-86b6-2c800424ed9d.jpg

Sonia & Dad on Phu Quoc

Love, love, LOVE… XoXo… Dad.

 

 

G’day Phi,

 

Today’s a good day, even though I cried last night. I don’t usually cry. Today I had some good news that I hope to tell you about someday soon. To this point in my life, there has always been the absence of someone fundamental to my existence. You. I get by, in fact, I greatly enjoy my life. I laugh, I smile, I love. Cc is my world. But at the end of every day, you’re still missing. Sometimes it feels like I’m stripped of something essential. I feel sluggish, tired, pessimistic, drained. Something deep within me feels splintered & torn. Depending on the moment, I could be lost in a million different shades of emotion; few of them subtle.

IMG_1397.jpeg

Vietnamese coffee…

Sometimes it feels like a bog of thoughts, but not all of them drown me. I’m not a doleful, weary, or an unsmiling presence. In fact, I’m more of a glass half full than half empty type of person. I’m pretty good at pulling myself out of these bogs. Usually, it’s the thought of you that makes me smile once again. Nothing can take those memories from me.

IMG_1404.jpeg

Phi, we have to get to Vietnam together…

Often, I remember the squeaks and mutters you would make in the middle of the night. Perhaps, your nappy needed changing, perhaps you were hungry, perhaps you’d had a nightmare. Or, perhaps you were just wide awake and wanted your dad. I was glad to pick you up. I wonder how many times I scooped you up off your grey beanbag & in my arms carried you to bed; were you pretending to sleep? Sometimes I knew you were pretending because you smiled, your beautiful, precious, trusting smile. A smile I will never forget. I can see it now, this very moment.

 

All those years we lived together, just the two of us, you gave me a sense of purpose. Often you wanted a story, and I was glad for that, too. Tales of princesses, unicorns, horses, Australia, you & me (always a team) and Totoro. Then you started to grow up, right in front of my eyes. Your gentleness was apparent from a very early age. Your will to do good. Your inborn happiness, but also your bewilderment at people’s cruelty. More than once, I suffered as you suffered when your supposed friends treated you unfairly. A life experience we all must hurdle. In some ways, such hardships make us better people. They steel us for the real world.

 

For so long I have worried that my face was lost to you. I hope soon I will learn that you have not forgotten me.

 

Love Dad… XoXo…

 

 

Sunday, April 14th 2019

 

Hi Phi. By now the new school year in Japan must be underway. I guess you’re starting year 11 (high school second year). How’s all that academic stuff going? Do you have a favorite subject? A favorite teacher? An area of learning that you’re really passionate about? I wish I could be there, beside you, to listen, to support, to help you…

 

Sometimes being separated from you slams into me. These moments catch me off guard, and once or twice a year I cry like a child. I guess it’s something I have learned to wrestle with, because until Uncle Sean caught me crying on Christmas day several years ago, I manage to hole up alone. Just me and my tears with thoughts of you… wondering… hoping, this will all come to an end soon.

 

I hope these missives don’t read like chronicles of disappointment; like these paragraphs. Their purpose is anything but. It’s my therapy, and my way of sharing my daily life. There’s nothing profound about my words, no rich imagery intended, it’s just my way of sharing. All the little things we shared. All the moments I remember. It’s simple, everyday stuff that I want to share side-by-side with you… someday soon. It’s a narrative that will hopefully bring together the disjointed scraps that linger in your memory… the names, the people, the places, the laughs, the joys, the events, the memories… This is my pen… it’s no wand. But this word, this paragraph, this page, this post, and all the other posts are for one person only… you, Ophelia… my daughter.

IMG_6028.jpeg

Coffee in Hoi An

Late last month, on Friday, March 29th Uncle Hayd arrived. It was magic to see him. If anything, we’ve become closer over the years; especially since I lost you. He’s a good listener, great support, very encouraging. Everyday, together we rose before 6am, enjoyed a quick coffee and then we hit the trails in our jogging shoes. Every morning we exercised. I loved it. We both did. Sometimes we exercised for two+ hours then treated ourselves to a yummy breakfast at Coffee 101.

IMG_2333.jpeg

Run for life!

On Monday April 1st, Tim arrived. Remember ‘Funny Timmy’? He’s still a classic! Larger than life & soldiering on after his near miss with cancer then legionnaires disease. Brave man! The three high school mates reunited after all these years! Probably the last time the three of us travelled together was in our mid-twenties in London.

IMG_2318.jpeg

On the Tuesday, the three of us, Hayd, Tim & Dad flew to Dan Nang, Vietnam. Dad found amazingly cheap flights – 82USD return! At first, we took a taxi to Hoi An. Such a beautiful place. Historical & majestic; no wonder Hoi An is a World Heritage site. Hayd & Dad kept up their exercise regime – on the Wednesday morning at 6am (it was still dark), we ran to the beach & back. Then we did our push-ups & crunches by the beautiful pool. After a fantastic breakfast of fresh fruit, we wandered into town for our lattes.

IMG_2396.jpeg

“Funny Timmy” Remember this fella???

Wednesday, we moved to Tim’s fancy-smancy hotel in Da Nang, the Hilton. Again, every morning, Dad & Hayd ran to the beach for a body surf. Then we enjoyed a big breakfast buffet. Next, we wandered around. We returned to Honkers on Saturday, April 6th… Dad brought back with him some Da Nang belly… not much fun! Upon reflection, there was not much to do in Da Nang, but I’ll definitely go back to Hoi An. Wouldn’t it be grand to go together? You, me & Cc…

IMG_6005.jpeg

Push-ups by the pool in Hoi An…

Love Dad… XoXo…

 

 

May 3rd 2019.

 

How are you doing? You’ll be seventeen this year… I can hardly believe it. I’m not even sure what you look like anymore. I wonder how tall you are, if you can still speak English, if you’re happy at school, who your best friends are… So many questions left unanswered.

6e787ce0-4438-4fad-93ac-a782c84c2fd1.jpg

Six of my fourth graders shaved their heads with me this year!

Fortunately, Dad is in a good place. Life is good, except for the painful fact that I miss you.

IMG_2390.jpeg

Watching the footy in Dan Nang

This afternoon after school, Dad will run with the young bucks. We’ll run out to Ocean Park & then return. I’m filled with an immature sense of excitement, knowing I’m keen to best these guys who are 15 to 20 years younger than me. Competitive? Yes. Do you share the same passion to better yourself as a runner? Phi, I simply can’t wait to be running shoulder-to-shoulder with you… maybe this Christmas… XoXo… Maybe we can choose a new pair of running shoes for your 17 birthday, together…

 

Then after my run, I’ll write some math reports. Later I’ll meet Cc because we’ve been invited to dinner with our Chinese friends here in Repulse Bay.

IMG_2395.jpeg

Uncle Hayd is keen to see you, too!

I know as each day draws to a close, I am missing really important small moments in your life. I remember yesteryear and the moments we shared… like riding our bicycles together to school; walking you into school and helping you put your school bag on the hook; joining you as a guest reader on the Author’s Chair in the classroom; picking you up from camp; taking you to a dance session; dropping you off for a playdate; volunteering to be a parent chaperone on field trips and camp. I miss you…

 

So, what’s happened recently? Saturday April 13th Uncle Leo visited. We met at Fortress Hill Station. It was great to see him. He’s being stoic; I expected that of him. His wife, my aunt, Sue, died of breast cancer just over 12 months ago. Leo has taken up lawn bowls, so he took the opportunity to come to HK & play bowls up at the Cricket Club near Wong Ni Chung Gap. Dad & Cc shouted him breakfast at Brew Note, then we came back to our flat for a chat. Of course, we talked about you… and hoped that this would be the year…

IMG_6357.jpeg

Breakfast at the Hilton in Da Nang

On April 27th Tim returned to Honkers for a couple of nights. We had a couple of nice meals, one in particular at Wine Beast, where they paired the wine with each dish served.

 

And that’s about it…

 

Love Dad… XoXo…

 

Monday, May 13th 2019

 

It’s been seven years, eight months & two days…

IMG_2870.jpeg

XoXo…

 

 

2018 January – March

Wednesday, January 3rd 2018

Hey Phi,

Happy New Year!

Here’s a song for you…

And here it is in English:

M – PRINCESS PRINCESS

(Special translation for you, Ophelia)

I wish you were here.

I would be smiling beside you.

Many seasons have passed by.

My heart still stays in the memories.

 

You are no longer by my side.

I thought I might get used to it.

My tears say I will not.

If my wish cannot be realized,

I hope I could be brave enough

To close the door to my memories with you.

 

I still remember your words.

And the frame you were in.

 

Like stars returning to the forest,

Things are getting invisible.

Your subtle actions,

And myself with joy in the happy days.

 

I wish you were here.

I would be smiling beside you.

Many seasons have passed by.

My heart still stays in the memories

 

You came to my world in an autumn.

I am smiling in the old pictures.

How I could imagine our separation?

I stopped blinking to brand you on my mind.

I miss you.

 

If only I could hear your voice.

I open my address book and touch your name.

 

I had a dream.

I saw your back in a black blazer.

You were leaving with someone.

Like stars returning to the forest,

Things are getting invisible.

I remember your subtle actions.

I see only you in my heart, forever.

 

 

I just want you to know how proud I am of you. Even when you were a kid, living with me until the age of six, there was something very selfless, thoughtful, and generous about you. You were a Rockstar, Missy Higgins!

I also want you to know that sometimes you will think life is not fair. Perhaps it’s not, but it is what it is. Life is also what you make of it, mentally, physically & spiritually. Do yourself a favor and keep running, keep jumping, keep skipping… run for life. Surround yourself with a small group of honest & supportive friends. And, listen to yourself. Be gentle with yourself. Forgive yourself.

If you’re reading this now, and you’re angry, that’s okay. That’s understandable. By now, you’ve probably been told over & over what an inconsiderate father you have. After you’re done hating me, I will still be beside you, listening. Maybe there’s some truth in the stories. Maybe there’s not.

CIMG4402.jpg

Can you believe it, it’s Hong Kong. Me & my mate, Stan.

The six-year old I laughed alongside knew there was always two sides to every story. Promise me two things – one, you will reach out to your Australian cousins; they did nothing wrong, like you… and they MISS YOU, very, very much! Two, you will come back and read this again. Some of what you read will prickle your senses, spark fire, bring you to tears. Whatever your present emotions, I feel this will all make more sense to you when you’re older.

Sometimes as you read these letters, it will seem like you’re reading about someone else’s life. I know, at times, as I write, I feel like it’s not my life. I feel like I’m looking in from the outside. There are moments when I feel that this couldn’t have happened, not to me, at least. It all seems so twisted & wrong. But it did happen. It’s real. It’s your life, too. We can’t forget what happened. We can’t forget who we are. We’re family, and you my dear, did nothing wrong. I will always love you. I will always wait for you.

There will be days when you feel like everything sucks, and you don’t want to get out of bed. Sometimes, because you’re so special, there will be days when you feel like you don’t belong. But you do belong. You belong in your mother’s heart, and you belong in mine. You belong. You matter. You need to know that you’re not alone. There’s a whole world out there for Ophelia Hirakawa-Morice.

CIMG4510.jpg

Ready to rock the bald!

You’re not as different as you think you are. Sometimes your friends just won’t get it. They don’t understand what you’ve been through. They don’t see your true identity. You’re unique, one of a kind. You’re special in my heart & so many hearts. They will say some pretty insensitive things, and just as you did when you were younger, you will be stoic and pretend it doesn’t matter. But it does matter. You matter. You are loved. Loved unconditionally. It’s okay to have a Japanese mother & an Australian father. We both love you. Your mother just needs to let go. She won’t lose you. You’re not going anywhere. You needn’t flee her love.

I don’t know how happy you are. I don’t know if you wrestle with your identity. I don’t know if you’re happy or depressed, brilliant academically or experiencing learning difficulties; anxious or super casual & easygoing, I don’t know, but I wish I could be there for you. I do know that being without your Australian cousins doesn’t help you come to terms with who you are. Your vibrant Nandee & your ever supportive Pa can definitely help. I want to help, too.

I loved being your Dad. It was the best thing in the world. Joyous, satisfying, wondrous. I miss feeling like that. I miss being your Dad.

Someday, when you find the courage to find us, you’re going to learn to be happy with who you are. You may need to be in another place to be happy, and that’s okay. Dad has found peace beside Cc and living away from the capsule of Nippon and the tentacles of Australia.

In another time, in another place, you’re going to meet the right people. I want to be one of those people you can turn to. I want to listen. Hang in there, Phi. Things tend to get a little darker before they get brighter, but they will get brighter. You will find peace… XoXo…

Hopefully, this year, things will get a bit brighter for both of us.

So, Phi, 2018. World Cup again this year, Australia versus Japan! I wonder if you’ll have a soft spot for Australia, or is your flag all blue & white… Another year rolls by…

CIMG4516.jpg

This morning, I left Australia, the other half of your heritage. Dad said goodbye to Pa at the airport & departed Melbourne at 11am. By 5pm I had arrived in Hong Kong.

Yesterday (Tuesday), Nandee & Pa took me out to the Warburton Trail; Uncle Rich & your cousin, Chris, came along, too. We put the bicycles on the bike racks of the car and rode 28km, Nandee too! At about the halfway point we sat down at a local café for a pie & coffee. Phi, you would have loved the trail, the wind in your hair, the horses, cows, sheep, the smell of eucalyptus, and kookaburras laughing away. The great outdoors. It’s in your blood… family… XoXo…

That same evening, Uncle Rich’s family, your cousins Allie & Chris, and your Aunt Rachel came up to #39 for the last supper, a pizza dinner.

On Monday, Dad had a swim at Uncle Rich’s with your cousins. Would have been grand splashing about with you, Allie, Chris, Luca & Billie. Pa made a lasagna, and we all settled down for a family meal… we all missed you.

Sunday, December 31st Dad drove to into Camberwell; that’s where Rich & Rach live. Then we all jumped in the station wagon, and Uncle Rich drove us to the beach of Balnarring. Your cousins, Dad & Uncle Rich played cricket on the beach. After about an hour, Tim arrived. We headed into the township where we feasted on fish & chips for lunch. Later, we went to see Marc & Cint (Tim’s brother). Tim dropped me off at Camberwell, and then Dad drove to Uncle Sean’s. We played Frisbee with your cousins, Billie & Luca.

At 10pm, we watched the fireworks together. There were loads of families about, and of course I couldn’t help but think of you. I wondered what you were doing, what you were thinking, what you were hoping for in 2018. I hope you’re surrounded by generous friends. Friends you can trust, friends who really listen to what’s in your heart.

I said my goodbyes to your cousins, then drove to Ralph’s for a quiet chat.

Happy New Year, Ophelia… Dad – XoXo…

*Be the hero of your own learning story…

Monday, January 8th 2018

Hey Bella,

This morning Dad went back to the classroom. It was great to see the kids again, and we welcomed two new boys from the US into our class.

Last Thursday, January 4th Dad ran/walked with C & Toro. It was good to get the heart racing after the long flight the day before. Dad started again on his 100 Club of push-ups, crunches & chin-ups. Gotta be happy with that! That same evening Dad made a lasagna dinner for three, but you never showed up… Remember, there is always a place for you at our table… XoXo… Always.

On the Friday, we took a long, long walk/run with Toro. Managed my 100 Club of push-ups, crunches & chin-ups on consecutive days – finally! When we returned home, there was no water, so, no shower. Instead, Dad went down to the basement area with a bar of soap and threw buckets of water over himself… Crazy Dad! Later that same day we went to Mega Box in search of some HNY running gear.

How’s your running going, Zola? I bet you’ve never heard of Zola Budd. She was a South African runner famous for running barefoot, even in major championships… just like you, streaking along the beach bare feet kicking up sand.

Run for life… Dad… XoXo…

Sunday, January 21st 2018

Ophelia,

Tomorrow it’s your Nandee’s b’day – Happy B’day! Like a grand wine, she just keeps getting better! I think she turned 74. Younger in body, mind & soul than this time last year, too! Credit to her perseverance, fight & resilience for overcoming that horrid evil that wreaked her body.

Nandee has conquered her health mishaps in style. It was such a pleasure & a privilege to ride part of the Warburton Trail with her on my second last day in Oz – 28km she rode! She’s a ripper, your Nandee. Still inspiring, still asking about you, still nurturing her Ophelia roses in her garden, still believing in you, still awaiting you.

Pretty impressive, hey!? Three generations together… your cousin, Chris, your Dad & uncle, and your Aussie grandparents. Just a shame, our Ophelia, Nandee’s first born grandchild wasn’t there.

Unfortunately, I twisted my lower back this morning. Dame ne! Embarrassingly, I was  just moving our small dining table. Bit of a shock to the system, mentally & physically, to be laid up again and moving around like a 90 year old. I will seek an acupuncturist this afternoon, perhaps a massage, too, even if I do hate massages. Tomorrow I have to coach X-Country, which is going to prove challenging. Never say never! Positive mindset!

Yesterday we walked with Toro, then later in the day I met Cc at the gallery she sometimes manages. We put up a new security camera, enjoyed a beer and watched the punters pass by in a cool part of Mid-Levels, Hong Kong. Friday night, just the two of us opened a gorgeous bottle of 2006 French wine we had received on our wedding day all those years ago. Cc made some garlic toast and we tucked into some Aussie cheese Dad had brought back from Oz.

Last Wednesday, we took the athletics team to a nearby stadium, near Chai Wan. Dad was the starter – loads of fun. This coming Wednesday I’ll take my Under 12 & Under 14 squads to a mini X-Country meet in Stanley Ho, near HK university.

Last weekend, Cc returned from Nippon on the Sunday. Dad cleaned the flat Saturday, took Toro for a good long run up along Cecil’s Ride beyond the Chinese International School. It was quite cold during Cc’s absence, with temperatures dropping as low as 7 degrees Celsius. Freezing for Hong Kong as nearly all buildings lack any form of heating.

Fancy a holiday in Hong Kong? What about an education?

Love Dad… XoXo…

Monday, February 12th 2018

You won’t believe it, there’s a very nasty bug smashing Hong Kong. The education department has closed all kindergartens and primary schools due to the influenza epidemic. Teachers, however, still need to report for duty.

Today, was a good day at the chalk-face, with no meetings, so Dad got loads & loads of work done. I prepared for a math presentation to faculty, created two super cool anchor charts for literacy, and put together my own examples for a NF Expert Topic to share with the kids.

Yesterday I had a run with Toro & Cc. I wish I could say that I’ve got Cc up & jogging, but no, she’s not interested in pounding the trails alongside Dad. “Just happy walking.”

We explored a few potential viewing spots from which to watch the Chinese NY fireworks. When we used to live in Causeway Bay, we had front row seats of the fireworks over Victoria Harbour, but now, despite living on the 21st floor, we don’t have a view of the water. Around midday, we went shopping into the North Point market. Seemed busier than usual with all the locals out shopping too. NP is relatively free of foreigners, so you could assume it’s cheaper that other parts of Honky Town. That’s partly true, but not always – often the supermarket is the same price, and sometimes cheaper. We bought some super foods, blueberries & passion fruit, almonds & walnuts – always a good mix to throw on my muesli.

Saturday I sought a second opinion for my upper respiratory infection. Seems the pollution that abounds in HK has a lot to do with my wheezing and asthma. So, what to do, stop exercising outdoors? Hardly! Also, Saturday night we had scallops in butter, white wine and garlic! Oishii! Do you still enjoy seafood?

Are you still running? I hope so. Friday was the X-Country championship in the New Territories. I LOVE COACHING TRACK & X-COUNTRY! The race was over 4.2km. My U12 & U14 girls came in 3rd overall, but my boys didn’t place. We had some misfortune, with Captain Jack being hit by flu, and Ronan, my equal best U12 boy also suffering from the flu. Next year! It was my first year back coaching at HKIS. For a big school, we don’t go very deep, but after six months at the helm, I feel we can build something pretty special in 12 months’ time.

What are you reading? I’ve got some cracker recommendations for you. I’ve just finished reading the Wild Robot by Peter Brown – 4.5 stars. Then in a strange uncanny twist of events, I read El Deafo – 4.5 stars, a true story by (graphic novel) by Cece Bell. The very next night, I picked up a ripper, Origami Yoda – 5 stars, by Tom Angleberger. While reading the credits in the back of Origami Yoda, I realized Tom Angleberger is married to Cece Bell! Stranger than fiction, I know!

Friday is date night for Cc & Dad, so Friday, February 2nd we went out for French. I had the wagyu steak & Cc had the duck. Exquisite! Gotta love Friday nights!

Alright possum, time to hit the hay… Oyasumi nasai!

Love always, Dad… XoXo…

Monday, February 19th 2018.

Hey Runner,

I hope you’re finding the dedication to train at least three times per week, but more than that, I sincerely hope you pursue the commitment to run for life. Whatever you choose, firstly, you have to enjoy it. That doesn’t mean you love it; it’s complex, like a good relationship. Sure, there will be days when it feels like a hard slog, it’s freezing, and there’s nothing enjoyable about wet socks. Or the humidity zaps you, and the minor injury niggles eat away at your enthusiasm. There are plenty of excuses, if you go looking for them. But the struggles are part of the journey, and it’s the hardships that make it all worth it.

This morning, Dad did his old-man interval training alongside Cc & Toro. Well, more or less. I ran up the hills, up the steps, anywhere I could get my heart rate up & jumping out of my rib cage. I paused to allow Cc to catch up, and catch my breath, then I did my push-ups, crunches & chin-ups. Feels great!

Now, what am I doing, I hear you ask? Well, besides writing to you, my Ophelia, I am just enjoying a slow morning knowing my morning exercise did me the world of good, mentally & physically. I’m also sipping my second coffee, listening to 774 Melbourne on ABC radio, reading my newspaper of choice, and as thoughts fly around between my ears, jotting snippets of my life to you.

Last Friday, February 16th, the first day of the Chinese New Year Holiday, Dad went out to the airport to pick up our guests. On the way to the airport I started reading a recommendation from several of my fifth grade students, The Doll People by Ann. M. Martin & Laura Godwin (3.5 stars, BTW). Jan & Beth had flown in from Chennai, India. We first met them in Cairo, then two years ago, Cc and Dad visited them in Chennai for a Christmas to remember. It’s been a cold winter, well, for Hong Kong standards, made more difficult because our hot water system has been temperamental, and we have no heating. So, it’s beanie weather inside the apartment, too. But Friday, it seemed winter was over as the temperature suddenly rose to 26 degrees Celsius. Where did that come from?!

Because Jan & Beth arrived Friday, “date night” became Thursday last week. To cap off a lovely evening, Dad did a math presentation with HS & MS teachers during the day. For dinner, we treated ourselves and went to a nearby French bistro. Dad had the chicken and French toast, while Cc had the steak & the chef’s dessert.

Wednesday, Valentine’s evening, we packed our hiking pack with wine, prosciutto, cheese, some of Dad’s handmade humus, a baguette, and we hiked up to a place called Red Incense Burner Summit to watch the sunset. It was spectacular. Oh, Phi, your Dad is a lucky, LUCKY, lucky man. There was only one other chap up there; poor fella, just him & his fancy SLR camera.

So, back to our guests from India. Toro & Cc were ecstatic to be reunited with Beth & Jan. Cc had prepared some sandwiches for lunch, so after eating Aussie style – help yourself, we took a wander in & around Northpoint. After our walk, we all took a nana-nap, then we took the bus into Central Mid-Levels. We wandered the streets, admiring the street art and the festive atmosphere, before arriving at a Japanese bar for happy hour. Two of us ordered Sapporo beer, two of us ordered sake, and along with edamame and some scrumptious herbful fries, we had a lovely hour watching the people pass by. That evening Cc prepared an epic sukiyaki with pork, beef & loads of veges.

Saturday morning we all jumped into a taxi, Toro too, and headed to Central pier to catch the 10.20am ferry to Lamma Island. We hiked from one end of the island to the other, grabbed a quick lunch, then headed back for a nap. Late afternoon, we took Jan & Beth up to Red Incense Burner Summit to watch the sunset. Then for dinner, we took our wonderful guests to Little Chili for some scrumdilumptious spicy Chinese.

Dad is still reading kids’ books – love them! Been reading Bunnicula (3.5 stars) – a rabbit tale of mystery by Deborah & James Howe. Now reading The Goat (3 stars) by Annie Fleming.

Tomorrow, we’re going to go hiking with our Canadian mates, Stan & Shawn, we’re planning to hike the 13km stage 02 of the MacLehose Trail over in Sai Kung. Weather looks perfect, 23 degrees though 20% chance of rain. Fancy a Chinese New Year hike with Dad??

Alright, Phi, that’s about all your old man can remember. Till next time! Stay tuned… LOVE Dad… XoX0…

Thursday, February 22nd 2018

Morning Phi, how’s trix?

It’s 9.15am in Honkers and Dad is sitting in the waiting room of a medical centre about to have a full medical. Apart from a little heaviness in my chest, I don’t feel 50. Hope I don’t look fifty, either! Having said that, this cold has a bit of history to it, it just keeps dragging on – at least a month. So, probably after I left it too long, I visited the doc. He told me it was an upper respiratory infection. No big deal, but three weeks later, the same dry cough & weird feeling in the chest hadn’t dissipated. So, with a bit of urging from Cc, I sought a second opinion. The second doctor told me the respiratory infection was likely due to the pollution. Bummer! Anyway, today, I guess we’ll find out more as there will be a chest x-ray, blood tests, etc.

I’ve also got some news that impacts you. We’ve reached out to the Yokohama Family Court again. Apparently, courtesy of Japan signing onto The Hague Convention on Children’s Rights, Japan has grudgingly made some changes. Your mother has “officially” been contacted and evidently encouraged to resume visitation. As there are no consequences for not adhering to the court’s ruling on visitation, we don’t hold much hope.

Fingers crossed, Bella… Love Dad… XoXo…

Sunday, March 4th 2018

Hi Phi, this morning we hiked up beyond Braemar Hill, again. I say again, because nine times out of ten, we hike in the area. Though we often follow Cecil’s Ride (a flatter trail), we also hang lefts & rights, up & down stairs, and sometimes we just follow animal tracks. This morning we found a cool boar trail to follow. After a few scratches to the limbs and more than a few cobwebs brushed from our faces, we emptied out onto some spectacular views. We edged around some pretty expansive rocks that we had spied from below. Beautiful! Of course on our way to the trails, Dad did his usual old-man interval training, tossing in 60 push-ups, 30 chin-ups & 60 crunches with his hill running.

BTW, our wonderful C called the Yokohama Family Court on Monday, February 26th 2018. Here’s hoping… Dad… XoXo…

Tuesday, March 6th 2018

Phi,

Today, I wrote to your mother:

Not my best effort, I know. I wish you mother could see that family is one of nature’s masterpieces.

We’ve got to believe we can do this; we’ve got to be more than half way there!

Love Dad… XoXo…

Sunday, March 11th 2018

Hey Phi-Fai-Fo-Fum,

How is your weekend progressing? What do you typically do with your days off school? Is Saturday morning devoted to club activities or a long sleep-in? Are Saturday evenings spent with your Japanese family or friends? Do you sometimes still head up to Nagano for horse riding? Any passion projects? Painting, sculpturing, pottery, poetry, green projects?

This afternoon I ran to Park View to pick up Toro. The Cairo-Cross had spent the weekend as a therapy dog in Stanley. Toro is a great buddy to Stan’s daughter, Hayden. The lucky pooch even gets to sleep on Hayden’s bed!

Yesterday morning Toro & I ran to Tai Tam, then jumped into a taxi to Stanley. In Stanley, I met Stan (no pun intended) & Toro spent the night with Stan’s family. Then I raced back to North Point because Dad had his Fantasy draft from 3pm. Always great fun, Skyping Sean, Allen & Ash, and chatting with Rich, Evan, Jamie & Sandy.

Friday night was date night, so Cc & Dad went to a Korean restaurant.

Oh, and during the week, I called the Yokohama Family Court. Unfortunately, not much to tell. Just leaves me feeling numb & terrible. The only thing I learned is that it appears your mother has changed addresses. Just as well we send all your gifts to your Japanese grandparents. Do you receive our gifts?

So, as a natural pick-me-up, I ran Friday afternoon, then again Thursday with my school mates MaryAnn, Alex & Stan. On top of that, Wednesday, Dad ran home from Tai Tam.

Tuesday, my kids hosted Restaurants R Us. It’s an awesome financing a business simulation that Dad has used since his Cairo days. It’s pretty complex, so I’ll tell you about it when I have my laptop between us.

Monday, we had a field trip to a Hindu Temple as part of our unit on World Religions. We’ve already visited a mosque and a synagogue. Now that X-Country and Track & Field have finished their seasons, I have re-started my Faculty Fitness; unfortunately, there were just 6 people sweating alongside your Dad.

Love & licks,

Dad… XoXo…

Thursday, March 21st 2018

Hey Phi,

It’s early evening here at the Tai Tam campus. Tonight is Saint Baldrick’s, a community fund raising project where participants shave their heads in solidarity with children with cancer. My class alone has raised an incredible 10,000USD! At this point in time, Dad is sporting a rather embarrassing afro; pretty simple really – just don’t add any hair jell.

Alright, time for a haircut… love Dad… XoXo…

March 20th 2018

Another letter to the Family Court of Japan:

I have waited for Ms. Ishijima to contact me for many years now, hoping she would respect the court’s decision. Because I received no news, I continued to visit Ophelia’s school when they had open school days. In 2015, I was not allowed to enter the school as Ms. Ishijima asked the school authorities and the police to prevent access.

 

My family in Australia often talks about our beautiful memories with Ophelia. Sadly, some members of my family have already passed away. Ophelia’s Australian cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents and friends have not seen her since we visited Australia together in 2008. My family have told me repeatedly to never give up on Ophelia. Therefore, I have decided to ask for your support.

 

I contacted Ms. Ishijima at her email address: XXX

Basically, I politely reminded her that I can be reached at the same e-mail address, which has been used since well before our separation. However, my e-mail sent in March, 2018 was again ignored.

 

Over the years of court & mediation, I have understood that Ms. Ishijima has no intention of respecting any court agreement:

  1. She has ignored the agreement on co-parenting guidelines for our daughter.
  2. She has ignored the decision made by Yokohama Family Court in 2009 regarding the changes in custody and visitation.
  3. She has ignored the Tokyo High Court decision in 2013.

 

I have been patient with the court’s decisions. I have even given Ms. Ishijima time and space to come to terms with the two courts’ decisions. Even before Ms. Ishijima appealed to the High Court for the 2nd time in 2012, she had for years been ignoring the courts’ decisions, and had stopped sharing any information regarding our daughter. As such, I believe I have a right to know at the very least, basic information on my daughter’s status as outlined below.

 

  1. Address: where and with whom she lives
  2. Telephone number
  3. E-mail address
  4. School name: my daughter will become a high school student in April 2018.
  5. School results
  6. School schedule

 

I hope the importance of co-parenting will be truly understood by Japanese people in the near future. It is extremely important for the social & emotional wellbeing of multicultural children like my daughter.

 

Please contact me on XXX or at XXX I often cannot reply to phone calls while I am teaching, but if you leave a message, I will call you back as soon as possible.

 

Gerard Morice.

Sunday, March 25th 2018

G’day Phi,

Sitting down watching West Coast Eagles versus Sydney Swans. It’s round one, 2018, Footy is back! There’s plenty of niggle at the opening bounce as Nic Nat (Natenui) is back after over a year out with an ACL knee injury. He’s quite the legend, a once in a generation player. Someday, I’ll tell you all about him. Natenui is up against Lance “Buddy” Franklin, another incredible athlete for a man of his size. He’s already kicked three goals and the first quarter isn’t even over.

Yesterday was the AFLW grand final between the Western Bulldogs & Brisbane Lions. Aunt Lauren & Tish were there supporting the Doggies, and on a wet and windy Saturday, the Doggies got up. Tish will likely play footy. She’s fast, tough & determined. You?

Your book voucher cards are sitting here in front of me. There’s 10,000 yen for you to spend on a few books of your choice. On the front of each card is the photo of you and your cousin, Luca. It’s a classic cousin photo.

This morning Dad & Cc again headed up beyond Braemar Hill with the pooch, Toro. On our way back we grabbed a coffee at 7/11. Dad did his regular jiichan interval training, running the hills & stairs, 60 push-ups, 20 chin-ups, 60 crunches, 40 dips & plenty of lunges.

Last night we enjoyed Indian in a nearby Indian restaurant. We had samosa, cheese nan, chicken butter curry & the saag paneer.

Friday night, Dad joined his G4 colleagues on a night hike over the Dragon’s Back. It was Stan’s birthday, so we took a few nibbles with us. We saw fire flies, several frogs, and some beautiful sea hawks soaring as the sun set.

Thursday night, Dad joined five of his students in braving the shave for Saint Baldrick’s – supporting children with cancer. Niamh, one of my girls with long hair & four of my lads rocked the bald, raising over 10,000USD!!!

Also Thursday night, Carlton & Richmond kicked off the 2018 AFL season at the Mecca of football, the MCG in front of over 90,000 fans. The Baby Blues were brave and played a much more attacking style of footy (compared to the past two seasons), and with only 13 minutes remaining were only a point or two behind. In the end, we lost by around four goals. Dad’s new favorite player, Charlie Curnow starred with five goals, and my other favorite, 23 year old Patrick Cripps had 35 possessions, 25 contested!

This coming Tuesday, we’ll take the kids to a local synagogue as part of our unit on learning about World Religions. Earlier this month we visited a Hindu Temple in Happy Valley.

Next weekend, it’s Easter, so Cc will also have Good Friday & Easter Monday off week. We’ll take the turbo ferry to Macau and spend a night at the Sheraton.

I love you & miss you more & more everyday… Dad… XoXo… Never stop learning because life never stops teaching…

 

2018 April – June

Wednesday, April 4th 2018

 

Ophelia Hirakawa-Morice (AKA Ophelia Ishijima),

 

I hope you forgive me for letting you go. I had to let you go & give up the fight for co-parenting. I didn’t want to give in, but I was afraid through no fault of your own that it would tear you apart. I had to give your mother space and time to reflect. We both love you. There’s no shame in that.

CIMG4554.jpg

We miss you Phi…

Know that I have always loved you, more and more every day. More and more with each passing year. As you get older, I wonder how much you remember of our time together? How much of you clings to what we once shared? Even now, from afar, I feel that with your mother’s weighty expectations on your shoulders, there has always be an excuse to not contact me. Always. I understand that. I can wait. I also feel and guess hope, that you’re edging closer to reaching out to your cousins, your aunts, your uncles, your Nandee & Pa. This very moment, they’re all waiting with open arms for you… Me too. I miss you Phi.

 

I rest easy knowing that the last time we met, the last time we walked side by side, it was you who took my hand within seconds of leaving your mother. It was you who looked up at me and smiled. It was you who made everything perfect. It was you who continued to make us both feel like everything was the way it had always been.

CIMG4555.jpeg

Happy reading, Phi…

When you were young, you craved affection. I loved that. You liked to be held, you liked a cuddle, and you loved story time. You were in charge, often choosing my knee, never pushing me away, and if you did, it was with a smile. In the Big Orange Car, we listened to Missy Higgins, KC Chambers & the Waifs, all girl bands. Girls rock! You rocked! You danced and sang, and made me dance too. I loved it. One day, you decided you wanted to be a real dancer, so I took you to a dance class the following weekend. All the other parents left after dropping off their kids, or some of the mothers sat down and looked into their phones. I was the only dad. You were close to the youngest & you wanted me to stay, so I stayed to watch. It felt great to be wanted by you. I think some of the other mothers were curious, even jealous of what we shared. I didn’t really understand dance (still don’t – I’m a terrible dancer, ask Cc!), and I think you were surprised that the teacher wanted to instruct you on step after step. You just wanted to be free with the music. You didn’t like the rigors and routines of the dance class much, so when the class finally finished, I scooped you into my arms and we giggled on the way home. You were in the back seat on the bicycle, your arms flailing around like an albatross about to take off. You weren’t going back, you were just happy to dance with your Dad. Life was good.

 

Looking back, I hope that you felt special and important to me. You really were my everything. The simple things we did together were the best. Hot chocolate while writing Christmas cards. A picnic with Riku in the park and a throw of the Frisbee. Camping by a mountain stream, you perched on my knee, our bellies full and our necks craned upward, star gazing. You were always fascinated with nature, never afraid. I would watch you absorbed in the act of picking a flower, or a weed. You were my daughter, but you were also my companion, someone I could joke and play with. You were the best.

 

So, what now? Where to next? Have you given any thought to what you might like to do with your life post high school? University, travel, Australia, Tokyo Olympics, running, teaching, visiting your Dad???

 

For me, the joy and wonderment of teaching still blooms strong. Where to next, I hear you ask. Well, we’ve talked about Eastern Europe. There are good schools in Bucharest – Romania, Budapest – Hungry & Warsaw – Poland. Cc is keen on Singapore, and of course, if we re-connect with you, then Nippon would be grand, too. Taipei is an option, and maybe even India. What do you think? Fancy a holiday with Dad & Cc in one of those locations?

 

I have a wonderous job – teaching. I really love it. Every day is different, everything new & fresh. The school I’m at in Hong Kong spoils us when it comes to professional development (PD). Already they’ve sent me to San Francisco, Cambodia & Thailand, not to mention excellent in-house PD with some of the best educators in the world. After ‘good’ professional development (PD) I still can’t wait to get back in the classroom. Though the educational climate in 2019 – one of rigidity, pressure and expectation, keeps pushing and pushing, it’s still the best job.

GedPyramidJumpShot.jpg

Some days I even hear wisdom in my own voice, especially when I talk to younger teachers. The start of any new school year awaits like a tightly wrapped Christmas gift – full of potential, full of surprises! It’s wonderful. The promise of a year of new learning, new professional growth (PD) and new opportunities. The best thing about being a teacher, is that it matters. Just like being a dad, don’t you think? The hardest thing about being a teacher is that it matters every day.

 

So, who am I? Well, in terms of health, compared to the same generation, I’m in pretty good shape. I have a few creaking joints, a bit of hearing loss, two years back I purchased my first pair of reading glasses, and the discovery that whole sections of my memory have collapsed (except for those memories that cradle you), but otherwise I’m feeling great.

 

As you know, I exercise often. Sometimes I push it too hard & my heartbeat hovers in the red zone a little long. Perhaps someday the excess exercise will kill me, but I need you to know that if I have a heart attack when I’m exercising, I die a happy man. Sometimes I feel I should tell Cc about my heart rate going ballistic, but somehow it seems arrogant & boastful to talk like that. If it happens, tell Cc how much I loved her. She’s so good for me… XoXo…

CIMG2547.jpg

Been practicing your hands-only planks???

How’s your mother doing? I hope she’s mellowed & more relaxed as she grows older. I hope she’s happier, stronger, more comfortable in her life, too. I think your mother might have once upon a time taken kindness & forgiveness as a form of weakness. But now, well, as she approaches 50, I hope that she thinks there are shades of nobility about kindness. She has goodness within, and you’re the best person to bring that out. I hope too that I’m not the dripping tap of regret in the back of your mother’s mind. We’ve all made mistakes, it’s time to forgive and move forward.

 

I love you Phi… see you soon, I hope.

 

Dad.

 

 

 

Morning Bella,

 

I still wonder how your faint memories of me are standing up. I wonder if your fading recollections of me still feel a part of your heart. Have the voices of your Australian linage softened? Is their scent disappearing? Do you still dream of us? We remember you everyday. Can you still remember running along the foreshore at the beach with your cousin, Allie? Can you remember visiting Melbourne zoo with all of your cousins?

 

It’s Easter Break here, so I have this glorious week off. This morning I woke with Cc at 6am and went off & did my muscular endurance training: 100 push-ups, 100 crunches, 48 lunges, 30 dips, 30 chin-ups, 3 x 100 second planks, and 3 x 45 second static squats, and a bit more work on the core. Love it! Gonna die fit & healthy!

 

Cc is working, so tonight I’ll do Mexican tortillas. Last night I did salmon & vegetables. Fancy some Mexican together?

 

Yesterday, I woke with Cc at 6am too, and ran out to Tai Tam reservoir with Toro. We met Shawn, because Toro was heading out to work as a ‘therapy dog’ for a few more days. Phi, you would love our Toro. He’s so gentle with people, other dogs, and he even likes cats! He’ll stay with Stan & Shawn’s family, spending time with their daughter Hayden, who needs a little tender loving care at the moment.

CIMG0163.jpg

Fancy some gardening beside dad???

Easter Friday, we both had off, so we headed for a 2 hour 45 minute hike. Found some new trails, which opened up even more views. Then Saturday, we hiked for 3 hours, and spoiled ourselves with a big breakfast at cool café up at Braemar Hill, Coffee 101. Oh Phi, you’d love it here! When are you joining us? Always room for three…

 

Sunday morning we jumped on the turbo ferry to Macau. First up was a short hike up Guia Hill, where an old Portuguese fortress was built in 1622. Then we walked to Saint Anthony’s Church, first built by bamboo by the Jesuits in 1560! After which we had an amazing Chinese lunch – fried dumplings, squid with noodles, dumpling soup, and an icy beer.

 

After our deliciumptious lunch, we headed to the iconic Saint Paul’s, of which only the ruins of the façade remain. In the ‘old area’ we visited several places of historic interest, then walked south to Barra Hill and the A-Ma Temple.

 

Finally, we took a bus to the southern Ilhas Island (Taipa, Cotai & Coloane). We checked in with a bazillion other tourists at the Sheraton Grand Macau. That evening we greatly enjoyed an amazing Portuguese meal at Restaurante Espaco Lisboa. We started with cod koroke and an octopus salad. Magnific! After our aperitif of a beer for Dad and a port for Cc (what would you have had? A shandy?), we ordered the unique duck rice and an espaco lisboa steak. Fantabulous! Needless to say, we couldn’t fit in dessert.

 

Monday morning on Macau, we waltzed around the old town of Taipa, before heading back to Honky Town.

 

Love you Phi… XoXo… No act of kindness no matter how small is ever wasted.

 

IMG_0646.jpeg

Fancy a night hike with Dad???

 

Friday, April 6th 2018

 

Hey Buddy,

 

Had a run this morning up to the Morning Walkers’ Garden. The garden has a chin-up bar, so Dad can do his muscular training, too. 3 x 12 sets of chin-ups, 100 crunches & three 90 second planks.

 

It’s 4:38PM and Dad has another hour to wait until Carlton take on Collingwood in the Friday night blockbuster. Can’t wait! Both teams aren’t travelling well with nil – two starts to the season. Let’s hope young Charlie Curnow kicks a bag!

 

Midday today, I took the MTR to Kowloon Bay to meet Cc for lunch. Every Friday, Cc gets a long 90 minute lunch, so we went to a nearby restaurant. Dad had a steak with vegies, and Cc had assorted appetizers. I also sent a letter to Kyoko San, my first lawyer, hoping we can meet each other this summer… Maybe, she can put us on the path to getting back together… maybe… XoXo…

 

Yesterday, was a public holiday, but poor Cc had loads of work to do, so ended up spending much of the day working from home. Dad had a run in the afternoon, and banged out the 100 Club of crunches & push-ups, and threw in 30 chin-ups & three 100 second planks.

 

Last night I cooked ribs with grilled red & yellow capsicums, mushrooms, and baked potatoes with sour cream.

 

Let us know when you want to visit… dinner will be ready… XoXo…

 

Dad.

 

 

Saturday, April 21st 2018

 

G’day Phi,

 

This morning Dad was up at 6.30am. I went for a run, did 100 push-ups, 200 crunches! 30 chin-ups, 3 x 16 lunges, 3 x 45 second squats, 3 x 60 second planks, 2 x one minute reverse bird-dogs, two x 15 kick-ups.

 

This afternoon, I started my 22 homeroom comments for my students, then watched Carlton versus West Coast at the MCG. The Baby Blues did okay. Another honorable, gallant loss. This time by 10 points.

 

Friday night I had Stan & Jason come over for some fried chicken, sushi & a game of footy. The Crows played the Swans in Sydney, and despite all their injury concerns, the Crows got up.

 

Wednesday Cc went to Nippon on business. Dad & Stan ran from Tai Tam to North Point. Stan took Toro back to Stanley so he could spend some time with Hayden. Dad ran home Thursday, too, a lazy 11.4km.

 

Last Saturday night we hosted Sarah & Trey for dinner. Dad prepared his risotto, salmon, haloumi wrapped in bacon, all served beside roasted red capsicum. Cc created homemade salted caramel vanilla ice cream. The Friday before, we met in Tai Koo, did some shopping at Aeon, then enjoyed some sushi. Dad had uni & salmon. Yum!

 

Love you kid! Dad… XoXo

CIMG4523.jpg

Love my job!

Be yourself. Everybody else is taken.

 

 

Saturday, May 12th 2018

 

Morning Phi,

 

I’m sitting in Pacific Coffee, North Point. It’s a chain of coffee stores here in Hong Kong, fortunately better than Starbucks. Not my first choice of coffee, but as my students sometimes give me gift vouchers, it’s a pretty happy medium. When you visit us in Hong Kong, there’s a great café, Brew Note, just around the corner. Do you like coffee? You used to love your baby-chinos!

 

Last night we had Japanese in NP. It’s not too bad, but lacks the variety & freshness of Nippon. It’s also crazy expensive. Also yesterday (Friday) was the G4 Maker Showcase. It’s a science unit where the students research different circuits and create wonderous showpieces using Makey Makey & Hummingbird kits.

 

Dad ran home Wednesday night and Cc returned from Singapore Thursday (business).

 

Dad went to Bangkok Wednesday, May 2nd to Saturday May 5th on some pretty amazing PD. I went to a conference about Word Inquiry hosted by Pete Bowers. It was fantastic! Can’t wait to try it out in the classroom.

 

While in Thailand, I caught up with Colleen & Bruce on Thursday night. Do you remember Colleen & Bruce from Numazu? Dad taught with Colleen.

 

Friday night with my colleagues, Alex & Eric, Dad had a view drinks from a VW van on the streets of Bangkok. It was epic, just sitting on three stools in from of this tiny bar/van. Later we ventured to the Arabic quarter for some excellent Lebanese cuisine.

 

Tuesday, May 1st was Labour Day here. I didn’t do much, other than write reports.

 

Well, Bella, Dad has more reports to write. See you soon… Dad… XoXo…

 

Falling down is part of life. Getting back up is living.

 

 

 

Saturday, May 19th 2018

 

This morning was Cc’s last day at the language school. Dad cooked a seafood bonanza with garlic chili prawns, scallops in butter with fresh parsley, all washed down with some Australian sparkling wine, an assortment of cheeses, and a French baguette. There was too much for two… fancy joining us?

 

Good night Ophelia… sweet dreams… XoXo… Dad.

 

 

Saturday, May 26th 2018

 

Hey Bella,

 

What’s happening in Totoro’s hometown? Remember when we used to scramble through bushes in search of a glimpse of the elusive Totoro? Sometimes we thought we did see him… perhaps we did. How magic was that?

 

This morning we hiked again seeking out Totoro’s Hong Kong headquarters. Didn’t see him, but his friends were plentiful. Butterflies, bees, frogs, flowers, seedlings sprouting! Spring! New life! Hope!

 

Fortunately, Cc doesn’t have to work at the dobutsuen this afternoon. She calls it the dobutsuen, but really it’s just an English language school where she teaches kids English. I think the kidlets are a bit feral.

 

This afternoon, I wrote my science & social studies reports. It took nearly four hours, but felt, oh, so good banging out my first draft! As a reward, I watched the Baby Blues bravely take on Geelong down at Geelong. Carlton were pretty stoic, but skill errors & lack of composure let them down again.

 

We used to pass through Geelong on our way to Nandee & Pa’s beach house. Do you remember the beach house at Barwon Heads? I can still see you in the garden, flitting here and there between the lavender like a fairy.

 

So, that was the day… still hot & sticky here, 30.3 degrees Celsius at 9.03pm. It’s time to get my things ready for Monday in the classroom. I’ll be up at 5.15am… LOVE my job!

 

Friday night we met Taka san, Cc’s friend from her university days some decades past. And guess what? Tomorrow your Nandee & Pa arrive.

 

Monday had my teacher fitness class. Just the six of us. Even so, it was fun. Cc’s friend, Yumiko, arrived from Nippon/London Monday. The three of us hiked Tuesday morning because it was a public holiday. Later Cc & Yumiko went sightseeing while Dad wrote reports.

 

Wednesday was a surprise b’day for your Dad’s 50th at Turtle Cove. Wait till you see the t-shirts all my colleagues wore! Each t-shirt has a huge picture of your dad’s face with his crazy hair. I’m spoiled to have friends like these… XoXo…

 

On Thursday evening, I ran home from Tai Tam. Just love it, even the hills!

 

Keep running, possum! One day soon, we’ll be running shoulder-to-shoulder… Love Dad… XOXO…

 

 

 

Thursday, June 7th 2018

 

Konichi wa Ophelia,

 

Your Nandee & Pa arrived Sunday, May 27th. We’ve had a marvelous time with them. Tomorrow is Pa’s birthday, so last weekend we bought him a cool Japanese watch. He seemed pretty happy about it, and didn’t try too hard to fight off our offer. He’s a one of a kind your Pa. I hope you re-connect soon; you’ll soon realise what a selfless, caring and humble man your Australian grandfather is. He’s a great chef, too!

 

Your grandparents flew out of Honkers this morning at 10.40am aboard a Cathay Pacific flight. Last night we enjoyed a lovely meal at Little Chili in Northpoint. The heavens opened overnight, too.

 

Dad has been running heaps, in fact I ran home this evening after a bit of a tough day in the classroom. It felt free to be running, sweating and flying. Tomorrow, I will run home again. This time with my Canadian mate, Stan. We’ll run to our apartment in North Point to pick up Toro for a sleepover. Our wonderful little doggie will hopefully work his magic with Stan’s daughter.

 

Tuesday evening Pa & Nandee stayed in Macau. By all reports they had a great time. Pretty impressive at their age! More than anything, though, they do wish to see you again, Phi…

 

Sunday we all went to Lamma Island, Tori included. We grabbed a taxi and headed to Central Piers. From #05, we took the ferry to Lamma. It’s so cool! Just after arriving, Dad headed off on some trails & had a run, then I had a swim with Nandee. She’s very cool, your Nandee. We had a delicious lunch at a Chinese restaurant called ‘something’ Jade. Cc, will remember; I’m hopeless with names!

 

Saturday evening we cooked up an enormous fish basket for four. Kaki fry, scallops, garlic prawns, sashimi & oishi Aussie sparkling! It was a fun night… I miss seeing my mum & dad…

 

In the morning, Dad accompanied three of his students to the Autism Recovery Centre. It was an amazing experience. This year, I started something I call, Action Hour. During Action Hour, students work to give back to the community. My 22 students divided themselves into six groups. Their action is driven by themselves. There’s a group wanting to assist the elderly – their goal is to visit an elderly citizens’ home & put on a concert; another group wanting to draw attention to Global Warming & organizing a clean-up of Hong Kong’s mountain trails; a third group is campaigning against single-use plastics & organizing a beach clean-up; a fourth group shaved their head alongside Dad to support kids with cancer. Anyway, it was an awakening for my three students, but after three hours they were all smiles.

 

As part of Action Hour, Thursday after school (your dad’s b’day), May 31st I accompanied two students to an elderly person’s home. In the evening, Danielle, Stan, Shawn, Gretchen & Alex surprised me by turning up at our flat at 7pm for a dinner at Little Chili. The same morning the whole G4 team had burst into my room with some daggy Ged t-shirts. The kids also gave me a surprise party after morning recess. From Nishka, one of my students, I received a 400USD bottle of wine!

 

Alrighty Phi, time to sign off… Love Dad… XoXo…

 

 

Saturday, June 9th 2018

 

Hey Phi.

 

Dad had an interesting morning. I met an old friend here in Hon Kong. It was about 25 years since we last met in Hungary and Germany. Hayd & Dad were travelling through Europe for seven weeks when we met Kacey & Dianne, a couple of American lasses. We had some grand times with them, and perhaps because there was no romance involved, the girls followed us to Budapest. Probably a decade ago, we all reconnected on Facebook, and alas, we finally met again. Cc was working, but I met KC & her husband, Jonathan, for yum-cha this morning. She hasn’t changed! I told her all about you and my beautiful Cc… see you soon, I hope… XoXo…

 

Last night after work, Cc & Dad met at North Point station for some scrummy Japanese. Good sashimi, sushi and tempura. Next time, what about joining us?

 

Love & licks,

 

Dad… XoXo…

 

Yesterday is history, tomorrow is mystery, today is a gift.

 

 

Monday, June 18th 2018

 

G’day Phi,

 

This very minute I’m writing to you aboard a Hong Kong Airlines flight to Bangkok. My high school mate, Tim, arrived in Hong Kong Thursday evening, and this morning we decided to get out of Cc’s hair and head to Bangkok for a few days.

 

Today? Mmm, we didn’t do much, although I was up & gone on my run with Toro by 6.10am. We ran up into the hills beyond Braemar Hill. There were a few others hiking the trails, but mostly we had the morning to ourselves. We did see just the one wild boar snuffling around for some tasty roots. After breakfast, Tim & Dad grabbed a coffee at a nearby café, then we went to a famous local dim sum restaurant that once had a Michelin star; these days it only has a Michelin recommendation. By 4pm we were at the airport, and now, my princess, Dad’s half way to Bangkok (again).

 

Yesterday morning, Cc, Dad & Toro once again took to the trails, only this time a swarm of bees chased Cc. Sadly, she was stung six times! Curiously they left Toro & Dad alone. It was the second time she’d suffered the same fate; the first time we were camping off Kagoshima on an island. Cc was a bit of a mess, and must have been in significant pain as she also felt nauseous. She rested most of the day, so Dad went off to Tim’s hotel to catch up with him. Around 4pm, we jumped in a taxi and Tim checked into our flat in North Point. Last night, we stayed local and dined at an Indian restaurant.

 

Saturday morning, after my exercise routine and jog with Toro, Cc & Dad joined Tim at his hotel for breakfast. Then we jumped on the tram for Causeway Bay and showed Tim the Apple store. He bought the nurses a thank you gift, the latest i-pad. Later we headed back to North Point to watch Freo dismantle Carlton by about 10 goals. That night we again joined Tim at the buffet lounge of his hotel.

 

Friday was my last day of school. I arrived early, finished packing my boxes for the move to Repulse Bay, then treated myself to a session in the gym. By 10.30am we were toasting the leaving teachers and 60 minutes later saying our farewells. That evening, we joined Tim at his hotel for dinner & drinks.

 

Thursday, was a nondescript full day of packing boxes, labelling furniture, and organizing what to take to the newly renovated campus, what to toss, and what to leave. By 3.30pm, Stan & Dad had had enough, so we picked up Toro who had spent several nights with Hayden and ran back to North Point. Around 7pm there was a knock at the door, and Tim was standing there, a full 24 hours before we were expecting him. Do you remember Tim? You used to call him “Funny Tim.”

 

Wednesday, June 13th was the final day for the students. They presented their Curiosity projects, I presented them with some comical awards, and generally speaking they were quite a joy to be with. I received some bottles of wine, a cashmere vest, and even a gift voucher to a local tailor. That afternoon – evening, HKIS put on an end of year bbq celebration in the HS cafeteria. I only lasted an hour, then went home to my lovely Cc… XoXo…

 

Monday, Dad coached his faculty fitness class, then in the evening the G4 team went to Three Blind Mice for a delightful evening of food & drink. End of the academic year… how can I help you?

 

The undertaking of a new action brings strength. I’ll always be here for you… take all the time you need.

 

 

Monday, June 25th 2018

 

Morning Phi,

 

How are you doing this morning? I guess you’re still at school. I’m back in Honkers after four nights with Tim in Bangkok. The local kids here in Hong Kong are still in uniform. Two more sleeps and Dad will be on the big mechanical bird on his way to Nippon.

 

Sitting in our local café with Tim who arrived in Honkers on Dad’s last day at school, June 15th. Dad had another old-man workout this morning, with Toro watching. 60 push-ups, 30 chin-ups, 100 crunches, 3 x 16 lunges, 3 x 45 second static squats, 3 x 45 second side planks. Feels good to exercise in this heat & humidity – character building!

 

This afternoon, we also visited the Adventist Hospital where Tim spent a month in intensive care (ICU). This time last year my friend was in a very bad way. It was great to see the nurses again, Valerie & Jessie, although Tracy wasn’t there. In keeping with our athletic heritage, Phi, Dad ran home from the hospital, beating Tim in the taxi!

 

Yesterday (Sunday) we went to the Tai Koo Shin complex. Cc & Dad shared some okonomiyaki & takoyaki, while Tim kept the Japanese theme going with some Mos Burger. Last night Dad cooked steak, roasted potatoes, mushrooms & capsicum, all washed down with Tim’s bottle of Penfold’s 389.

 

Thursday for lunch we lined up for Jay Fai Michelin star restaurant in Bangkok. The chef’s signature is an omelet stuffed with crab meat. Not cheap at about 40USD, and we had to wait around 2.5 hours, but a good experience. Before lunch we went to the MBK shopping complex. I bought Cc a few b’day presents including a workout outfit.

 

Tim & Dad checked into the Hilton Millennium Monday night. Courtesy of Tim’s membership, breakfast was included and even evening drinks. Each night in the lounge they put on snacks that pretty much covered our dinner, too.

 

Each morning I rose around 7am and made the most of the gym; one day Dad I went twice! Tuesday morning we jumped on a ferry and went up river to a train station. There we headed into downtown, Siam Station, for a bit of shopping and lunch.

 

Dad decided he would join Tim for a massage, and for the first time ever, semi-enjoyed the experience. What about you, Phi, do you like massages? Feels like torture to me!

 

Wednesday evening we jumped on a ferry and headed across the river to a Thai restaurant, Harmonique, Cc & Dad had enjoyed several years earlier, when Dad had interviewed in Bangkok for the position in Hong Kong.

 

We flew back to HK Friday afternoon/evening. Saturday morning, Dad & Toro did their workout thing, and later in the day, Dad doubled up on exercise & went for a run. Saturday was also Cc’s 28th b’day. Yes, she was 28 when Dad met her nine years ago. Cc wasn’t feeling too chipper, so instead of heading out we just got some sashimi & sushi for home & enjoyed a bottle of French rose.

 

Well Bella, that’s it for another chapter in my life. Hope you’re smiling, happy & full of energy… love Dad… XoXo…

 

Never forget that you are one of a kind. I’m here at: moriceg@hotmail.com or gedmorice@gmail.com or you can connect with me on LINE or WhatsApp: +852 5188 0089

OCTOBER – DECEMBER 2017

Thursday, October 5th 2017

 

Hi Phi,

 

Here’s another installment of prose coming your way. How bored are you reading all these posts? Skimming? Skipping? At least you’re here, now! Gotta love that!

WP_20171019_16_43_47_Pro (1).jpg

Remember, you can contact me any time at:

moriceg@hotmail.com            or         gedmorice@gmail.com

 

Any day now, you’ll turn 15. Wow, that’s gone quickly, except when it didn’t. In my dreams, my mind’s eye still sees you as a 5, 6 or 7-year-old. Looking back, every day with you was just so special. Every day you did something unbelievably cool. A smile that brought me joy. A picture gifted to me bringing me so much pride. A hug so tight it threatened the circulation in my neck, but an embrace so memorable. Something amazing, something incredible, something generous. A little something that would present me so much delight. You’re a gem, Phi, unashamedly your biggest fan, Dad… XoXo…

WP_20171019_16_44_13_Pro (1).jpg

Hope you love it… Happy Birthday!

Presently, Dad is fortunate to be on the October Break, so this morning Cc, le pooch – Toro & Dad took to the awesome trails up & beyond Braemar Hill. We hiked to Compass Point, then continued west along Cecil’s Ride where we found a magnificent set of rocks looking down upon Causeway Bay & Victoria Harbor. I said to Cc, “I’d like to celebrate my 50th here.” It’s an epic location, off the main trail and not sign posted, so hopefully not too many punters are aware of it. What do you say, Phi? Would you like to watch the sunset on your Dad’s 50th year alongside Dad, Cc, and a few close mates?

 

Earlier in the week, Monday, we hiked out to Tai Tam, and Dad & Toro had a swim in one of the many creeks. We found a cool water hole and jumped in after another hot and humid hike, despite the fact we departed Fortress Hill around 6.30am. Bliss!

WP_20171019_16_46_39_Pro (1).jpg

Loving our life here! Fit & healthy and hopefully avoiding any onset of dementia or Alzheimer’s. It’s no secret, there’s no rocket science surrounding health, it’s pretty simple really – get plenty of exercise. Sleep a lot (but don’t use pills). Eat well (cut out processed foods, and unless you have a medical condition, stop being a jerk about gluten). Drink tap water. Love. Presume good intentions. Surround yourself with healthy people.

WP_20160501_10_59_49_Pro.jpg

Dad & his running mates…

That evening, after our long hike, Dad & Cc Skyped Allan & Brenda, who will meet us in Melbourne between Xmas & NY. David, Nicola & Tim have all left home and doing well for themselves… it doesn’t seem that long ago when they were all in primary school in Numazu, and you & I would spend nearly every weekend with them at their home down by Senbon.

Tuesday I went to school for a few hours, even though it’s October Break, I just had too much catching up to do; caught up on some assessments, planning and preparation.

WP_20171019_16_43_33_Pro (1).jpg

What do you think of my choice of B’day card?

Wednesday night, Dad met my G4 colleague, Kristi’s parents, in Happy Valley for a burger. Alex joined us, then they all went to the races, and Dad went home to Cc.

 

It was the AFL grand final Saturday, September 30th between Richmond & Adelaide. Gotta be happy for Uncle Timmy. He’s over the moon after waiting since 1980 for his Tigers to grab another premiership.

 

That same evening, one of my colleagues, Alex, came for dinner, too. Dad cooked sausage rolls (your Pa’s recipe) and pizza (seafood & Hawaiian).

 

Friday night after work, Dad met Madame Cc in TST for Japanese yakiniku. Mmm… finger lickin’ good! Succulent, juicy, oishii!

 

That’s it, for this letter. Loads of love, Dad… XoXo…

 

 

Friday, October 20th 2017

 

Howdy Cowdy! Dad’s leaving the USA this evening. It’s been a fantastic learning experience here. We’ve visited six schools in The San Francisco area, and seen some amazing presentations on education. Jo Boaler & Pete Bowers were the best of the presenters.

 

Dad flew out on your 15th birthday last Sunday, October 15th. I departed HK at 2pm and some 12 hours later arrived on the west coast of the US at around 11am, again on Sunday, October 15th. I had a cry on the flight, missing you beside me too much. I sent you a birthday card and a mighty Desigual purse from the US.

 

On your birthday afternoon, most of our party of ten ventured downtown, San Francisco. We celebrated your 15th with some very tasty Mexican! Dad went to Macey’s and bought two pairs of Levi’s for less that $50USD!

 

Happy b’day Bella! I miss you… XoXo…

 

Dad.

 

 

Tuesday, November 7th 2017

 

Hey Phi, how’s life in sunny Saitama?

 

Dad just finished a parent conference, and have a little time before I head home. So, what have I been up to??? Well, last night C & Dad had dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant. I was famished, because after school I had taken the Run Club. I had organized the runners into two camps and we had a relay. Dad teamed up with one of the slower runners, so I had a seriously good workout! I’m too old for this!

 

Sunday we walked Toro, and Dad did his old man interval training up the hilly sections. Saturday, Dad went to school for six hours to catch up on a bit of school work. Then in the evening I met Stan & his family for a bbq down by Saint Stephen’s Beach.

CIMG4959.JPG

Fancy studying geometry with Dad?

Wednesday, November 1st, I took a day off. I just hadn’t been able to shake a cold I had picked up in the US. I slept for 13 hours straight! I also got a lot of work done, too.

 

Camp was Wednesday 25th to Friday 27th. Again, Stan & I organized the G4 camp. After camp, we had Make-o-ween Tuesday, October 31st… I can’t even remember what I dressed up as???

 

On the Saturday, I met an old friend from Indonesia, Monita. She was travelling with her mother. We hadn’t seen each other in almost three decades. I bet you didn’t know that Dad had a homestay with Monita’s family way back when I was 17!?

 

Well buddy, it’s time Dad ran to catch his bus. Tomorrow Parent-Teacher conferences begin.

 

Love & licks,

 

Dad… XoXo…

 

 

Wednesday, November 15th 2017

 

Hey Phi,

 

How many 50th b’day celebrations have you been to? Dad’s very nearly at that point in life… It’ll be Hadyn’s 50th in December, Tim’s in February 2018, and Ralph’s & Dad’s in May next year.

 

Last Thursday, November 9th it was one of my colleague’s, Kath’s 50th. What a yummo restaurant! I wonder what we’ll do for mine? Fancy organizing something small with Cc???

 

Friday, Cc’s mate, Eri, joined us for a delicious dinner prepared by C.

Saturday from 9 – 2pm, Dad went to Hong Kong University for a PD session on Design. Erik, Joe, Alex & Dad enjoyed a beer & a chat after in a bar.

 

Sunday, C & Dad took Toro once again up beyond Braemar Hill. Again, Dad did his interval training… gotta make fitness a lifestyle choice!

 

Beginning last week, Dad started training the X-Country team Mondays, and the Track & Field middle distance runners on Thursdays. Doubly busy, but double the fun & fitness. Running – Exercise increases blood flow to the brain, which brings oxygen, which helps prevent the dreaded “brain fog”! Climb aboard!

 

Humbly & with much love,

 

Dad.

 

 

Sunday, December 3rd 2017

 

Oh, Bella, Dad & C are sickly. Dad caught a bug from school, so now we both have snotty noses, head colds and stomach cramps. Yeah, not much fun, but life moves on. On the bright side, it’s a beautiful sunny morning here in Honkers. Dad just went for a wander and bought fresh tomatoes, huge mushrooms, and some red & yellow capsicums.

 

Only two more weeks of school, and then on Wednesday, December 20th, Dad will head to Melbourne. Won’t you join me?

 

Thursday, Dad had to take a day-off school as I was a sick little boy. We were supposed to head to Sarah & Trey’s Friday night, and Alex’s last night, but our poor health prevented us from attending.

 

Monday, November 27th, we took the fourth graders down onto Tai Tam bay at super low tide. We’ve been studying the external & internal structures of plants & animals, so it was a great opportunity to observe the little beasties in their tidal pools. It would have been grand to take you along as a chaperone to help keep my would-be scientists on task.

 

Thursday, November 23rd we hosted a mini X-Country event over at the Tai Tam reservoir. We organized a 3km or 6km race in which four other schools joined us. Would you have run the 3km or 6km course? My Middle School runners again performed admirably, dominating the under 14 race, and a few good results in the under 12 race, too.

 

The weekend of the 24 – 26th it was the American Thanksgiving weekend. Friday was a holiday, so C & Dad hiked for 4 hours along Cecil’s Ride. Four hours, yep! How would you go, rising at 6.30am on the weekends, sleepy head?? You always enjoyed a good sleep in. I wonder how much has changed… Would I still need to tickle you, carry you downstairs to your beanbag and pop a Wiggles video on the TV?? Pretty sure my back wouldn’t let me carry you… lucky you!

 

Love Dad… XoXo…

 

 

Wednesday, December 20th 2017

 

Evening Ophelia,

 

This evening, Dad will fly to Melbourne. Wish you were coming along with me. I’ve had a stinker of a cold – I haven’t exercised since last Thursday’s track & field training, and even then, I took it pretty easy. Yesterday, Cc & Gg had lunch in a cool Indian restaurant on the 3rd floor of a North Point market.

 

Over the weekend, Dad kept pretty low, but Monday I went into school to have a big clean up, organize & plan for 2018.

 

Last Wednesday night, G4 had their Xmas party at Danielle’s in Wan Chai.

 

Luca, your cousin, has just joined our family Whatsapp group. Instantly, Dad thought of you. I guess, given different circumstances, you also would have been a part of your Aussie communication group. Major bummer… maybe some day soon…

 

Love always,

 

Dad… XoXo…

 

 

Wednesday, December 27th 2017

 

G’day Phi,

 

Sitting in a café in Forest Hill Chase, Melbourne, writing & thinking of you, Bella. It’s 11.50am, and at 1pm Dad will meet Mick, Chris, Tim & Hayd for a Vietnamese lunch in Box Hill. This afternoon, I hope to drive over to Mr. Trampoline in Carnegie to purchase 4 liters of rubbery trampoline mat paint. That way, the trampoline might just last long enough for you to have a return jump.

CIMG4339.JPG

This morning, I met uncle Tony and my cousin David for a run around the Nunawading area. The pace was a bit pedestrian, but I very much enjoyed chatting with David & Tony.

 

Tuesday, with Nandee & Pa, we went over to your uncle Sean’s to have a play with Billie & Luca. Later Allie & Christo turned up. It was a magic day, putting together puzzles, kicking the footy, playing with Xmas presents, and throwing the Frisbee. Then last night, I ventured over to Ralph’s for a lovely evening of chatter, wine & cheese.

 

Christmas day, I managed to hold it in and not cry. We all missed you. Not a minute went by without me thinking of you. I carried my quiet into Boxing Day. Despite all these years apart, it doesn’t really seem to get any easier. I so miss you…

2017 Christmas Gift.jpg

Merry Christmas, Phi… XoXo…

So, let’s go back in time a little way… Dad arrived in Melbourne Thursday, December 21st. Each time I pass through customs at Tullamarine Airport, I can’t help but picture you in your bright sky blue knitted top, snuggling into my shoulder as your Nandee & Pa wave in delight at our arrival. Pa, Nandee & your cousin, Allie, were there to meet me. We drove out to Croydon, stopping in Bayswater for a coffee & a hearty meat pie. After a nap, we drove over to Uncle Sean’s for dinner & some of Pa’s lasagna. On our way home, we stopped in at Aunty Rach & Uncle Rich’s for a quick “hello” hug.

 

Friday morning, I had a run, then Nandee, Pa & Dad had a coffee up at Ringwood East. Next, your Dad started cleaning the gutters of their leaves & muck, and that evening, all your cousins came out for a bbq.

 

Saturday morning, I had another run, running out to Marty & Kim’s, but they weren’t home, so had to turn around & run back to 39 Andrew Crescent. Finished up the gutters, and then moved onto Hadyn’s in Kew. Tim & Uncle Rich joined us for a great bbq. We reminisced, bringing out the photo albums.

 

Sunday morning, Dad met Nandee & Pa in Camberwell & we visited Sue, Leo & Bree. After a lovely chat, I turned up at my cousin Tristan’s. A little lunch at Uncle Rich’s, and finally back to Croydon for Xmas eve with Nandee & Pa.

IMG-20171224-WA0001.jpg

Dad & Sue…

Christmas day, your aunts, uncles & cousins came out to Nandee & Pa’s. That evening we waltzed over to Tony & Margo’s to say hello. We missed you… Hope you missed us, too…

 

Dad… XoXo…

 

July – September 2017

Wednesday, July 5th 2017 Editing 05/04/18

 

G’day Bella,

CIMG4140.JPG

Spied this in Spain & immediately thought of you… XoXo…

Another epistle coming your way. So, where do I begin this dispatch? Perhaps with some wonderings…

 

I wonder how long it will be before you discover these letters of love? I wonder how long it will take you to read to this point?

 

I wonder how you treat your memories of me? Are you a little scared to relive them and mention the fun times we shared to anyone close to you? You’ve lived with these memories of the two of us for so long now, I wonder if it’s possible for you to preserve those moments we shared? The traces of Nandee, Pa and your family in Melbourne must flick through your mind from time to time. There’s hope in those memories. Hope is a mysterious thing, but it’s worth clinging to… Or, do you need to rule a line through the past and just move on?

 

I think about you so often that I dream of you, but mostly in those dreams that frequent my nights, you’re a child of 6 or 8, and not the fifteen-year-old you will be later this year. I wonder if we passed each other in the street, would we recognize each other?

 

How can we retrieve all those years we lost? Is it even possible? Can we reconnect & recreate that incredible harmony we shared? When I run, especially the long, hard uphill sections, I often wonder about you, Phi. I wonder if you’re clinging to the warmth of our once celebrated connection, or do the disjointed, fragmented flashes rob your soul of sleep?

 

Right now, I’m back in Honky Town, but C flew onto Tokyo to attend to a few things back in Nippon. We landed around 11am yesterday, kissed C goodbye (she’ll be back in Honkers Friday night), and raced home to Causeway Bay, Hong Kong. A few minutes after opening the front door, I raced off again to pick up Toro from the SPCA. Our little three year old pooch looked extremely happy to see his Dad, and he was looking very dandy sporting a new haircut & trimmed nails. Can’t wait for the two of you to become acquainted.

 

Our flat on the 11th floor smelt rather moldy & musty, in fact, courtesy of the high humidity, there was mold growing on the outside of the fridge, atop the table, and of course in the wardrobes. Shigata ga nai, ne – one of few negatives about living in Hong Kong. So, Dad washed down different places, did the washing, some shopping, ran 10 laps of Victoria Park (threw in 30 chin-ups, 100 crunches & 100 push-ups), and then went to our favorite noodle shop for five steamed gyoza & the spicy noodles. Dad needed you to help with walking Toro! In any case, your Dad ticked off all his chores without managing to nap, but by 8.40pm, jetlag was poisoning my mind & body and I just couldn’t stay awake another second.

CIMG4292.JPG

Aboard my jog home…

Slept extremely well, and so happy that I didn’t nap, because I slept on & off for 12 hours! This morning I strolled extra slow with Toro, did some more washing & folding, and now I’m settling down to my coffee & writing to you.

 

So, Monday morning we were still in Europe. We made our way to Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, and at 10.40am started our journey back to the Orient via Abu Dhabi.

 

Sunday, we had a magic day in the City of Lights, Paris. Before any Parisians had risen, Dad started his morning with an early run, and the 100 Club of push-ups & crunches. While out jogging the cobblestoned streets, Dad purchased six different French cheeses & chorizo to take back to Honkers.

 

At lunch, we met “my friend” Nathalie… sounds a tad possessive, don’t you think? You see, C Chan & Dad have an ongoing joke about who’s friend Nathalie really is. She was my friend first! Nat & Dad were colleagues back at Saint Maur, Yokohama. We used to coach x-country together, and spent many a Saturday coaching our runners out at Tama Hills. Ever since Madame C & Nat met, however, they have become close buddies. Of course, C Chan speaks French after living in France for five years, so the two of them have that connection, too. We visited Nat in Istanbul, Turkey, twice, and she visited us in Cairo, too. Over the years, we’ve met her in her home country, France, too.

 

Anyway, it was great to see my friend (LOL) once again. The three of us had a lovely lunch in a local bistro near Bastille. Dad probably ordered his best meal in France (on this trip), duck, medium, with a pepper sauce, semi mashed-fried potato and green beans. The ladies both had a creamy white sauce salmon pasta… I couldn’t help but think, the salmon would have been your choice, too. Don’t you think so, Phi Chan? All those scrumptious meals at Couer in Numazu, the salmon creamy pasta was always your favorite… do you remember?

 

After a great chat with Nathalie, we raced out to the country to meet Jean Batiste & Gernola at a magnificent chateau. Gernola was singing, soprano! We had a delightful afternoon at the concert, a tour of the chateau (free), and a cidre to finish our chat. When we arrived back in Paris, we wandered slowly back to the hotel. Part way along our stroll, we stopped & enjoyed a chardonnay and a crepe. Magnific!

 

Saturday was shopping day. The sales had just started, so, off we went. Dad bought a pair of grey leather shoes for 60% off, and Madame C a stunning new top. For lunch, we wound our way to the Jewish quarter, and enjoyed a yummy & affordable falafel. With tired legs, we arrived back at our gorgeous boutique hotel at around 6.30pm. After a short break, we headed back out again to meet C’s friends, Kazue & Jean Phillip. The four of us had a beaut evening discussing Normandy, cidre, Nippon, France. Dad had a whopping French hamburger with a generous bacon ‘n’ cheese extra.

 

Well, Phi, it’s time to sign off, walk le pooch, vacuum & mop the floor. Next time, let’s visit Europe together!

 

Love Dad… XoXo…

 

 

Friday, July 14th 2017

 

Hey Phi,

 

How’s summer treating you? I imagine you’re winding down to your own summer vacation by now. What will you do over the summer? Will you be running, jumping & throwing with the Track & Field Club?

 

Dad is just finishing up his first week of Summer School here at HKIS, Hong Kong. In the morning class I have 20 students, and the PM class just 12. They’re a great group of kids, some from local schools here in HK, some from international schools in China, a few foreign kids (France, USA & Japan – I have a lovely Japanese girl in my class who has come from France!), and some kidlets are from HKIS.

CIMG4296.JPG

What a jogging trail!

Last night, Dad met C Chan at the gallery she’s been working at, then we had ramen in Mid Levels. Tuesday, I ran home from the Tai Tam campus in a heavy thick blanket of heat & humidity. Gonna try and run home at least twice a week during summer school… won’t you join me?

 

Sunday we met Rita, our wicked real estate agent, and she showed us five flats in the Fortress Hill/North Point area of Hong Kong Island. The third flat was the pick of the bunch. More spacious than our flat in Causeway Bay, bigger kitchen, better main bedroom and believe it or not, cheaper than our flat in Causeway Bay. We made an offer, and 90 minutes later it was accepted! Happy days for Madame C and Monsieur Papa. There’s a spare bedroom for you, too. Do you want me to paint it for you? What’s your favorite colour, now? So, we’re moving house August 1st! Wow, Cc & Dad have had a few homes over the years… first there was Honmoku, Yokohama, then Miorenji, after that, Denenchofu. Next we moved to Egypt, first our massive home on Road 12, then a second place on Road 206. Now, we’re in our tiny shoebox in Causeway Bay, HK, but in a few short weeks we’ll move for the seventh time! Fancy helping move a few boxes???

 

Friday night, actually very early Saturday morning, Cc returned from Nippon. Ever since, your Dad has been doing his “old man” interval training at Victoria Park, banging out the 100 Club of push-ups, chin-ups & crunches. Wednesday, Thursday & Friday, I have taken the liberty of using one of my student’s coffee vouchers each day, sitting down for a coffee & writing to you in either Starbucks or Pacific Coffee.

 

Well, Bella, time to move on. I hope you’re in a great space. I hope life is treating you fairly, and I hope you’ll reach out and reconnect with Dad, soon.

 

When you’re ready… LOVE Dad… XoXo.

 

 

Friday, August 11th 2017

 

Oh, what a crazy few weeks, Phi. This morning Dad had another outpatient appointment with Doctor Lo, a specialist in lower back injuries. He’s also a doctor of Chinese medicine, in particular acupuncture.

 

So, let’s jump in the time machine to see what befell your not so young Dad. Friday, July 28th Dad’s three weeks of Summer School finished. Then, the hard work really kicked in. Cc & Dad spent a big, big, long night of packing our odds & ends for our epic move to Fortress Hill. Saturday, July 29th the moving company arrived and super smoothly picked up all our boxes & furniture. By evening, we had moved into our new home on the 21st floor.

 

Sunday, we moved furniture and unpacked boxes galore, then Monday, August 31st Dad started with the Tai Tam transition team. This academic year, the G3 – G5 classes are moving from the Repulse Bay campus to the Tai Tam campus so that the RB campus can be renovated. So, during the day, Dad was helping move 27 classrooms, plus boxes/furniture for art, music, library, Chinese Studies, etc.

 

The evening of Thursday, August 3rd was likely the real undoing. Cc & Dad bought a new queen size bed (mattress & frame); unfortunately, only the mattress would fit in the elevator. To add salt to our wounds, the bed frame couldn’t be disconnected. So, muscles Cc and Dad took a deep breath and carried our new queen size bed up 21 flights of stairs! The lower back was well and truly sore, at this point.

 

Sunday, August 6th we celebrated the unpacking of the last of our boxes & took Rosanna (formerly a colleague from Cairo American College) to a vegetarian restaurant for lunch in Wan Chai.

 

Monday, August 7th your tired & weary old man was helping out at school, moving a few boxes, and suddenly his back seized up. The box I was moving wasn’t particularly heavy, especially compared to the desks, chairs, book shelves I had been moving, even so, I had a sharp intense pain that dropped me to my knees. After lying down and stretching, I thought I might be okay. So, your silly Dad continued helping moving classrooms, somewhat tentatively and definitely less powerfully. Some 10 minutes after the initial jolt of pain, I was gingerly lifting a very light piece of wood when the acute back spasm hit again. Only this time, the pain was excruciating & your old man crumpled in a heap on the faculty floor. Fortunately, Suanne (colleague) was with me, and nobody else. How embarrassing! Over the next 30 minutes, I tried three times, unsuccessfully to stand up. Each time, I only managed to get my shoulders about 20cm off the ground. Then, the decision was made for me, an ambulance would be called. By this stage, I was getting rather cold and a little shakey, and after hoping Krista’s husband could drive me home, I consented to the inevitable. I simply couldn’t move, so I had no choice but to take the ambulance.

 

I spent a few hours in the hectic emergency section of the Eastern Hospital, and then was moved to one of the wards. Cc was my savior coming to the hospital immediately and looking after me. My first night was a sleepless affair of pain killers and chronic spasms. Tuesday, I was informed of a pilot program for lower back injuries, fusing Chinese medical philosophy & Western medicine. Dad, who had previously viewed acupuncturists as witch doctors, quickly assented. I met with Doctor Lo, who gave me acupuncture, then a chiropractic/osteopathic massage. Miraculously, I managed to stand up and take a few steps after this first procedure. To this point, the Western doctors had only prescribed drugs/pain killers, and moved me ever so painfully to try and ascertain their prognosis.

 

So, I became a convert to acupuncture & massage and had several more sessions before I was discharged from the Eastern Hospital Wednesday afternoon. Cc had been amazing, and May (secretary at school), who had accompanied me in the ambulance, and had brought Cc & Dad a meal Tuesday night, just a saint.

 

Unfortunately, during all of this, our wicked mate, Milton, had arrived (Tuesday) for a visit. Quite obviously, I wasn’t much of a tour guide. In fact, I had the rest of the week off, and the following Monday. From that point on, I’ve been ever so grateful of my health, and religiously building lower back strength with lots of stretching & back exercises.

 

Oh Phi, I guess it’s time your old man slows down. It’s not easy to back away from intense exercise. All I want to do now, is get back out there and EXERCISE! Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always lived by my mantra of: Why walk when you can run?

 

In any case Bella, where ever this life takes us, for each new place we visit, all we need are a pair of runners, a pair of shorts & a t-shirt, then it’s time to explore. Start jogging, preferably at sunrise when the rest of the world are still sleeping, bring your heartbeat up so that your endorphins are singing, and see the world through a different lens! Grab your running shoes Phi and join me; it’s a wonderful world out there.

 

Love Dad… XoXo…

 

 

Sunday, August 20th 2018

 

Wind, wind, wind!!! It’s howling outside Phi! Can you hear it? There’s a typhoon blowing through Honkers at this very minute. It has kept us in all day, so I’ve done a little research on Reading Projects, inquiry, and Genius Hour (for school).

 

Last night, Anna (a Kiwi who we met at our old building in Causeway Bay) & her Kaiser (pooch), and Rosanna (former colleague from Cairo American College who has just started working at HKIS, too) joined us for dinner. Dad did the roast vegetables, mushrooms, red & yellow peppers, and onions, while le Chef Cc, created her famous chicken karage and her yummoliscious shu-creams for dessert.

 

This evening the wind dropped and a few shops & restaurants opened after the typhoon was downgraded. We took Toro out for a wander, then we had some local spicy noodles & gyoza at a nearby restaurant.

 

School resumes for students Tuesday, and to complicate matters, another typhoon is scheduled to hit Tuesday night, Wednesday morning.

 

Love & licks,

 

Dad, Cc & Toro… XoXo…

 

 

Thursday, August 31st 2017

 

Hey Buddy,

 

How’s the end of your Summer Vacation treating you? Hot & humid in Saitama, no doubt. I hope you and your mates are getting to the pool daily. Perhaps you could grab a train and make your way down to Zushi, Kamakura or Enoshima. Do you remember looking around Enoshima, the aquarium, and a swim or three? All those years ago, we used to visit David Barrett, Yoko & Luka… built sand castles, splashed through the waves, and ate big meals famished after our day frolicking at the beach.

 

So, this time next year, you’ll be beginning High School! Can you believe it? Your Dad certainly can’t. I guess, you’ve already started researching where and what type of High School you hope to attend. Will you have far to travel? Will your best mates be joining you? Beyond High School, what are you thinking you’d like to do? When I was year 9, I fancied myself as an artist, so I was pretty keen on becoming an architect, a designer of some sort, or a sign writer. Just as well I didn’t pursue sign writing! These days, the art of sign writing on shop fronts has been replaced by computer generated images; besides I would have missed my calling as a teacher.

 

It wasn’t until I was in year 11 that what I really wanted to do became clearer. Our parish priest (yes, your Dad went to Catholic schools) at Saint Francis de Sales asked me to coach the grade 5 & 6 Australian football team. I loved it, volunteering to coach a second year, too. During my first year, the Father Robinson (parish priest) asked me to lead the Parish Youth Group of year 7, 8 & 9 students. During these leadership experiences it became pretty apparent that teaching might be a perfect fit for me. And so, I sort of fell into university, initially thinking I would like to become a PE teacher.

 

So Phi, as hard as it is, don’t succumb to all the pressure placed upon you. Be yourself, give your best effort, and keep a positive mindset. Give yourself time & space to make the decisions that will affect you long term.

 

As for Dad, well, it’s certainly been a big mindset hurdle returning to regular life with my back as it is. The back certainly feels a lot better than earlier in the month, but I’m very cautious about it as it just doesn’t have the strength it used to. Each & every morning, I’ve added to my back stretches & conditioning. Before I even get out of bed, I go through five different stretches & strengthening exercises, but the lower back is not what it used to be. I’m back jogging, not really running, and very slowly jogging downhill as the jarring needles the back. I can’t really do crunches, or planks, YET, but I’m getting closer & closer to full mobility as every day passes. I need a training partner, you keen to boss Dad around?

 

At the chalk-face, my new class is coming together. They’re a hard bunch of kidlets, talkative, somewhat aggressive, and a few learning difficulties, but I believe the best fun is hard fun. So, I’m taking up the challenge and determined to make this a year to remember!

 

Our students have had a bit of an interrupted start to the academic year, albeit somewhat exciting, especially for my four new students to Hong Kong. Tuesday, August 22nd was the first day of school at the new campus, and the very next day another crazy typhoon hit HK. Obviously, day 02 of school was cancelled. Dad, who goes to bed at 9pm every night (good sleep without pills is so healthy for mind & body!!!) was up early, wide awake by 6am. Initially, the winds weren’t too severe, so I took Toro for a walk, then we had a bit of a jog, too. Slowly does it. On the flat, the lower back feels pretty solid, so I often head to Victoria Park where they have a cushioned jogging track – like a regular athletic track.

 

Alright Bella, it’s nearing Dad’s bedtime. Time to brush the pearly whites (teeth) and hit the pillow.

 

Love Dad… XoXo…

 

 

Saturday, September 15th 2017

 

Hey Phi,

 

How are you doing? How’s your final year in Junior High School progressing? Who are your best mates? Who’s your best teacher? Who’s your best ever teacher?

 

Dad’s in a pretty good place. I keep running, keep kick, and keep barracking!!! Life’s ace! I guess I’m in a pretty good head space. How’s your mind, heart & soul coping with life? Next month you’ll be 15 years old. How has your first fifteen years been? Are you in a happy place? Who are your best buddies this year? Have your closest friends changed in the past 12 months? Are they open and honest with you? Can you truly talk to them? Do they listen to your heart? How accepting are your peeps to your bicultural, bilingual background? I hope your friends are there for you, always. I wish I could be there, beside you, too.

 

Last night we met Sarah & Trey at Little Chili’s here in our new neighborhood, North Point. The Friday before we spoiled ourselves with a night out at a nearby Japanese restaurant. Spicy Chinese food! It was great! Duck, beef, dumplings & loads of vegetables. The dumplings were ace! Tons of chili, too! After dinner we came back to our new home on the 21st floor. North Point/Fortress Hill is very Hong Kong-esque. It’s a burb dominated by the locals. There’s plenty of bamboo scaffolding, markets that could easily be presented on a postcard from yesteryear, and cool little eateries without much need for English menus.

 

I’ve also been lucky transport-wise. Both HKIS campuses are a little awkward to get to by public transport, but as it happens, there’s a 6.25AM staff bus that leaves just a five minute walk away. In the evening, there’s a 5.15PM bus that leaves for Tai Koo Shin, and from there, it’s just two stops on the metro.

 

Sarah & Trey have been great to us over the last two years. We arrived together as newbies and were put up by HKIS at the same hotel. Trey is quite the chef, so he & Cc are always talking food & recipes. They’re also dog-people, so over the past couple of years they’ve taken care of Toro a few times. Back at our new digs, we talked more & more, especially about you, Phi. Before long, I pulled out our photo albums, and all of sudden, you were there beside us, in front of us, next to us, with us. Your beautiful face smiling up at us from the cherished pages of our photo albums. I miss you Phi. Every day I wake, you’re missing. Every night I sleep, I wonder.

 

During the week Dad & Stan talked the grade 4 parents through this year’s grade 4 camp. Stan & Dad are leading the camp again this year. We’re leading 200+ kids on a camp in the New Territories, north of Hong Kong. It’s a new site, as last year we were in Sai Kung.

 

Thursday, Dad ran home after the faculty meeting. It was the first time I’ve run from Tai Tam to home since injuring my back, so I took it easy and walked in parts. Happy though, pulled up quite well. So important, because next Monday Dad starts his Middle School Run Club.

 

And pretty much early every Saturday & Sunday morning, Cc, Toro & Dad hiked up beyond Bramar Hill along the numerous dog-friendly trails.

 

Alright Possum, time to shut up shop. Love Dad… XoXo…

 

 

Tuesday, September 26th 2017

 

Ophelia,

 

A few short weeks to your 15th birthday. Can it really be?

 

Yesterday I coached my middle school Running Club. There are 61 participants! Dad’s pleased to report, the back is feeling pretty damn fine. Coach Morice made his runners run the stairs, lots of them. From bottom playground to the top tennis courts it’s 12 floors! Coach Morice had a hard time keeping up with the front runners, but I’ll smugly say, I safely beat 80% of the teenagers. Last week we did interval training. Just about killed me, but I put on a brave face each time the kids asked, “How many more do we have to do? To which my response was, “Just one more,” every time they asked. I was sore all week!

 

On the weekend Uncle Tim’s team, the Tigers, beat the Giants, so now they’re in the Grand Final. Tim is a very happy camper! We’re all very happy for Tim, especially after the year he has had.

 

On Sunday your Nandee sent a photo of the first Ophelia rose from her garden for 2017. It’s spring in Melbourne, so the first roses are in blooming. This Friday Dad finishes school. Then it’s the October Break, and Dad is heading to San Francisco with a group of teachers to explore inquiry in schools.

 

Tomorrow after our G4 meeting Dad hopes to jog home. Wish me well… care to join me?

 

Love Dad… XoXo.

2017 April – June

Sunday, April 2nd 2017

 

Hey Bud, how are you doing? Ophelia Hirakawa-Morice, here’s another quarterly missive, to you, for you, my daughter. These letters are for you, your eyes, your soul, your heart, and your future.

 

Our last visitation as dad & daughter was Sunday, September 11th 2011. Can you believe it? Almost six years since we’ve held hands. I don’t suppose we would hold hands anymore, anyway. But, hey, I wouldn’t say “No” to a BIG hug! You’re probably wondering how many hundred wrinkles Dad has added to his face??? A good many, that’s for sure. But, they’re happier wrinkles. Life is good, Hong Kong is awesome, I still have the best job in the world, and every day I grow more in love with my C.

 

I guess mathematically, it’s been some 2000+ days since we chatted together. Ouch! That’s way too long, don’t you think? I wonder what our first words to each other will be? What passes through your mind each night when your head hits the pillow? Am I still part of your dreams? For me, I’m not sure it gets any easier living apart from you, Phi. Sometimes missing you seems an easier pain to cope with, then other times the heartache is still as intense as ever. How is your heart & mind coping with this absence?

 

That last visitation, we met at Tokorozawa Station – do you remember? I’ll never forget you slipping your hand into mine within seconds of leaving your mother. I will cling to that truth always. That moment always brings me an inner smile. The genuine warmth and love of your tender little hand in mine makes all this worth it. Your love was so pure, so natural, so inspiring – it’s the reason I still write to you. I believe in you, and I believe in us. Your touch put such a spring in my step. Your eyes full of trust and care. Then, inexplicably, the following day I fielded a strange phone call from your mother – and we haven’t seen each other since. What does your heart tell you nowadays?

 

Next week, C & Dad will arrive in Nippon. Our visit has been on my mind for some time now. I wonder if I’ll have the courage to visit your school, again. I doubt it – last time, visiting your school tore me apart. It started with such promise, but it ended when I cried openly in front of your principal. The anticipation of seeing you was too much for my heart to take. My defenses collapsed. You were so close, and I had come so far. I babbled like a baby. But again, our meeting was thwarted by those closest to you. Why do they trample love?

 

But my love for you must be endured, embraced and suffered. To this point, it’s been an excruciatingly long journey, but, I still believe. In the end, truth prevails. Truth. Remember this Phi, nobility & integrity springs from the soul, not from blood or money.

 

Anyway, it’s time Dad got to work at the chalk-face (classroom). I arrived here (school) at 7.30am this morning. Yeah, Sunday morning and all, but as you’re aware, Dad is a nine to fiver – that’s bed at 9pm and rising at 5am. Nothing much changes on the weekend. So, this morning, what’s the plan? Well, on my list of things to tick off is: to work on a Biography display, prepare for the unit ahead, grade some math tests, tidy up my desk, and write to you. Later today, Carlton play Melbourne, so I’d like to be home before 2.30pm to watch that game. Go Blues! And looking ahead, Tuesday April 4th will be a public holiday!

Let’s see, last night, I cooked your favorite cream salmon pasta with a blue cheese sauce. It was pretty good and there was enough for you, too. Today, that third plate we set aside for you, will be my lunch… that’s if C hasn’t eaten it by the time I get back to Causeway Bay!

 

Alright Bella, let us give thanks to wisdom, grace and forgiveness:

“An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” Mahatma Gandhi

 

Love Dad… XoXo…

 

 

Tuesday, April 4th 2017

 

Morning Ophelia! How was your run??? Public holiday (it’s called Tomb Sweeping Day – kinda spooky, right?) here in Honky Town, and no better way to greet the relatively quiet-ghostly streets than a morning run, some push-ups, chin-ups & crunches. What about you, strong and agile as a leopard?

 

Why do I run so much? I hear you ask. Nandee & Pa became runners in their late 30s and then it pretty much became a lifestyle choice for all us Morices. Besides, it feels good, right Phi?! It’s also my mental & physical rehab. It’s my quiet time, my thinking time, my own time with my thoughts. Typically, as I run, I’m thinking of you. In fact as the hills get harder, it’s you that gets me up that next hill. This morning I thought of you, but I also reflected on your mother.

 

In many ways, your mother and I have both been blind to your feelings. We only see what is in front of us. We choose what we see, and largely ignore the repercussions of our actions, and non-actions. When I think of your childhood, the loving bond we shared as dad & daughter, the naturalness of our company and interactions, it was total bliss, from my point of view. Imaginary perfection, perhaps. Sometimes it feels like our time together happened to another Gerard Morice. A luckier man than me. A single-father who had so much. A dad who was safe, confident and happy. A foreign man to the one writing to you now, because that fortunate dad knows how his daughter is growing up. A parent who everyday sees his daughter becoming a woman with integrity, passion, creativity and respect. A just person. A teenager who is everything her dog thinks she is, and more. A better version of herself. I wonder how many people can say that?

 

But for you, I wonder what your memories of your childhood are. You flitted between Numazu & Tokorozawa. You went to kindergarten in Numazu, but you also spent time with your Japanese family. Nandee & Pa joined us each year for months at a time, and your Japanese grandparents loved you equally. You shared the love of two families, and then very suddenly one family was shut out. Totally shut down. What did that deliberate, planned decision take from your pure heart? How could you understand the suddenness of the shut-out? Even now, none of it makes any sense. At the time, even as adults, your own Nandee & Pa found it incomprehensible, brutal, insane. The pain, anger, frustration and distrust monopolized our lives. For a long time it made us bitter, impatient, less trustful of others. It was horrible for us… But, it must have been much worse for you. So, how have you survived what happened?

 

And, that’s just it. I don’t know how you’re feeling, what you’re thinking, I don’t even know what you’re doing. Even from a distance, I haven’t seen you for six years, and even before September 11, 2011, our court-instructed-visitations were nearly always shut down by your mother. So, in real terms, anything meaningful between us was being marginalized for more than the past six years. Eroded. Deliberatively broken.

 

Despite missing these precious years by your side, I still believe I am a fortunate dad. I have not always been so happy in my life as I am now. Life is sweet. I’m in love and loved. I have the support & warmth of the most amazing family, your family, too, Phi. I teach at one of the most prestigious international schools in the world, and I love my job. Love my students, and I’m surrounded by an ace bunch of super dedicated teachers.

 

Love, really does help us move forward. You’re still the light I look to at the end of the tunnel. There’s always light, and if we’re honest with ourselves, the positives always outweigh the negatives. Phi, you’re still my little action pack of memories giving me that little extra boost. And though I know my memories of our life together become more and more precarious through age & time, I also know, I was the luckiest dad in the world to have you as a daughter. Thank you, Ophelia.

 

Any dark days are behind me. It’s too numbing & draining to dwell on the “What ifs?” of the past. The more I thought about how vulnerable I was, the more it consumed me, swallowed me, turned me inside out. No more.

 

True, the Family Court made me feel small and insignificant. It took me years to realise that goodness doesn’t always conquer all. Life is no fairy tale. I think I’m a better person for going the distance, but it was a relentless, soul draining heartache that I would not wish upon my greatest enemy.

 

It wasn’t even what I thought it was at the time – an incredible injustice by the family court of Japan against me. It took time for me to realise that the family court was blind to individual cases; it just did what it had always done – give total custody to one parent, typically the parent who abducted the child, the Japanese parent. Strangely, “possession” of the child was nine-tenths the law. Barbaric. Empathy never lived within the walls of the Japanese Family Court, especially when it came to foreign parents who believed in co-parenting. Even in 2017, after Japan had signed The Hague Convention on Child Rights, seemingly, one case after another cannot change the mantra of the Japanese Family Court. Even in the face of the international media, its stubborn refusal to realize its crimes against children persist. Absurdly, fear drives the machine (I think it drives your mother, too), not love, acceptance, and compromise.

 

The Hague Convention on Child Rights was drafted to prevent injustices and protect the rights of children, but laws are useless if left unenforced. Monolingual, monocultural, stubborn prejudices are still embedded in the Family Court system of Nippon. Those within its hierarchy have minds like layers of bedrock. What was good for Japan forty years ago, was good for Japan two & three decades ago. And in their archaic eyes, what was good for Japan 20 years ago is good for Japan today.

 

In any case, most of those miseries were yesteryear, and comparative to the hardships many people experience in their lives, my journey fades to insignificance. Maur (Nandee’s cousin) has suffered and lost to cancer. Su (Pa’s sister) is still battling cancer. Nandee’s health woes cripple her at times, and Pa lost his other sister (Jan) too young. My mate, Mick, has fought paraplegia for the better part of three decades to become the inspiration he is today. A hero I hope you meet some day soon. Hayd has had prostate cancer, and Tim has battled hideous myeloma. Though I feel I have lost my daughter, life continues, and rather than wallow in self-pity, we all must strive to become the heroes our dogs think we are. My tragedy is not so great – overcoming what was thrown at me, made me stronger.

 

I love you… XoXo…

 

 

Monday, April 10th 2017

 

G’day Phi,

 

We’re here in Nippon, breathing the same crisp air you breathe.

 

This evening I ran along a river in Chiba at sunset. The cherry blossoms were out, and as the sun set on another day without seeing you, it was hard not to think of you, knowing that you’re not far away. I can feel you breathing, imagine you running, wonder what you’re reading as I pound the asphalt. Ophelia, my daughter. I try to focus on my breathing, in on two steps, out on three steps, in on two steps, out on three steps. Ophelia, my daughter. There’s the warmth of the rhythm, the gift of the routine, the endorphins from commitment. Ophelia, my daughter. You’re so near, yet so far. I wonder how many days it’s been since I sang you to sleep. So many sleeps since we cooked side-by-side. So many months since we chatted, smiled & laughed. So many years since we held each other. What will you think about before you sleep this evening?

 

Today we drove across to the house in Denenchofu. We tidied up the garden with the distant late winter sun on our backs. Somewhat depressing, but with Cc beside me, our strength overcame.

 

Yesterday (Sunday) morning before 5am we arrived at Haneda. Too early, no trains or buses, so we sat and enjoyed a coffee before the first buses started rolling. Later in the morning, we had a nap, then Dad spent a few wet hours in C’s parents’ garden pulling weeds and vegetables that had gone to flower/seed. It was wonderful to feel the earth between my fingers. Invigorating therapy!

 

Later we went to C’s favorite shop, Shinomura. I love that about Cc. She can take something very cheap, such is pretty much everything at Shinomura, and look glamorous & sophisticated. Dad didn’t get anything (would have liked some padded Mizuno running socks – but they were sold out), but C was as happy as a pig in mud purchasing her bargains. In the evening we met our friends, Yumiko & Katsu, at a local izakaya for some great Japanese pub cuisine – Oh, the sashimi was so, so, so much better than Hong Kong. Gotta LOVE Japanese food! What a great night with brilliant friends!

 

Well Bella, wish I were reading a chapter book alongside you now… Perhaps we could start Counting by Sevens. Oyasumi nasai… LOVE Dad… XoXo.

 

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.

 

 

Tuesday, April 11th 2017

 

Tuesday, our C once again made me so very proud to be her husband. One day I’ll tell you all about her kindness, wisdom and drive. It was a bit of a wet and tragic day with Tokyo only reaching a maximum of 10 degrees Celsius. We were in and out of courts and law offices all day, and right now we’re sitting in the Tokyo License Centre renewing our gold driving licenses. Not sure why C is renewing her license, as she never drives, but anyway, here we are. Gotta love Japan, so efficient!

 

Tonight we’ll meet Reiko & Milton for dinner and a drink. Tomorrow I think I’ll visit Makuhari International School, and perhaps drop into the Makuhari Outlets to buy a new pair of running shoes. Would like another pair of minimalist running shoes. The barefoot running is definitely strengthening the muscles in my feet.

 

This Thursday, April 13th I’ll meet Greg, Jamie, Evan, DS & the gang from Saint Maur International School in Yokohama. After they’ve finished at school, we plan to meet at Yamashita Park for a kick of the footy, then we’ll watch a bit of Thursday night footy together.

 

Love Dad… XoXo.

 

“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.” Leonardo da Vinci

 

 

Saturday, April 22nd 2017

 

G’day Phi Fai Pho Fum!

Does that nickname, “Phi Fai Pho Fum” ring a bell with you? Do you recall your giant Dad chasing you around bellowing, “Phi Fai Pho Fum!”? You, and often one or two of your mates would be squealing with delight as I stomped around searching for your hiding spots. Ah, grand memories, Bella. I wonder when I will once again get an opportunity to bellow, “Phi Fai Pho Fum!”

At school, I’ve been teaching my kids all about mean, mode, median & range, so we took to the gym for a little Mr. M Challenge. Each of my 22 students were challenged to grip the chin-up bar and perform a flexed-arm hang for as long as they could hold it. Ivan was our champ, lasting 64 seconds, but Mr. M outlasted him with 65 seconds. Just!

 

Next year, one of my fourth graders might beat me, so I performed my 100 Club this morning. I did my 100 crunches, 100 push-ups, 30 chin-ups, 40 dips, 3 x 75 second planks, 12 x 625m run, some lunges & squats! Gotta be happy with that!

Last night, our not so mighty Blues were thumped by Port Adelaide by the humbling tune of 90 points. Carlton played seven teenagers, so we were always going to be out muscled. There were a few promising signs by the kids before half time, but after that, we were blown out of the water. I wonder if you’ll try and play Aussie Rules Footy one day. My favorite female player is, Vescio. She’s a star playing with Carlton. A damn fine goal sneak, too – she topped the women’s goal kicking tally for season 2017.

 

Tuesday is Maker Showcase at HKIS, or Maker Mayhem if you’re a teacher. The kids have come up with all sorts of incredible science contraptions. It’s been a lot of work, but I’m sure the parents will appreciate the showcase.

 

Wednesday, I’m going to be mighty proud of the fourth grade Student Council. For months now, we’ve been preparing to celebrate the Support Staff at the Upper Primary. All those thankless tasks that are done every hour, every day during our school lives. We’re going to thank those who cook for us, those who clean up after us, those who act as security, carpenters, plumbers & gardeners. We’ve collected some 10,000HKD worth of gift vouchers as prizes, we’ll serve them beverages & cake, too. We’ve even interviewed each of them and written a biography about each of their lives. I think we’ll generate a few tears…

On Wednesday of last week, I ran home over the top, and along the trails. I don’t know how many steps it involves, but I forced myself to run up for 60 seconds, then I walked up for 30 seconds, and repeated the cycle. Felt great! Some pain is good!

 

Last Monday was a public holiday, but unfortunately C has been most sick, fever, cough, and headache. So, after my run & push-ups, we just had a quiet day at home.

 

We arrived back from Japan Saturday, April 15th in the afternoon. Again, I didn’t get to meet you. What to do? Maybe, it’s my fault that I don’t march up to your mother’s front door and knock. Are you expecting me? Perhaps I’m too much of a coward to once again face your mother. What should I do, Phi? When will your mother understand that I pose no threat to her lifestyle? Phi, how can we make this work? When will you have the strength to make your own way, to seek the truth? I don’t blame you for waiting, for hesitating, for not wanting to take the next step. Your mother is certainly a force to be reckoned with. Righteous and determined, but also frightened of her own conscience. You’ll need to be bold & possess a chest full of courage to take your next step. I know, through your beautiful, harmless eyes, it will seem like a giant leap. In insurmountable mess that you need to put behind you. You’ll need all the courage you can secretly muster to step beyond the past of your mother, a past that still haunts her, but it needn’t. It’s time we all moved forward.

 

Anyway, to help me take my mind off you & all those precious moments we’re missing together, pretty much immediately after we arrived home from the airport, we picked up Kaiser and Toro. Oh, Phi, you would love Kaiser. I think he’s an Australian poodle, but I could be wrong. He and Toro make a great pair. He’s very gentle, and is even shier (in some ways) than Toro. I can see you lying on the carpet, giggling & smiling, with Toro & Kaiser nuzzling you. I miss you, Ophelia.

 

Sunday morning, we had a long walk with the dogs as they peed all over Causeway Bay and surrounds. Wish you were holding one of the leashes beside us…

 

Dad… XoXo…

 

WICKED QUOTE

“What’s money? A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between does what he wants to do.” Bob Dylan

 

Tuesday, May 2nd 2017

 

Ophelia,

 

Good evening to you, Possum. What are you doing tonight? The TV didn’t go on tonight, instead, I started reading one of the books my kids recommended: The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm. So far, it’s a good read and it got me thinking of you. It also helped me remember a quote I shared with my students that I hope works for you, too: “Books can be dangerous. The best ones should be labeled, ‘This could change your life.’” Helen Exley. How true is that, Phi? So, which books have changed your life? I wonder if you’ve read Kensuke’s Kingdom by Michael Morpurgo. I must have read it ten times to different classes over the years, and each time I cry. Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper also shifted some of my preconceived ideas. Have you read them? I so hope we can sit down soon, coffee & croissant before us, and talk books.

 

Yesterday was a public holiday. Woop-woop! Gotta love a little sleep in. Well, a sleep in of sorts, ‘cause Dad was up & about by 6.30am. Coffee, Dad’s mega-mix of low sugar cereal (it’s got to be less than 4 grams of sugar per 100 grams to make the cut) and 20 minutes peacefully reading Dad’s newspaper of choice, The Age. Then, Dad jumped on the mini bus from Causeway Bay and  came into school to prepare a few things for my appraisal and the next literacy unit. Ah, the life of a teacher…

 

In big news, Carlton beat Sydney Saturday! Can you believe it??? We won by less than a goal, which made it even sweeter, as typically, it’s the stronger teams that win the tight games. So, maybe there is a future for a Baby Blues. And, early Sunday morning, your Dad ran his dozen laps in Victoria Park and banged out his 100 Club of push-ups, chin-ups, lunges, crunches & planks. When are you gonna join me, Bella?

 

Unfortunately, my dear Cc has still been sick. She seems to get a little better, then goes downhill again. Time to visit the doctor again.

 

Last Tuesday was the fourth grade Maker Showcase. It’s a fantabulous day, with our kidlets putting together some impressive projects involving circuits & Scratch.

 

So, Phi, let’s get back to our books. Looking forward to Book Clubbing with you…

 

Love Dad… XoXo.

 

WICKED WISDOM

“Nothing will work unless you do.” Maya Angelou

 

 

Wednesday, May 10th 2017

 

Ophelia, here’s a disturbing article that you might be brave enough to read. It’s a hard read, but sometimes the truth has to hurt. It’s an article by Simon Scott and it was published in The Japan Times on May 1st 2017:

Three years after Japan signed Hague, parents who abduct still win

As he sat waiting in a van near his estranged wife’s family home in Nara, where his four children were living, James Cook felt very alone. It was an emotion he’d become all too accustomed to in the years since his wife had taken the children on a holiday to Japan and never returned, leaving him the sole inhabitant of their former family home in Minnesota.

 

“I was alone in our family’s home,” Cook says. “Alone with our children’s rooms just as they left them on July 13, 2014. My location was different, but the feelings of being all alone were the same.”

Meanwhile, at his wife’s family home just across the road, the most important thing in Cook’s life — whether or not he would be reunited with his children — was being determined in his absence. It was Sept. 13, 2016, and after years of seemingly endless court motions, filings, petitions, decisions and appeals in both the U.S. and Japan, finally, in theory at least, he would have his children — two pairs of twins, now aged 9 and 14 — returned to him.

 

Through the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction, Cook had successfully petitioned to have his children returned to their home in the United States and a “return order” had been issued by the Osaka High Court. However, the children’s mother, whose name is being withheld out of consideration for the children, was still refusing to hand the children over, so the case had moved to the final “direct enforcement” phase.

 

The day before, Cook and his mother, who had come with him to Japan to help with the children, met with officials from the Japanese Central Authority (JCA), the Foreign Ministry agency responsible for handling Hague-related matters, at Nara District Court to formulate a strategy to ensure the handover of the children.

 

“Maps of streets and the neighborhood with locations of each group were displayed on the large conference table in the NDC conference room,” Cook recalls. “It looked very well planned and gave me a sense of hope that we might be successful.”

 

Cook and his mother departed their hotel in Osaka before dawn to make the 5:25 a.m. train that would take them, accompanied by their lawyers, to Gakuen-mae Station in Nara.

 

At a rendezvous point, Cook’s party met with JCA officials, got into a van and waited for instructions. Shortly after, a call came through to Cook’s attorney that Nara court enforcement officers had approached the house and confirmed that Cook’s wife and the four children were present. At 6:55 a.m. they entered the building.

 

While Cook and his mother waited in the van, a total of 17 people were now present at the Cook’s wife property just down the street: Cook’s wife, the four children, their Japanese grandparents, two police officers, Cook’s two attorneys, a JCA official, two JCA-appointed psychologists, a Nara court bailiff and two officials from the U.S. consulate in Osaka.

 

At around 8 a.m., Cook’s attorney delivered the news that the children were very upset and did not want to see him, although later they did agree to see Cook’s mother. Cook was left alone in the van with his thoughts.

 

At 10 a.m., Cook’s mother returned looking “very traumatized,” but he still believed that finally, his turn to see the children must have arrived. “My emotions were welling up and I was putting on my emotional armor in preparation. As I looked up to find my way out of the van, I was stopped by a sad look on my attorney’s face. She told me our children still refused to see me and that NDC officers had called off enforcement already. I was a block away for three hours from my children, waiting for my turn. I was in shock and just sat in my seat.”

 

Shackled by legal limits

Three years have passed since Japan became a signatory to the Hague Convention, which is designed to ensure the timely return of children to their country of residence after abduction by one parent to another member country.

 

The Foreign Ministry’s Hague Convention Division is quick to point out that of the requests to repatriate children from Japan made in the first two years after signing the convention, about 90 percent have been resolved. But the details of how these cases were “resolved” are less clear, as judgments are not published and the ministry will not comment on specific cases.

 

According to the ministry, of the 68 requests to return children to a foreign country under the convention in the past three years, 18 have resulted in returns. Twelve more requests were “dismissed,” 19 have been “settled not to return the child to a foreign state” and another 19 cases are still open. In other words, just under 30 percent of requests for the return of children made in the past three years have resulted in children leaving Japan.

 

The ministry confirmed that in two cases during the first two years of Japan having signed the Hague, direct enforcement was carried out. It added that there had been a “limited number of cases in which the children’s release has not been achieved” through direct enforcement, without offering exact figures. Based on these unsuccessful attempts, the Hague Convention Division said by email, “We will keep monitoring these cases and continue to review our implementation of the Hague Convention closely as necessary.”

 

In its 2016 Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction, the U.S. government concluded that “Japan failed to comply with its obligations under the Hague Abduction Convention in the area of enforcement of return orders.” Citing a case in which a Japanese return order issued in early 2015 was still unresolved by the end of the year, the report raises concern that there may be “a systemic flaw in Japan’s ability to enforce return orders.”

 

Bruce Gherbetti, a director with the Kizuna Child-Parent Reunion nonprofit organization, believes that failed direct enforcement procedures are inevitable considering the legal limitations placed on officials charged with carrying them out.

 

“They are following … Japanese domestic law, which is tied to the Hague Convention, and they are doing everything within their power, but their power is so extremely limited that … they are either requesting of the taking parent or requesting of the abducted child that they come voluntarily,” he explains. “So it is essentially asking permission of the kidnapper in order to enforce the return order. I mean it is a court order, yet they are begging and pleading.”

 

Under domestic legislation introduced to help Japanese authorities implement Hague returns, the only physical contact permitted is for a court bailiff to restrain the abducting parent if he or she tries to stop the child from voluntarily leaving.

 

Last year, the justice minister asked an advisory panel to look into revising the Civil Execution Law to set down specific procedures for enforcing court orders on the handover of children between divorced parents. The government is expected to submit a bill based on the committee’s findings next year.

 

However, Colin P.A. Jones, a professor at Doshisha Law School in Kyoto, doubts this process will result in more Hague returns. “I think experts expected the enforcement procedures adopted for Hague cases would ultimately become the standard for domestic cases as well. So I don’t expect much more than that. I certainly don’t expect it to result in any improvements in enforcement of Hague return orders,” Jones says. “Absent a significant change of policy — starting to impose criminal sanctions for noncompliance, for example — the basic limits on how to forcefully transfer ‘possession’ of a child without harming the child physically or emotionally will always apply, and taking parents will continue to be able to effectively use the children as ‘human shields’ against the judicial process.”

 

Time is on the abductor’s side

Gherbetti believes time is a critical factor in abduction cases, and this issue is at the heart of Japan’s failure to successfully return abducted children.

 

The Hague treaty “calls for six weeks of adjudication because they don’t want the child held outside their habitual residence longer than that,” he says.

 

Gherbetti says that although the international standard for Hague returns tends to be closer to six months than six weeks, in Japan the process often takes considerably longer — around 18 months or more — giving the abducting parent time to bond with the children and acclimatize them to their unfamiliar new surroundings.

 

Gherbetti blames an over-emphasis in Japan on the mediation portion of the convention for drawing out the process.

 

“So, similar to their domestic system, they try to have an amicable resolution,” he argues. “They much prefer mediation and an agreed-upon solution than an actual court order.”

 

Article 13 of the Hague Convention outlines situations where signatory states are not bound to order the return of a child. One such situation outlined in Clause B of the article is when “there is a grave risk that his or her return would expose the child to physical or psychological harm or otherwise place the child in an intolerable situation.”

 

When crafting domestic legislation to handle Hague cases, Japan’s lawmakers “came up with a document that allows them to greatly expand the 13B grave-risk category, and they have created a number of loopholes that ensure they don’t actually have to be in compliance with the convention,” Gherbetti says. “The ‘grave risk of return’ is originally intended for situations where you have a child abuser — you are not going to return a child to someone who has physically or emotionally, etc., abused that child and there is clear evidence of such. To say that someone has habituated to the new environment doesn’t fall under the original intention of 13B. That is for certain.”

 

Parental alienation syndrome

On Sept. 15, two days after the unsuccessful attempt to enforce the return order in the Cook case, a second direct enforcement attempt was carried out at his estranged wife’s house.

This time, Cook’s two youngest children were away on a school camping trip, but Cook was allowed into the house on the condition he would not take the children back to the U.S. that day. Cook says he spoke to his two older sons from a distance, although did not actually see them, as they were hidden elsewhere in the house.

 

Cook says the boys called out “You’re not my father anymore,” “I don’t want to know you” and “Can’t you see we are happy here and don’t want anything to do with you anymore?”

 

Cook believes his wife and her family deliberately turned the children against him, a classic case of parental alienation syndrome. He also thinks they coached his children to make these types of statements, which are similar to those they used in interviews with court officials during the mediation process.

 

Noriko Odagiri, a professor of clinical psychology at Tokyo International University, says that although she is unable to comment on specific cases, the risk of children who are victims of parental abduction developing parental alienation syndrome is very high, and children up to the age of 12 are especially vulnerable.

 

Odagiri says this condition, which she calls a form of “brainwashing,” develops due to the material circumstances the child is forced into, and also the behavior and attitudes of the taking parent. She adds that it is a violation of the will of the child. “The child has no choice because they are dependent on the alienating parent both financially and emotionally,” Odagiri says. “They come to believe the alienating parent is the best parent and they can’t live without them.”

 

Odagiri believes this is a form of child abuse that can have a serious, long-term negative impact on mental health that can remain through adulthood. “When they grow older they recognize the whole map of their life and what happened to them as a child,” she says.

 

Cook’s wife failed to comply with a Minnesota court order to surrender the children’s passports to the U.S. Consulate in Osaka by April 7 and release them into Cook’s care by April 23. Cook flew to Japan and was present at the consulate in the hope that he would be reunited with his children. But again, he left alone.

 

 

Cook is appealing a decision made by the Osaka High Court in February to revoke the earlier judgment granting him the return of his children, based on its opinion that Cook lacks the means to support the children in the U.S. He was granted the right by that court to take his appeal to Japan’s Supreme Court and is now preparing arguments.

 

“I am a loving parent and a loving parent never gives up, never gives in, never manipulates their children and, above all, recognizes that their children possess the same human rights as they do,” he says. “Children are not property, children love both their parents and a part of a child dies when they are denied the other parent.”

 

The Japan Times made a number of attempts to contact Cook’s wife for comment by telephone but she could not be reached, and no replies to emails sent to her address were received. An attempt was also made to reach her through her lawyer, Tomoko Kamikawa. Kamikawa declined to comment and said she was unable to assist with contacting her client, because she was not representing her in relation to her communications with the media.

 

Loving from a distance

Paul Halton’s children were abducted to Japan from the U.K. by his Japanese ex-wife in 2014, a year after the couple divorced. Dual custody of the three children was awarded in the English courts during divorce proceedings.

 

The courts also stipulated that the children should live in the U.K. and placed a travel embargo on the mother taking the children to Japan that applied until the country implemented the Hague Convention. Japan signed the convention on April 1, 2014, and in August of that year the children were abducted. On March 31, 2015, the Osaka Family Court ruled that the children should be returned to the U.K. under the Hague Convention . The mother’s appeal was rejected three months later and a return order was issued by the courts.

 

After Halton’s ex-wife continued to refuse to comply and return the children to the U.K., an order for “indirect enforcement” was carried out. Indirect enforcement, a mandatory part of the Hague return process, involves attempting to make the abductor pay fines to the other parent, usually ¥5,000 per day per child. This step must be carried out before direct enforcement is attempted. Halton says he never received any money from the mother, as she was able to avoid making payments by claiming welfare and thereby obtaining beneficiary status.

 

 

 

With two years having passed since he’d seen his children — now 12, 10 and 7 — Halton decided to take the next step and proceed with direct enforcement. This was attempted on Nov. 29 and Dec. 1 of last year.

 

Officials and social workers were unsuccessful in executing the return order. However, they did manage to persuade his ex-wife to let Halton take the children for a day trip to Universal Studios Japan in Osaka a few days later, which he says was “a fantastic moment to spend some time with the children.”

 

A very special day for the four of them wrapped up at a branch of the children’s favorite Italian chain restaurant near the drop-off spot.

 

“Dinner again was wonderful, full of memories”, Paul recalls. But, he says, “I could now feel every second pass as drop-off time approached.”

 

Halton says he was tempted not to hand the children back at the end of their day trip, as he had the backing of both the Japanese and British governments to legally return home to the U.K. with his children. “But what would that do to my children?” he asks. “I couldn’t force them, rip them from their mother and for a second time turn their world upside down.”

 

Halton says that since this visit the situation has improved a little. Skype chat sessions have resumed, and gifts and cards to the children in Japan seem to get through, but the situation is still very fragile and out of his control. He and his ex-wife are supposed to be negotiating long-term, fixed arrangements about contact with his children, but no real progress is being made.

 

“Since I’ve reached the end of the current legal road, I fear that the children will have to grow up without me in their lives,” Halton says. “I hang on to the hope that one day my ex-wife will agree that the children and I can visit each other, at least in that I will have a few weeks a year to help them grow and learn, as a father should be doing.

 

“It’s a horrible reality to think that I will miss my three kids’ childhoods,” he says. “The next time I see them could be when they’re old enough to break free from their mother and independently seek me out, by which time they will be adults potentially with careers and families of their own. We’ll know each other but we won’t be close as nature intended.

 

 

 

“The likelihood is that they will remain in Japan for the rest of their lives and so even my unborn grandchildren will be distant and possibly unknown to me,” Halton says. “This is a thought that haunts my everyday life and I doubt will ever fade.”

 

Halton’s father, Richard, says that although parental child abduction hurts the children most of all, and then the left-behind parent, many others who were connected to the children are also deeply affected.

 

“Both I and Grandma find that it isn’t the same with these three small faces missing, and I know that other family members feel the same. The other children, their cousins, wonder where they’ve gone and why. We all feel a pervading sense of loss. We know that the children are safe but we never see them. Are they truly happy?” he asks.

 

Richard adds that the situation is made far worse in the case of parental child abductions because the “family that tries to correct the wrongs done has to contend with official indifference and inaction” and also bear a considerable financial burden in the hope of seeing the children again. “We are supporting our son Paul emotionally and financially in his quest, but the system is loaded in favor of the abductor and we have all come to the conclusion that The Hague Convention is an expensive waste of time.”

 

What do you think, Phi? My lawyer says I can claim monetary compensation from your mother for her refusal to allow us to see each other. She says, despite the High Court & The Family Court advocating visitation, neither court will enforce the ruling. But what is money compared to time with you? Nothing can compare… I love you… XoXo.

 

WICKED WISDOM

“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

 

Saturday, June 10th 2017

 

Hey Phi, this next chapter in Dad’s life, can only be written after the fact. Sorry, we haven’t written for so long, but one of your Dad’s best mates, Tim Lawson, yes, “Funny Timmy” as you used to refer to him has been hospitalized here in Hong Kong. Tim & Dad first met in year 7 at Aquinas College and soon after became best mates. Along with Hayd, the three of us have been pretty much inseparable ever since. When Tim & Dad were about 14, our parents formed a friendship, that they too, have continued to this day. Pat & Pete, Deirdre (Nandee) & Kerry (Pa). In our early twenties, Tim & Dad lived with one another in Nippon for five months. Timmy visited us in Japan, Egypt & Honkers, too. In recent years, Tim traveled with Milton to Egypt, then the three of us visited Jordan together.

 

Anyway, our Tim was visiting Cc & Dad after a business trip to China. He arrived in HK on Saturday, May 13th looking like death warmed up. That first afternoon, I met him at his hotel, also in Causeway Bay, he looked grey and exhausted. He needed rest, so he bedded down for the evening. Sunday morning, Dad waited for Tim in a nearby café for three hours. He didn’t call, so I figured he was catching up on some well-earned sleep. Later in the day, Toro & Dad picked him up. He was wheezy, having trouble breathing, and didn’t look any better. We jumped in a taxi for the short trip back to our flat. Tim dozed, watched a little footy, and sipped a few sips of Cc’s vege soup. Cc wanted him to go to hospital, then & there, but Funny Timmy was determined to wait until he got back to Australia on the Tuesday.

 

Monday, May 15th, Cc had tried to contact Tim numerous times. After no response, she went to the hotel and demanded to see him. Within minutes, Cc called me & I rushed to his hotel from school. He was a mess, but fortunately didn’t argue too much about the need for urgent medical attention. We phoned the concierge for a wheelchair, then we rushed him to the Adventist Hospital in a taxi. Within minutes they had Uncle Tim on oxygen, then they moved him to the Special Care Unit (SCU), but after just two hours, they moved him to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Initially, he was diagnosed with severe pneumonia and influenza B, but they also suspected he had legionnaires disease, which later turned out to be the case. Cc & Dad stayed on the bench in the waiting room outside ICU that first night, spending much of the night/next day relaying news to his family back home.

 

Fortunately, Tim’s brother, Marc, was able to board a flight the very next morning and arrived in Hong Kong Tuesday evening. Our amazing C took much of the week off to assist Marc… I can’t wait to introduce you to this amazing woman. Marc was terrific, very positive & upbeat despite his brother’s condition. It was comforting to have Marc with us beside Tim because his mental & emotional state had been adversely affected by the illnesses poisoning his body. Marc stayed with us, which turned out to be a great move. Somehow, we laughed, and despite Tim’s critical state, Cc, Marc & Dad got through a crazy ten days together. Marc & Cc spent much of the day at Tim’s side, or in the waiting room outside ICU, while Dad arrived every afternoon after school. By night, Marc or Cc cooked, then Marc & Dad sat down and watched an episode of the BBC’s Luther each evening. On the weekends, Dad & Marc would run. All the while, Tim’s condition was fluctuating, but never really progressing.

 

By Saturday, June 3rd Pat & Pete’s (Tim’s parents) stint by Tim’s side had come & gone. After Marc left, Tim’s parents took the baton. That particular Saturday, P&P left early-early, for their return trip to Melbourne. Marc had stayed ten days, and had been with his brother when Tim was put into an induced coma. His temperature ranged from 34 – 42 degrees Celsius, his heart rate rode the rollercoaster, too, and all the while dozens of tubes pumped medication into his sickly body. By the time Tim’s parents arrived, he’d had a tracheostomy for weeks. A tracheostomy is a hole punched through the throat into the windpipe to assist the patient’s breathing. After ten days in an induced coma, he was slowly brought back to consciousness. The doctors had been worried about his long term mental state, but after a few days, despite not being able to verbally communicate, I could see my mate still had some of his famous sense of humor left. He was still fighting.

 

The morning Tim’s parents departed, C waited for them in front of their hotel, but missed their departure by just minutes. Despite their obvious stress, it was wonderful to be with them once again. Pat & Pete dined with us several times, we watched quite a few footy games together, including a memorable win by Pete’s Melbourne Demons, and they joined Dad & Cc to celebrate my 49th birthday. Cc created an awesome four course meal with the highlights being pork glazed in an orange sauce, and individual chocolate soufflés.

 

That same Saturday that Tim’s parents left, we met Tim’s sister, Kate, at the same hotel it had all started at. Treen, Kate’s high school friend had accompanied her.

 

And right now, I’m sitting outside the Special Care Unit (SCU) waiting for Tim to wake from a nap. The good news is that he’s recovered a good deal, enough to be moved from ICU. Jacinta, Tim’s sister in law will arrive soon and take the baton from Kate.

 

Sorry Phi, I haven’t written recently, but as you’ve just read, it’s been a hectic month here in Honkers. In fact, it was just last night that Tim was finally moved from ICU after almost four weeks. All along it had been touch & go, just hoping he was going to finally recover.

 

Now that things have settled down with our Timmy, this morning C and Dad walked with Toro at 7am. We enjoyed a quiet & relaxing coffee at Pacific Coffee courtesy of one of my student’s gifted vouchers. Then Dad did some shopping at Tesco (UK) and found Aussie ribeye steak for 50% off. I bought three, just in case you drop in to say hello to Dad – if you don’t arrive, I’m sure Cint will happily eat your steak.

 

After a bit of a core workout & a shower, I headed to Quarry Bay with more gift vouchers from my students. Lucky teacher, lucky dad, lucky Ged! You see, yesterday was my final day with a gorgeous grade 4 class. A few of my kids had banded together & passed on 1300HKD of sports vouchers to spend! So, I bought a pair of Asics runners (a man can never have too many runners!), two polo shirts, and of course, a pair of running shorts. Yipee!

 

Wow, just checked in on Tim – he’s sleeping naturally, and looks calm, so I’ll keep writing to you. Yesterday, I met C here at the Adventist Hospital. We met upstairs at ICU, his last day in intensive care. We just had a short visit with Tim because he seemed so tired. Then C made her famous Japanese fried chicken, karage with ginger & garlic, but sadly Kate couldn’t make our dinner date. Wednesday, Thursday & Friday I arrived at school early and ran the stairs (seven flights), did my 100 crunches & push-ups, chin-ups, dips and planks. I’m keen to get together with a group of teachers next week, too. Wanna join us? I’ll race you up the stairs!

Wednesday, the G4 team went to Middle Earth (really it’s the yacht club – you have to take a boat out to this cool island). That same evening I took Tim’s suitcase to him. Well, what do you know, according to the nurse, Tim has risen… talk soon, Phi.

 

Love Dad… XoXo…

“When one door of happiness closes, another opens, but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us.” Helen Keller

 

 

Thursday, June 15th 2017

 

G’day Bella,

 

Today was Dad’s last day of school for the academic year 2016/17. Not much to do, as all my classroom supplies have been packed. This week we haven’t had any students as we’re readying to transfer to the Tai Tam campus for the next academic year. This campus, Repulse Bay, will take 12 months to be extended/renovated; we’re moving from nine classes per grade level to ten classes! Crazy, huh?!

 

This morning before school, Dad & Cint had a run in the rain at Victoria Park. Dad did his regular old man interval training, then jumped on the #40 mini bus for Repulse Bay arriving at a leisurely 9am. HKIS put on breakfast, and here I am in my classroom writing to you.

 

Oh, last Saturday, before I forget, the Mighty Blues (second last on the premiership ladder) knocked off the top team, Greater Western Sydney. I’m surprised you didn’t hear me cheering from Tokyo! It was ACE!

 

Now, fancy joining C & Dad in Spain & France this summer? In a moment, I will try and book our accommodation in Paris and scout out a rent-a-car for Bilbao and the Basque area, Spain.

 

This evening, after we visit Tim (we’re hopeful Tim can finally fly back to Australia with Jacinta this weekend) for the final time, C & Dad will fly to Madrid, Spain. We’ll make our way into downtown Madrid, then catch a bus to Toledo, only about an hour from Madrid. Our first three nights will be in Toledo, then we have a night in Madrid. From Madrid we will go north to Bilbao and the Basque mountainous country where we’ll meet Sonia (formerly from Saint Maur, Yokohama, but now teaching in Ho Chi Min, Vietnam), Yuki, and their son, Andoni. The plan is, we’ll travel with them for six days and then make our way farther north into France, and finally Paris. Sounds grand, don’t you agree?

 

What do you say, Phi? Sound like a plan for three? C’mon Phi, let’s do this SOON!

 

Love Dad… XoXo.

WICKED WISDOM

“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy.’ They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.” John Lennon

 

 

Friday, June 16th 2017

 

Phi, we’re in Spain! It’s 5.12pm in Toledo = Hong Kong 11.12pm, and I guess, midnight in Tokyo. You must be tucked up in bed, dreaming of better days. So, Spain! Soccer, bullfights, tapas, wine, sangria, Desigual, Zara, TOLEDO! We flew into Madrid at 8am this morning and made our way to Toledo by midday. Spain is offering us a toasty 40 degrees Celsius. What a welcome! Just woke from a jetlag induced two-hour nap, and want to sleep more, but will be better for it if we can stay awake until this evening. C is still semi snoozing.

 

Jetlag sucks, but it also brings memory after memory of you, my Ophelia. I remember you settling into Nandee & Pa’s at Croydon, so tired but gallant after your 10 hour journey from Narita (12 hours if we had to fly by Sydney). So, we’re staying in a cool hotel right in the heart of the old town/fort of Toledo. Our accommodation is called, Hotel Carlos V. Wish you were here beside me, sipping water, contemplating two weeks of Spain & France.

 

Right, time for a wander around the streets. As the sun is still quite high, it’s still very hot, but there’s enough shade to explore the centuries old cobblestone streets. Will write later – I’m sure there will be much to share… XoXo.

 

Tonight, we went to a lovely tapas bar/restaurant. Of course, we arrived early, 7pm, but as the restaurant didn’t open until 8pm, we sat by the bar and enjoyed a cold beer. Then, we still had 30 minutes to wait for a table, so we enjoyed a large icy glass of sangria. The restaurant was downstairs in a sort of cave. We ordered a platter of assorted tapas. Perfect! Scrumdiliumcious! By 9pm, our tired old bodies were ready to rest, so we waltzed back to the hotel, still daylight, and still 30-something degrees. The streets are divine, Phi. Narrow alleys, priceless views, romantic vistas, uneven cobblestones, rustic window frames, sublime tall glasses of sangria, historic churches, delicious aromas from kitchens, oh, Ophelia, you’re going to love Toledo!

 

Time for bed, Phi… XoXo… Dad & C.

 

WICKED WISDOM

“Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear.” George Addair

 

 

Wednesday, June 21st 2017

 

Hey Phi. Dad’s had his morning run, and figures he has 30 minutes to write to you. So, it’s “Good Morning” from Santurtzi (Santurce), Basque Country. We’re in a seaside neighborhood of Bilbao, in northern Spain. We arrived aboard a bus from Madrid about 6pm last night and made our way by metro to Santurtzi where we met Sonia & Yuki. After a couple of drinks in a nearby bar, we walked to Sonia’s parents’ place, where we met the 8 month old Andoni. We also met Sonia’s brother, an elite marathon runner with a 2 hour 29 minute marathon time! Unbelievable! He’s a physio too, so maybe he can help me with my morning heel pain.

After a delightful get-to-know-you chat with Sonia’s family, Sonia took us on a stroll through local delicacies, TAPAS! First stop was fried ‘n’ crispy piggy ears. Dad ate all of his and then some of C’s! All washed down with a malty beverage, beer. Four beers, four tapas, only 8 euro!!! Next stop was a deep fried egg atop a piece of baguette, this time with a dry white Spanish wine. Four more tapas, four more adult drinks, only 8.60 euro!!! Our final stop, C had anchovies atop a piece of baguette, and Dad sampled ham & cheese on a piece of baguette. By then it was after 10.30pm, and well past Dad’s bedtime. What a night in this casual, friendly village!

So, Saturday (day 02 in Spain) even before sunrise, Dad went running before 41 degrees Celsius hit Toledo. I ran around the outskirts of the city’s great walls. Much of my run followed the river that is presumably Toledo’s. Gradually, the sun showed itself, promising to burn any green out of the nearby fields. Toledo is glorious, and I had it all to myself. Alone, I carved my way up steep city streets reaching magnificent viewpoints. Fortunately, I took my phone, so I managed a few happy snaps when the sun rose to bathe Toledo in gold. Perhaps, it was my favorite run of all time. I don’t know, but a pair of shorts, t-shirt & running shoes is all one ever needs on the first morning in a new part of the world. Discover the world while it sleeps. Please, Phi, we have to do this one day soon. Promise me you’ll live every day as if it’s your last. The world owes us nothing – everything is up to us.

A fine breakfast was included in the hotel deal, so fatten up we did on fresh fruit & bread, and coffee! Our first full day in Toledo started at the information centre, then we basically lost ourselves in the narrow streets taking it all in. By midafternoon with the temperatures screaming 40+ degrees, we retreated to Hotel Carlos V for our siesta. Saturday evening, we tried a local tapas bar, Santa Fe (forgettable), then we wandered farther and found something much, much better.

Sunday, was a repeat of Saturday, only better. I managed to convince Cc to join me at sunrise, and though she didn’t jog up the hills with me, we travelled far & wide making the most of the mild morning breeze. After our 90 minute walk, we again enjoyed a sizable, but well-earned breakfast. Prosciutto, cheese & olive oil of fresh crusty bread!

Later in the day, C bought a beautiful handcrafted red leather bag, more exploring, an afternoon siesta to beat the heat, and then we dined at a local tapas bar as the sun set. Delicious! And the large glasses of icy sangria at the end of the day… OH! Perhaps, we should retire in Spain… will you visit us?

 

Monday morning, we took the bus back to Madrid. We stayed near Opera, Le Latin & Calle, a very cool downtown area. At only 37 degrees, it felt surprisingly mild compared to Toledo. Weird, a dry 37 really did feel so much more comfortable than Hong Kong’s 100% humidity and 34 degrees. Through the streets of Madrid, we walked and walked and walked around all the tourist sites – parks, museums, galleries, main shopping drag, palaces, cathedrals, etc.

Love & more love, Dad… XoXo…

 

“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” Plato

 

 

Sunday, June 25th 2017

 

Hola Bella. C & Dad are on a bus from Bilbao, Spain to Bayonne, France. We said goodbye to Yuki, Andoni & Sonia this afternoon after meeting them for our final tapas in Sonia’s hometown, Santurtzi. This morning, Dad and C took a long walk south along the river. We took a cable bridge ferry across to the other side. The ferry-cable is a World Heritage monument, constructed more than a century ago and obviously still in operation.

I learned and used my Spanish for, “May I have a coffee with milk?” “Un café con leche.” And for C’s espresso, “Un café solo.” The locals are so friendly… really, I think we could retire here. We sat in this lovely little busy café and enjoyed our coffee with pastry.

 

Last night we took Mr. Ortiz and Carman, Sonia, Yuki & Andoni out for a “thank you” dinner. They took us to a seafood restaurant where we had mussels, squid, octopus, cheese, and of course, wine.

 

Yesterday morning, after my run and chin-ups, we walked to Sonia’s parents’ place and Sonia took us out for a day exploring the Basque Country. We drove to the quaint village of Gernika. It was overcast, with showers much of the day; but they didn’t dampen our mood. First stop after tourist information, was Euskal Herria Museum. It gave us a great insight into Basque history & culture. Thereafter, we enjoyed Gernika’s famous tapas and wine. We learned about Picasso’s Guernica; an enormous painting (the original we saw in Madrid) depicting the Germans “practice” invasion of Gernica in 1937.

 

On the way home from Gernika, we stopped at the Bilbao outlets. Dad & C bought you a Desigual purse we think you’ll like. C bought a cool Desigual top, Dad a Desigual shirt, and a cool pair of red strides.

On C’s b’day, June 23, we took the bus to San Sebastian. We walked around the old town, down by the docks, the beach, the heads, and climbed the hill overlooking San Sebastian. The tapas were divine, and by 11.30am, we’d already had our first wine… didn’t even feel guilty! Getting use to this European food & wine scene! That evening, we met Sonia & Yuki in Bilbao for C’s birthday dinner, paella. Delicious!

On the 22nd, we took the metro into Bilbao, and started our tour with the Guggenhein Museum of Art. Exceptional. In the afternoon, we wandered around Bilbao’s old town in 42 degrees Celsius, then that evening C & Dad did our own tapas crawl back in Santurtzi. We LOVE tapas! Especially, at these prices!

 

The evening we arrived in Santurtzi, Sonia & Yuki met us at a local bar, then brought us to Sonia’s grandparents’ flat. Here we stayed for the next four nights. That first evening in Santurtzi was magic. Son took us on a tapas crawl, starting with piggy ears, then a hardboiled egg tempura and placed on a slice of baguette. They were the two most memorable tapas, but there was also prosciutto, calamari, cheese and other Spanish delicacies.

 

Oh, Phi, I think we’re in heaven! Love Dad… XoXo…

 

Wednesday, June 28th 2017

 

How’s my teenager? Hello from Bordeaux!

 

Monday afternoon we arrived in Bordeaux from Bayonne. Yesterday we took an eventful day trip to Saint Emilion. From Bordeaux, we took trams & trains to the outskirts of this ancient fairytale village. From the station, we walked a few kilometers up to Saint Emilion, another World Heritage site. We rented bicycles from the tourist office for 18 euro each – they were good bikes, too. All day, the heavy clouds threatened to dampen our enthusiasm, but for the most part we were very lucky. Just before the heavens opened we rode into Chateau Haut Veyrac, where Camille who had spent two months working in the Yarra Valley, Victoria, gave us a delightful personal winery tour.

 

With map in hand, we took a scenic route around the wineries, churches, and chateaus of Saint Emilion. Public transport in France is a little like Australia – we almost didn’t get to SE as the train was 45 minutes late, then stopped several times turning our 30 minute trip into a two hour trip. On the way back, things were much the same – we had to wait 90 minutes for the train to arrive at the Saint Emilion station. Oh, well, such is life!

 

Last night we dined at Raviolon, a restaurant the owner of our Air BNB suggested. It was good, but not fantastic. Today at 1.55pm we head to Tours by bus. Wanna come?

 

Love Dad… XoXo…

 

 

Friday, June 30th 2017

 

Bonjour Mademoiselle Ophelia Hirakawa-Morice,

 

Another installment of memories comes to an end. June 2017… what are you up to, Phi? Where are you as you’re reading Dad’s thoughts?

 

Where’s my Dad? you ask. We’ll, we’re on a bus from Tours to the City of Lights, Paris. We’ve just spent two delightful nights in Tours, a charming city we are keen to return to… with you, Ophelia. Wednesday night around 7.30pm we arrived in Tours, found our lovely apartment, and headed off to the town centre for Thai. It was great to finally eat rice again.

Thursday, we met a small group at the Tours Tourist Information Centre, and headed for a full day of chateaus. The first chateau, Chateau du Clos Luce, was home to Leonardo da Vinci’s final three years of life. What a rock star! I can’t quite believe I knew so little about the great man’s engineering genius. In his study, workshop and the glorious gardens there were models and descriptions of his genius.

Next up, was Chateau du Amboise. Then it was onto the massive Chateau du Chambord. As we arrived, heavy black rain clouds threatened to explode, but they held off, making for some grand photos.

Finally, we arrived at Chateau de Chenonceau, surrounded by 32km of walls, enclosing forests of deer, boar and loads of pheasants. This was my favorite, particularly from a power perspective, as several women, beginning with Diane de Poitiers were the influential instigators in its creation. Phi, you might be interested in researching Catherine de Medici 1519 – 1589, or my favorite, Simone Menier 1881 – 1972. During WW1, the chateau’s matron, Simone, cared for more than 2000 wounded soldiers, and during WW2 she worked with the Resistance.

 

Phi, kick like a girl!

Love Dad… XoXo…

2017 January – March

Tuesday, January 3rd 2017

 

Hey Ophelia Hirakawa-Morice (Ophelia Ishijima),

CIMG3793

Remember this pic?

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.

CIMG3794.JPG

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.

CIMG3795.jpg

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.

 

MEMORIES

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.

CIMG3796.jpg

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.

CIMG3797

Who’s happy with Nandee?

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…

 

WICKED WISDOM

“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” Vince Lombardi

 

 

Saturday, January 14th 2017

 

G’day Ophelia,

 

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.

CIMG3798

You & Masako Chan.

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.

 

Dad… XoXo.

 

BRILLIANT

“Don’t let what you can’t do stop you from doing what you can do.” John Wooden

 

 

Thursday, January 19th 2017

 

Hey Gorgeous,

 

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!

CIMG3799.JPG

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.

CIMG3800

With your G3 buddy.

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.

CIMG3801

With your Pa, Luca & Allie.

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?

CIMG3802

Atop Mount Kanuki in Numz.

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.

 

FAST FACT

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.

CIMG3803

Would love to make your bento, again…

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:

 

1

SEAWEED FLOORBOARDS

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.

CIMG3804

Class toban.

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.”

CIMG3805

Camp toban.

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.

CIMG3806

Enjoying the bread you baked at camp.

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?”

 

“Dunno.”

 

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.

CIMG3807

Curry rice on camp. Do you like the t-shirt we designed together?

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

 

Hey Ophelia,

 

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:

 

2

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.

CIMG3808

Happy times. Back at Kinder.

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.”

CIMG3809

Dress-ups with Nandee & Aunty Den in Melbourne.

“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

 

Hey Phi,

 

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!

CIMG3810

Taking Luca for a ride with Pa.

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…

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

TUCK

FRUMP

 

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.

CIMG3811.JPG

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,

Ged… XoXo…

 

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.

CIMG3812

Gotta love pink!

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:

3

DEATH TICKLE

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.

CIMG3813

Lovin’ Melbourne with your cousins & neighborhood friends.

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.

CIMG3814

Dad’s b’day.

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.

 

FAST FACT

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

 

Howdy Cowdy,

 

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…

CIMG3815

Your b’day. Check out the cake!

FAST FACT

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

 

Hey Phi,

 

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!!!

CIMG3816

Gotta luv your cuz, Luca.

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

 

Hey Possum,

 

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:

4

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.

CIMG3817

You & Luca.

“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.

CIMG3818

Our trip to Hokkaido together. Just the two of us…

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.

CIMG3819

B’day lass.

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.

CIMG3820

Su & Leo arrive in Numazu.

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!

CIMG3821.JPG

Writing Xmas cards together.

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…

 

FAST FACT

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.

CIMG3822

Another horsey b’day!

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:

5

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.

CIMG3823

Rach & Rich saying goodbye in Numazu.

“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.

CIMG3824.jpg

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.

CIMG3825.jpg

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.

CIMG3826.jpg

OCTOBER – DECEMBER 2016

These letters are for you Phi, and anyone who loves you…

I love this drawing, Phi. Thank you!

There are always two sides to every story…

 

Sunday, October 2nd 2016

 

Hey Bella, how’s my daughter doing in her birthday month? Fourteen – fantabulous! Do you have a bit of Hermione in you? The grace & silk of Australia’s 400m track star, Cathy Freeman? The courage & audacity of Rosa Parks? The soul & spunk of Michelle Obama? I’m sure you do, in so many more ways than me. I can’t wait to chat with you about these amazing women, their drive & passion, and what it means for us.

This was the Xmas letter we sent to Nandee & Pa with your drawing (above)

And your Dad, what’s he up to? Well, I may just be a distant memory in your mind, but I’m not the Dad who ran away. I’ve been here the whole time, trying again, and again, and again to communicate with your mother about visitation. I don’t know what else I can do. I’m not the Dad who has forsaken you, nor forgotten you. Even so, most people I know here in Hong Kong don’t know about you. Mostly I feel it’s better that way. From afar, they would never guess that I am the father to the most beautiful soul in the world. Ophelia Hirakawa-Morice, my daughter. It makes me so proud to write that. I am so very proud of you, no matter what has been forced between us.

Look what Pa still carries in his wallet…

Sometimes I feel like dust from the ground up. Am I living a lie by not telling people that care for me about you? As much as possible, I try to block out the many tortuous episodes at the Family Court of Japan. So many years of doubt, ridicule, and emotional flogging. The shadow of that past is always over me. So, I gave your mother space in the hope that she will not see me as a threat. The space to love you unconditionally, to be comfortable with who she is, but most importantly, the time to put you first. Are things easier this way? Is it better you don’t know my perspective, my story? There are always two side to the truth – the torment of a missing daughter? Do you think I would ever leave you if I had a choice?

 

Be angry, be frustrated, be emotional, but don’t be ashamed of your feelings. You have every reason to wonder. Wonder what happened to your cousins, your uncles, your aunts, your Nandee & Pa.

 

Each year, as you slip by my life with no contact, alone without you, the tears come. It’s okay to cry; though I choose to cry alone. It’s okay to be afraid; but I have C to protect my soul. I cry every October 15th and every Christmas – your birthday & Xmas hurt the most, but I feel strangely alive after I’ve shed a few tears with you in mind.

Phi, I want you to know it’s not okay to bottle up your emotions and pretend you’re okay all the time. Your mother needs time, but she also needs to know the truth of your heart. What happened between your mother and me has nothing to do with you. You were cruelly used as a pawn, but none of the decisions were made by your heart. Share your feelings with someone you trust, someone who is thoughtful, encouraging, unbiased and wise.

 

In some ways, yes, I am a prisoner to my past. But I have kept my promise. You will always be loved, Phi.

 

Love Dad… XoXo.

 

SOMETHING TO PONDER

Spending time with children is more important than spending money on children.

 

Wednesday, October 5th 2017

 

So B’day Gal,

 

How’s your October shaping up? Have the leaves started to turn their brilliant yellows, browns & oranges in Nippon? Do you still head to the mountains of Nagano to ride horses in the welcome cool of Autumn? Here in Honkers, it’s still 32 – 34 degrees Celsius every day. Relief from the long summer still seems distant. Today we smuggled Toro on the bus (no dogs allowed) and took our Egyptian terrier out to a pop-up dog park. We arrived around 10am, and things were only getting underway, and yet, there were hundreds of dogs doing their doggy thing. Toro had his nails/claws clipped, and the three of us had a professional family photo taken. Toro enjoyed his sniffing, made a friend or two, and even found some grass to wander around on – grass is a scarce commodity here in Hong Kong.

Must go, answer a few parent/school emails, iron some shirts, and bed down.

 

Love Dad… XoXo…

 

YODA, NELSON MANDELLA & THE DALAI LAMA

“Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.” Dalai Lama

 

Saturday, October 8th 2016

 

Hey Possum, how’s trix?

 

Dad ran this morning, and ran home from school twice during the week. How’s your running going? Are you a middle distance ace? How’s your 800m, 1500m, 3000m & 5000 metre times? What about the high jump and 400m hurdles? Now, yes, Saturday, Dad is at school finishing up a million things – clearing my inbox so I can truly enjoy my October Break and spend some quality time with C – write to you a few times too.

 

So Phi, how’s your reading going? Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Roald Dahl, Sharon Creech… who’s your fancy? I’ve been reading Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee. The title has been daring me to read it for years, so yesterday, I started. I’m only on page 21 of Foxlee’s book, but already it has started to speak to me, “And you might think a name is just a name, nothing but a word, but that is not the case. Your name is tacked to you. Where it has joined you, it has seeped into your skin and into your essence and into your soul.” I read these sentences several times Ophelia Hirakawa-Morice – your birth name, your passport name, the name your mother & I chose for you, together. And yet, without consultation, somebody changed your name. Every word in this passage tormented me. Every word brought pain and questions. A name is more than an official paper, more than skin deep, more than words and sounds. How could someone take that from you? It’s your name. It’s you. It’s who you are. Your name is your identity, your heritage, your soul. “So when they plucked my name from me with their spell, it was as heavy as a rock in their hands but as invisible as the wind, and it wasn’t just the memory of my name, but me myself. A tiny part of me that they took and stored away.” Dumfounded. Stupefied. Numbed. Tormented. Twisted. Angry. Why? What do you gain from somebody’s self-motivated actions?

Sorry Phi… I should read more from Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy. Perhaps there’s a happy ending to an unwanted, unexplainable, unwarranted change of name. Have you read it? How does it make you feel? Let’s start a discussion… I love you… XoXo.

 

Dad – loads & loads of hugs & kisses… XoXo…

 

THINGS MONEY & LIES CAN’T BUY

Love, courtesy, trust, integrity, common sense, respect, morals, character, patience, truth – what you say, Phi?

 

WICKED WISDOM

“Always walk through life as though you have something new to learn, and you will.”

Vernon Howard

 

 

Tuesday, October 11th 2016

 

G’day Phi,

 

Less than 100 hours until your fourteenth birthday. What will your fifteenth year as a beautiful bicultural, bilingual person bring? Will the months to come, help you establish an identity that is your birthright? Australian/Japanese, English/Japanese, international wisdom versus ignorant monocultural insensitivity. Or will those who state they have your best interests at heart, continue to push their monologue, their monoculture, their own agenda? Who knows? I guess, you’ve got a pretty good view of how things sit. I want you to know that I will encourage you to embrace both cultures, both families, both languages. I will help you open your eyes, mind & heart to the beauty of multiculturalism, languages, friendship, peace and different perspectives. Embracing your uniqueness is your ticket to true acceptance – those who cannot, or will not acknowledge who you truly are, have no place in your life.

The agony of not knowing how you’re feeling about who you are, pains me. I’m not even a bystander in your life. I have no idea how you’re dealing with these thoughts, pressures, feelings. Are you happy, really happy? Do you sleep, or wake and wonder why, how, when? Who will help me? Are you comfortable in your identity? Can you talk about me? Do you have a best friend who is gracious & encouraging, willing you to be yourself? What’s your relationship like with your step-father? Is he kind, fun & gentle? What about your step-sister, Aya? Are you a good sister to her – considerate, inclusive & generous with your time & patience? And what about your mother – has she grown up? Or as she used to say to me, “It’s like Ophelia has the wisdom and maturity to be my own mother.”

 

I carry the horror & despair of not knowing. I have little choice but to accept the misery of being sidelined without a voice. The frustration and sadness of being ostracized from my own daughter’s life is like a dead-weight around my neck. Without C, my family, and my exercise, and the hope that one day soon we will be reunited, all of this could drag me down, down, down. One after another, the days come, bringing no news of you. Occasionally my C finds a snippet of your life online – a virtual relationship no parent should have to endure. How much longer much we wrestle this cruel fate? The years pass – the first seven years such a joy, with birthday cakes and celebrations together – the past seven years, not even the smoke of a burnt birthday candle.

What if our roles were reversed? What would you do in my position? And were I you, would I have the courage to escape the predicament those in your midst cunningly crafted? To wonder about switching roles, a sad & hopeless distraction I admit, but I still wonder what you would do if you walked in my shoes. Would you write to me as I do you? Knock down the door of the mother who keeps you? Would you continue to fight for our rights to see each other through the court system? A cruel question I know, but I guess you must sometimes wonder too – what’s my Dad doing? A destructive battle of despair I wish upon nobody.

 

At least it’s October Break, a week to recoup and convalesce spent energy. An afternoon nap to relax and a movie past 9pm on a weeknight – Mmm, sounds grand! This morning, your crazy Dad went into school again. Saturday & Sunday, I went into the classroom, too. I put up a new nonfiction/informational reading & writing display, completed loads of marking, checked my students’ writing notebooks, wrote a new class post, and caught up with a thousand emails.

 

Sunday night we went to Sophie & Maurice’s for a few drinks and a catch-up, and guess what? Go on, guess – tomorrow, your cousins, Allie & Chris, arrive in Hong Kong. How good would that be if we could all meet up?!

 

Love & licks,

 

Dad… XoXo…

 

BIRTHDAY WISHES FROM YOUR NANDEE & PA

“Hi GED, can we put a message on your Blog? 15th October. Happy Birthday Ophelia! Have a happy day. We think of you all the time, and we love, love, love you girl. Nandee and Pa. Xoxo.

Sent from K and Dee.”

 

GRACE, EMPATHY & GENEROUS SPIRIT

“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” Albert Einstein

 

 

Sunday, October 16th 2016

 

Happy fourteenth b’day for yesterday Phi. Here’s to you Bella – loads of hugs, warm wishes, beautiful dreams, and a future with people who truly love you… XoXo… I hope you day was magnificent, wonderful, brilliant, fantabulous! You deserve peace kiddo.

Your cousins, Allie & Chris, are here in Hong Kong with your Uncle Rich & Aunty Rach. It’s so wonderfulificent to welcome family into our home. There’s a feeling of warmth, love, respect, joy and understanding. There’s only one thing missing, you. Last night we all sang you happy birthday. Here’s the video: I’m sorry, there’s something wrong with the video – that & your Dad’s tech skills.

And later the same night, Uncle Sean sent a video of his family (your cousins Billie & Luca) singing you another Happy Birthday. Here’s the video: Dad’s crappy tech skills… sorry, can’t convert it to the blog.

Allie & Chris arrived Wednesday, October 12th. Around 7.30pm, Dad went out to the airport on the A11 bus from Causeway Bay. A lot of people were waiting for loved ones to arrive. A part of me imagined I was waiting for you – seeing you run into my arms, and then the two of us did wizzy-dizzes locked together. Did you know Hong Kong is the most visited place on the planet? 26,000,000 visitors every year! It’s the sixth year in a row Honky Town has held the title for the world’s most popular destination; I think Bangkok is next with about 18 million visitors, then Paris.

So back to your cousins. There was a real buzz our first evening together. Rach had brought some fantaslicious cheese from Oz – oh, the joy of scrumptious cheese, good company, good wine! In our tiny home in Causeway Bay, overlooking Victoria Harbour, with big smiles, your cousins bedded down in the living area. And despite the heat, Toro snuggled close. Wish you were here…

 

Thursday we took a taxi to the top of Wung Nai Chung Gap Pass, then started our hike up & over Violet Hill (altitude 440 metres). Chris was a superstar, hiking strong and positive. He was a classic, focused on counting each and every step to the top. A hiking machine! We had grand views from the top of our first peak. Christo & Dad had a little fun building a shrine at the top awaiting the troops. Then we hiked down toward Repulse Bay (near Dad’s campus). From Repulse Bay, we wound our way around the mountain and into Stanley for a noodle lunch.

Always one of your favourites…

I still can’t believe you cousins are here in Honkers. They’re great kids, but sometimes your Dad expects too much of them.

The next few days, we explored Causeway Bay, Mong Kok, Wanchai, the ferries, and enjoyed a day out at Lamma Island. You would have loved our trip to the island. It was hot and sunny, so the kids & Uncle Rich had a swim, while C, Aunty Rach & Dad started on the wine at a nearby restaurant. Even Toro came along for a paddle.

I think it will look great on you…

After three nights, Uncle Rich & family moved into an Air B&B nearby. It’s a neat place, also in CWB.

Guess what? This morning our New Zealand buddy, Pat contacted me. She said she had been looking after her grandkids over the October Break. Pat told me to tell you that so many times she thought of you, as her grandchildren slipped their little hands in her hand. Pat said, “Happy b’day Phi!”

More b’day gifts

We all love you Phi, XoXo… Dad.

 

WISDOM IS…

“I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.” Stephen Covey

 

Sunday, October 23rd 2016

 

Hey B’day Lass,

 

How’s it feel to be fourteen??? You probably don’t feel or even look any older, but I can only imagine what fourteen looks like on you. How tall you are, somewhere between 150 and 165cm? How long or short your hair is? How big or small are your feet? In any case, at 14, you are closer to becoming who you really are. Dad’s advice, be you. Be as brave as you can be. Be strong, and have the audacity to believe in yourself. Easier said than done, I know. I’ve had my stuff-ups in life. We all do. But it’s what we do with those stuff-ups that counts. Learn from your mistakes. Be humble, be grateful, be kind, and don’t be easily influenced.

 

Phi, strive to be an independent spirit, not so that others admire you, but for your own wellbeing. Ophelia, find freedom through creativity – build a billycart and keep a journal. Get dirty and paint your bedroom – close your eyes & use your hands. Find your way alone to the beach after a storm and pick through the flotsam for treasures – you can craft the sand crusted pieces into keepsakes with meaning. Head out at sunrise and explore the local environment. Look at things differently. Follow the call of a bird and climb a tree – look at your everyday life with fresh eyes. Be there alone, be afraid – it’ll refresh your soul & spirit, and your own good will shall help you find peace. Choose freedom, freedom of thought. Phi, be who you are – a proud bicultural, bilingual person with a mind of her own.

Here’s Lovey, our Guide Dog at school

Start a journal – that’s what I did, courtesy of Aunty Maur’s wisdom. My journal helps the soul, it really does. Write to me, write to your mother, write to your cousins, Allie & Billie. Write to those who love you. Be honest with your feelings & thoughts – you needn’t worry about our reaction – if we truly love you, we’ll allow for what’s really in your heart. We really will. Open eyes, open heart, no judgement, just love & support.

 

Phi, it’s been so long since we last met. There must be a hundred-plus thoughts flashing through your mind. Every night, every waking moment… where’s my Dad? Doubts, hope, fear, missed chances, almost forgotten memories, your perspective, your voice, your hopes, your dreams, your prayers.

 

Find your space. Make the time, and write about the meeting, that for so long now, has hung over your head – our meeting. There’s an odd sense of the unknown to our inevitable meeting. Though there will be a feeling that we have been family for ages, forever, there will also be a feeling that somehow, we have just met. A sad happiness. Joyful, yet hurtful tears. A fragile smile, and hands that shake.

 

Write soon. Share when you’re ready. I love you… XoXo… Dad.

 

I’VE LEARNED TO MAKE MISTAKES

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” Michael Jordan

 

Tuesday, October 25th 2016

 

Morning Phi. Dad’s on grade 4 camp up at Lady Maclehose Holiday Village. It’s 6.05am and surprisingly all the students are still sleeping (they must have talked through the night). I’ll wake them at 7am for breakfast at 8am. Last night, Dad did some storytelling. I told two of my favorites – a Bill Cosby classic about an eleven year old and a rollercoaster, and a Paul Jennings tale of a boy about the same age who has a terrible accident with his nose. One day I’ll tell you too…

Your cousins, Allie & Christo, left Hong Kong last Tuesday evening. They’ll be missed. Whenever I see your cousins, I can’t but help think of you. You all should be together. The privilege of family that was taken from you.

 

The day your cousins left HK the weather was shocking. It was building into a typhoon, wet & miserable. So by the time Wednesday afternoon rolled around, and the full force of the typhoon was almost upon us, our students couldn’t get home from school. The buses left on schedule, departing at 3.10pm, but with roads flooding, mudslides and the traffic at a standstill, the buses didn’t get far. For much of the torrentially wet afternoon, many of the kids were stuck on their buses. Some buses were only tens of metres from the school, but such was the ferocity of the storm, and the flooding of roads on the south end of the island, we just couldn’t get our students off the buses. Eventually, one bus at a time, we managed to walk the kids back to school. At school we opened the classrooms, brought out camp supplies such as chips, drinks and games, and for the most part, we all had a great time mucking about – singing and laughing while the storm battered the building outside. As it turned out, most of the south end of the island flooded, so the kids weren’t able to get away from our campus until 7.30pm! A night at school – it really did feel like camp.

 

And then Friday, another typhoon. Haima, near missed us, but as a precaution, HKIS closed its doors. So Dad had a welcome day off. By 6.30am I was out and about in the wind. I had a run up in the hills behind Wanchai, skipping over, through and under three or four fallen trees. Curiously, I was the only fit soul about. Everyone else was waiting for the winds to drop.

 

Unfortunately, because last week was such a crazy weather week, both the G3 & G5 camps were cancelled. My fourth graders from last year, this year’s fifth graders, were so disappointed. Cancelled, not postponed – real bummer.

But for me and my 22 kids from all around the world – camp goes on. In a moment I’ll go and wake my students, showers, tidy up, breakfast, then we’ll hike for two hours, indoor gym activities for an hour, lunch, two hours of swimming, followed by two hours of Chinese activities. Jam-packed activity day! Co-ki-co-co! Time the rooster awoke the sleepy heads! Okiru ji kan dayo!

 

Love you Phi! How’s that journal going? XoXo…

 

I BELIEVE IN YOU

“Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” Theodore Roosevelt

 

Sunday, November 6th 2016

 

Hey Possum,

 

Welcome to November. By now in your part of the world, the Autumnal blaze of rusty colors must be in full swing. Has Fuji San had its first snowfall of the season, have you had your first kiss, and how’s that school report going? Here, in Hong Kong, the temperature has dropped considerably, especially the humidity. It’s lovely! Perfect fitness weather!

 

Dad had a run around Victoria Park this morning. Did my 100 crunches, 50 push-ups and 30 chin-ups – not quite the 100 Club, but better than a second coffee & croissant. Yesterday (Saturday), I again jumped on the #40 mini bus & hitched a ride into school. I find that when I’m in my classroom, free of distraction, I am much, much more productive. In three hours I might cover what might take me six hours semi-procrastinating at home.

Last night it was Johnny’s 40th. He’s the husband of a wonderful work colleague, Hyun. We were touched to be invited, and your young Dad even stayed out until midnight! Even hit the dance floor for a sort while. Dad’s bustin’ moves! How embarrassing is that, Phi? Mind you, as the night grew longer and longer, any later, and your Dad might have turned into a pumpkin.

 

Thursday & Friday, I had parent-teacher conferences. Can’t complain, I was well prepared, and everything went to plan. Friday after our final conferences, I joined a few choice colleagues, Stan, Carrie & Gretchen, for a beer down on the sand at Repulse Bay. And on Wednesday, our dear, Hyun, announced that she is pregnant with twins. I’m very happy for her. Their wish was granted – it couldn’t happen to a better couple.

 

Time to help C with our dinner… bon appetit!

 

Phi, do you want juice, milk or water with your fish, rice, veges & miso soup?

 

Love Dad & C… XoXo…

 

BITTERSWEET TRUTH

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain

 

Sunday, November 13th 2016

 

Hey Ophelia, how’s your Sunday treating you? Had a kick of the footy today, yet? What are you going to be? A professional Aussie Rules footy star? Do you know, next year the first professional women’s league kicks off? Can’t wait, can you? Go gals! Kick like a gal!

 

Will you be a writer, an artist, a potter, a musician, an interpreter, a teacher, a scientist, a mathemagician, a lawyer, a dancer or an electrician?? Whatever you choose, be heard for all the right reasons. Listen and learn. Be proud, yet humble. You’re going to be a super star!

Here’s Dad teaching his kids how to dissect a squid!

Tonight Dad will catch up with Evan Hitchman & Yuta from Saint Maur. Evan is a fellow Aussie, who was one of the lads that Dad used to ride from Kikuna to Zushi & back with. Sometimes I rode from Tama, and back! He’s a good man. We usually catch up when C & Dad head to your homeland, but this summer gone, unfortunately, we didn’t find the opportunity to meet.

 

Yesterday Dad wrote reports pretty much all day. For each student, we write a page and a half narrative. It takes a good deal of time and effort to craft something that is informative and individualized. For a report-writing break, I visited two of my kids in Victoria Park. They were representing our school, and were creating peace doves for the Green Dragons club. It was good to see them so engaged and enthusiastic for a grand cause.

 

Friday night C cooked another ripper meal – homemade pizza and karage for Yuta & Evan. The boys are over for a PE conference at the HKIS Tai Tam campus. Oh, Phi, Madame C is a magnificent chef. You’re going to love standing alongside us in the kitchen – although our kitchen is tiny… there might not be room for the three of us. I know, I’ll do the dishes!

Thursday & Tuesday Dad ran home from the Repulse Bay campus. November, means it’s a good deal cooler, and lacks the heavy humidity of summer. It feels brilliant to be able to breath regular air and not the thick air of summer as I run the trails of HK. Each time I’m on one of those trails, I think how lucky I am. I take in the views, think of you, and think of the love of my life – my C Chan.

 

Also Thursday, my class Skyped Cairo America College (CAC) for some collaborative math. For the past few years, my students have teamed up with students from Chennai American School, Tokyo International School (with Uncle Travis Ion), and CAC to get excited about mathematics. Inspiring students to become passionate about maths. That is the role of the teacher, after all –  to make a subject not just compulsory, but compelling. Using collaborative Google docs, we create real life math problems for each other. And Friday, it was the much anticipated Teacher Appreciation day at HKIS, so all the teachers enjoyed a slap-up megalicious lunch! Lucky Dad, hey!?

I wrote this on the board the day after Trump was elected

Tuesday was a special science & math day for my students and I. Not only did we have our regular math centers with two parents assisting, we also dived into a classic squid dissection. Each pair of scientists in my class had their own squid to dissect. Brilliant! Bring on the mess! And just to top things off, Tuesday was also our Epic Story (free writing) day. My writers just love their Epic Story day, and each week is launched with a chapter and writing focus based around Dad’s story. One day, I’ll share my story with you – 26 chapters and counting. Here’s one of my more recent chapters that I read to my fourth graders in the Author’s Chair:

Chapter 18

DAD’S SQUEEZE

 

Strange but true, I was standing on the balcony watching a solitary crow watch me. Its beady eyes pierced my mind, making me mindful of the few million miseries that surrounded me. 14 months away from becoming a teenager, I was supposed to be a happy, sunny 11 year old, whose only problem was whether my football team won or lost. I didn’t need to think about getting a job, paying taxes (whatever they were), or even leaving home, I was happy at home. That was until my father took me from my home. Snatched me away from my treehouse. Dragged me away from Patty & Josh. Catapulted me into mega-misery. Uprooted my whole perfect world, and threw me into this mess. I had no support net, except for a Japanese girl on the other side of the world, who, let’s face it, I had talked to face to face, for probably less than 10 seconds in my entire life.

 

The crow tilted its head eyeing me suspiciously. The shiny black of a judge’s robe. A gurgling sound escaped from its throat. It was like the crow was engaging me, teasing me and sending me thoughts that reminded me that I had only ever communicated with Haruka via email. Guilty thoughts or just startling truths? I didn’t know, but the crow seemed to be smirking, arrogant in its certainty. The crow was right, the entire sum of my correspondence with my soul mate had been in cyberspace. As much as I wanted to see Haruka’s face again, I had never had the courage to suggest a Skype.

 

A police siren wailed in the distance, and my Dad had a girlfriend. How could he do this to me? So many questions. Why now? Where was my mother in all this?

 

Darkness was nearer, and from the balcony, the grey concrete mess that represented day was transforming before my eyes. My staring match with the crow dissolved as the black beast moved on. Instead of returning to the living area where my father no doubt waited, I sat on the cold concrete balcony, my back to the apartment wall, longing for just one more shot on goal with Patty and Josh, or to see Grumpy Guzzard throw one more wobbly at his noisy students. Or to take a walk with Haruka and take her hand. She was coming to her home country, Japan, later this month. It would be during the Winter Break. I wondered if I had the confidence to take her hand. Not likely, the thought scared the heeby-jeebies out of me. Exciting but ultimately my scrawny chicken legs would take flight. Would she want me to?

 

Dusk was giving way to darkness. I turned to the sliding doors of our apartment, and thought about re-entering the den where at least it was warm. Instead, I placed my hands on the coldness of the lifeless concrete, my fingertips brushing the dust lightly. There was something calm about tracing squiggles in the film of Yokohama dust. Why does my Dad need a girlfriend? I looked down at my hands, then slowly turned them over, and grazed my knuckles across the concrete. The sudden pain took some of the venom from my lips. Was Mayumi, Dad’s soul mate, like Haruka was mine?

 

I spied the first star of the evening in the darkening sky. What was wrong with Dad having a soulmate, I mused. Mayumi was nice. I thought I fancied Haruka, so, how could I justify moping around the apartment for days being upset with Dad? I had been bitter for all to see, but my sulking had gone largely unnoticed. Or so I thought.

 

“Shhhuk.” The sliding glass door to the balcony opened, and Dad came out with one of his protracted coughs. He shyly interrupted, “So, this is how you view the world…” and then trailed off. I wasn’t prepared for his apparent guilt. I longed for him to rage at my selfishness, after all, he had as much right to happiness as I did, perhaps more.

 

I slouched confused and angry, my bum numbing much as it had that first time he had told Nan and I we were going to Japan. I summoned brutal words, pulled them from my stomach and hurled them at lover boy. “Why the hell did we ever come here?!” I cried. Silence. Why didn’t he respond? I thought grimly.

 

Very slowly he lifted his wounded eyes and ventured nearer, and as he did he tripped over a plastic bag mostly filled with his stupid empty beer bottles. Green bottles. As if beer in green bottles tasted any better, I thought as I snorted testily out of my nostrils. I tried to pretend that I didn’t think it was funny, that he’d tripped on his own beer. As he tried to loosen the bag from his ankle, the wicked joy in my eyes probably gave me away. I turned his way without really looking at him, not at his eyes at least.

 

“Obviously, we need to talk,” he awkwardly muttered. The soft, painful tone in his voice made it difficult for me to be angry with him. Rather it sent shards of guilt into my heart. I looked out at the dark grey clouds and even they seemed to look away, keen to escape the fire and spite of the lost foreign boy.

 

Could I really blame my Dad for seeking the company of a beautiful woman? It had been a decade since my mother’s disappearance, and to my knowledge, he had never dated, or so much as mentioned another woman. But why now? What if my mother returned? Didn’t he owe her something? Shouldn’t he wait? The sun had completely slipped over the concrete horizon, and there were few frothy clouds now.

 

My Dad held his tongue. Patient and stoic, as he always was. I could see that now. In a strange way I was kind of absent from myself, in that I could see what a selfish, spoilt, only child I had become. My Dad had sacrificed so much for me over the years. He was the only parent who attended each and every one of our weekend football matches, every year. He took me camping, taught me to make billycarts, and he was the only Dad who made a lunch for his kid every day. He showed me how to fix a puncture on my bicycle, told crazy ‘Dad’ jokes, and he still read to me every evening before bed. I wanted him to shout and rage so I could continue this strange desire to remain in a depressed state. Instead he spoke calmly and with love. His eyes told me he understood my resentment of Mayumi. It was not what I wanted to hear, and yet it was. I listened hearing few of his words, but understanding what was in his heart. A few minutes passed and unconsciously I edged closer to him. With his huge arms, he pulled me close and hugged me.

 

Minutes before, I had never in my life felt so alone. Dad had enjoyed a happy Sunday night, and afterwards I had done my best to ruin things for him. At the same time, he refused to talk about my mother and forbade Nana from doing so.

 

I wasn’t finished. Why was he always so reasonable? Why couldn’t he holler at me? I stiffened and noticed that I could hear my breathing. Something inside of me that I didn’t understand wanted to hurt him. Quietly and rather too coldly, I randomly threw salt in his wounds, “I remember seeing you break down and cry, when your hard drive on your computer collapsed.” I sensed his head nodding above me, and I felt him take a long deep breath.

 

“You’re right,” he croaked.

 

“So, why are my problems so trivial?” I blurted. Everything was so disjointed. I knew I wasn’t making much sense, even to myself, but I continued anyway. “I don’t have a job, nor a kid to remind to take their shoes off. At 11, I have no mother, and except for Rishnag, no friends… Dad, it doesn’t get any worse.”

 

Dad shifted, but kept me close and ignored my rant. “You know why I cried that day?” he offered, barely above a whisper. “It wasn’t the fact that I lost work documents, I could create them again.” He paused. “It was the photos of you. How can I get you to recreate that Superman pose you made just before your 6th birthday? You, my young superhero, are my everything, and those photos of you prancing around, were just about the best thing that happened to me that year. All those photos are gone. Do you remember? It was just before you jumped through the window.”

 

I could feel his voice smile. I pulled away from his chest and sheepishly grinned at my Dad. It was true, back in Australia, where everything was perfect, I had worshiped Superman. I was in grade one, and had so wanted to believe in the man of steel and his power of flight, that I had launched myself through our sliding glass door.

 

I didn’t want to be brittle and frosty with my Dad anymore. I believed in him, like I believed in Nan. I winced, as I remembered the shattered glass door, and the mess the shards of glass had made of my arms, legs and face. I chuckled, because at the time, I certainly wasn’t expecting the pain. Even before my cries for help, I recall I had so many questions swirling around for Superman. I discovered through tremendous pain that a Superman cloak did not equal superpowers.

 

My mind drifted to the hospital bed I lay in for two days. My Dad was there beside me in hospital. Every time I woke, he was there.

 

“You remember?” he asked again softly.

 

I nodded, “I remember a lot of things,” I murmured. Through my tears I looked Dad straight in the eyes and asked innocently, “Will you tell me about my mother?”

 

Dad closed his eyes, and to my surprise he nodded slowly in confirmation. “Deal,” he sniffed. His eyes were as wet as mine. “Same time, same place tomorrow?” he proposed.

 

I let out a huge breath. I opened my mouth to say “Yeah” but it took seconds to come from my lips. I wasn’t sure if I should be happy or sad, excited or miserable. I had waited all my life for this moment, I thought grimly. Now, in the moment, I wasn’t sure I was ready for the truth.

 

 

What do you think, Phi? Still requires revising. Writing is never done. Gotta allow it to evolve.

 

Well Bella, time to tidy up. Be grateful, and as Bailey’s dad in my story suggests: be the person your dog thinks you are! Run, read, run & read!

 

Love Dad – XoXo…

 

EFFORT IS EVERYTHING

“Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” Napoleon Hill

 

Sunday, November 20th 2016

 

How’s my Ophelia Hirakawa-Morice?

 

Been busy writing Christmas cards, buying presents, dusting off the Xmas decorations, and searching for a scented tree to warm your living area? You’re right, it’s too early to be thinking Christmas. But, oh, didn’t the two of us just love Xmas! Do you remember Christmas with Dad? Finding a tree, decorating the tree, wrapping the presents and placing them under the tree. Can you still smell the fresh pine as we entered the living room? Can you recall the twinkle of the lights upon the tree, and those extra lights we hung from outside? Once upon a time…

 

Friday was Adventure Day at the Tai Tam campus. It was a glorious sunny day for the kids to rotate around 20 or so activities. After 90 minutes of sweaty smiles, the grade 4 team set off to hike back to Repulse Bay. Along the way, we stopped for a picnic lunch.

 

Next weekend, Thanksgiving Weekend, Dad will visit Siam Reap, Cambodia, with my principal as a teacher-teacher. What’s that, a teacher-teacher, you ask? Apparently, many teachers in Cambodia have never received any teacher training. Evidently, many of them haven’t been afforded the opportunity to attend university, so in many cases, Cambodia’s teachers are just operating on goodwill. Indeed, many of their teachers volunteered for unpaid positions, particularly after the war. Dad and a small group of teachers are kind of on a reconnaissance tour – we’re hoping we’ll someday be able to work alongside some of Cambodia’s teachers, and perhaps we can all share our teaching experiences and skills. Gretchen, Carrie & Sarah will join the team. We’re hopeful of visiting Angkor Wat, too.

 

Love you Phi… XoXo…

 

GOTTA LOVE A BIT OF YODA WISDOM

“Do or do not. There is no try.” Yoda

 

Sunday, November 27th 2017

 

Well, well, well Phi. Who’s a lucky Dad! I have just experienced something truly special, truly memorable, truly enlightening.

The MS math teachers Dad worked with in SR

Thursday, November 24th, around 4pm, Dad flew to Siam Reap, Cambodia. My principal invited us into the VIP lounge at HK airport – Ooo-la-la! We had a quick drink, then boarded our flight. We stayed at the fancy Borei Angkor Resort and Spa! Better yet, HKIS paid for our flight & accommodation. Our first evening we went to a Cambodian / French fusion restaurant. Pretty special, but not as affordable as I had imagined.

Early Friday morning, Dad went for a run and watched the sunrise. When I returned to the hotel, I still had enough time for a swim and then met my colleagues for a delicious buffet breakfast. Dad enjoyed an omelet and plenty of fresh fruit. Shortly after breakfast, we were picked up and visited our first school. At first, we observed, then Dad worked with a group of Cambodian Middle School math teachers. A real privilege. Later in the day, we enjoyed lunch in Siem Reap, did some shopping in the market area, had another swim at the hotel, then for dinner, we met some teachers for Mexican, downtown. It was a grand evening talking about our day in the classroom, next steps, and how we can bring our own faculty onboard.

Saturday morning, Dad ran again, this time into downtown Siem Reap. Some of the tourists were straggling home from clubs and pubs as your Dad whisked by to the rising sun and a new day. After another delicious breakfast we visited a few schools and observed teachers trying on our tips from the day before. Later in the day, we were taken to the majestic Angkor Wat. WOW! Unbelievable! We really should go together one day soon, you, me and C Chan. That evening we had Indian with the director of the programme and talked more about HKIS’s role in the future – I really hope we get this off the ground!

And today (Sunday), we pretty much just flew back to Hong Kong. I bought myself, and my madame C a bag made from recycled products; cool, hey! I’m so grateful for the opportunities I have. Thank you for reading, listening, being you. You’re one of a kind kiddo! Love you… XoXo… Dad.

 

SHOW THIS ONE TO MUM – TELL HER IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE…

“Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears.” Les Brown

 

Sunday, December 11th 2017

 

Salutations my Grand Aussie Possum,

 

How’s the Christmas lights at home? Wrapped presents thick & cuddly around the base of the tree? Gotta love the site of gifts beneath the fresh smelling pine tree! Christmas cards from loved ones hanging to passing smiles around the room? Cosy red & green tinsel warming your wintery home? I so wish we could put our warm hats & gloves on and head out in search of our unique Xmas tree. What do you say, Phi? Then we could prepare heart warming hot chocolate with extra marshmallows for someone like you, and decorate the tree together. What you say, my not so little Christmas angel? Is December, Christmas, and all those memories hard for you, too? I so miss you Ophelia Morice… XoXo…

Kids coming up with their own rules

Yesterday and today, I went to school to prepare for my appraisal. Didn’t feel too bad, accomplished a lot, and kept the students in front of any needless and unnecessary documentation. All the “extra” work seems manageable as next Monday, December 19th your Dad flies home, to Melbourne – your home too. Wanna come? Catch up with your brilliant cousins, Luca, Allie, Billie & Christopher. Snuggle up next to your Nandee, and be the medicinal therapy she so desperately needs. Pa will secret you out for surprise sausage rolls and visits to the trotting track to reacquaint yourself with the horses you used to visit all those years ago. Ah, imagine that… Christmas with your Australian family. Now, that would be every Morice’s Christmas wish!

This morning (yep, Sunday) I spent a good deal of time reexamining “inquiry” and what it might look like: Genius Hour for the classroom. Why is why why? If a saltwater crocodile met a great white shark, what would happen? It’s possible, right, especially in northern Australia. Learning should be a life long journey, right? As Sir Ken Robinson said, “We don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it.” Children at five years of age ask on average 28 questions per hour, by the time children get to grade 5 they’re only asking one question per hour. What happens? In many ways, curiosity is the engine that drives achievement – as facilitators we should be encouraging questions, experiments, exploring & investigations. What you say, Phi? What sorts of self-initiated inquiry does your school encourage?

Wanna build a treehouse? Great, design it, source your materials (preferably recycled), investigate how to build it, and do it.

Ask questions. What will school be like in the future? And, what’s my role in this question? Why do acorns wear hats? Why do tigers and zebras have stripes? Why is the sky blue? Is the Australian drop-bear real? Why do we have homework – are there any benefits to home learning? What is fake news?

Keep wondering Phi, keep questioning, keep imagining, keep dreaming. Time Dad signed off. Love you Bella… XoXo.

I WONDER WHAT YOU MOTHER WOULD THINK OF YOU, DAD & MELBOURNE

“The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.” Ayn Rand

 

 

Sunday, December 18th 2016

 

Hey Mathlete, how’s your December running going? Your Dad had a run in Victoria Park again this morning. Joined the 100 Club and banged out 100 push-ups, 40 chin-ups, 100 crunches & 100 squats. This afternoon, C Chan & Dad went Christmas shopping. For Kris Kringle (Secret Santa), Dad drew Uncle Sean. I ended up buying too many things, and when I spied his favorite bag designer, Crumpler (an Australian start-up), he had to have that too. C drew Lauren. She bought her lovely tea, delightful soap, and a cool scarf. We also found something very special for you, too. Actually, our C found your gift once again… she never forgets you, ever. I can’t wait for you to see her heart, her character, her wisdom, her strength, and her selfless grace.

Merry Christmas Bella!

Later this afternoon we wrapped & photographed your present. I wrote you a Christmas card and tried hard not to cry. We made kaki (oysters from South Korea) fry for dinner, and washed it down with miso soup and a glass of chardonnay.

Did you receive your 2016 Xmas gifts from Dad & C?

Yesterday Dad bought Xmas books for your cousins. I had a lovely time choosing what might suit each of your cousins, Luca, Ally, Billie & Christo. I managed to select some choice books to go along with the different gifts C had already found for them – The One & Only Ivan, The Giver, Holes, Walk Two Moons, and four more titles your Dad has already forgotten – hopeless, isn’t he! LOL. They’re all crackers – I recommend you read them, too.

Do you like it, Phi?

Friday, Dad finished up at school. It was a wonderful feeling, knowing C and Dad are on our way to Melbourne soon. Several of my colleagues & Dad went to Middle Island Yacht Club for a drink to celebrate the end of 2016.

Wednesday Dad ran home after my appraisal meeting with Linda & Jen. It had been a much anticipated, on-again, off-again meeting that had been giving me considerable stress. The meeting lasted nearly 90 minutes, and though I came away exhausted, I feel all the planning & preparation reaped understanding. Mentally challenged, it was good hard run home – I really pushed myself, blew out the cobwebs and felt 28 rather than 48! Run for life!

 

Time to pack for Australia – won’t you come with us?

 

Dad… XoXo…

 

PRESIDENTIALLY PROFOUND

“To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.” Eleanor Roosevelt

 

Monday, December 19th 2016

 

Morning Ophelia.

 

It’s 9:06am. Dad’s waiting for his flight here at Hong Kong International Airport to Melbourne, Australia. Checked-in, passed immigration, and am now sitting down with a complementary Starbucks coffee (thank you to one of my students) writing to my beautiful daughter.

That’s Tish & Luca hanging cool and Christo perched on the branch

Wishing you were coming with us… Just now, I got to thinking, daydreaming really, about our trips together to Oz. You, in your knitted sky blue jumper snuggling into me. You, playing in the airport kids’ play area. You, smiling as you received a kiddy pack from the Qantas crew. You, smiling shyly as your kiddy meal arrived. A tear escaped, and before I knew it, I had been staring off to space thinking of you, and 15 minutes zapped by.

Billie, Sean & Lauren

Gotta board. Love you Phi… XoXo…

 

WICKED WISDOM

“If you hear a voice within you say, ‘You cannot paint,’ then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.” Vincent Van Gogh

 

 

Thursday, December 22nd 2016

G’day mate! Your Dad is Down Under, Melbourne, Australia. Sometimes it feels like just yesterday we were mucking about here together, and sometimes it feels like 9 long years ago, and other times it feels like forever. For the most part, Melbourne is still the same. Same dreadful, expensive, inefficient public transport system, same muddy Yarra River, same congested roads – courtesy of the neglected public transport system. It feels drier, if that’s possible. Port Phillip Bay is unswimmable in places, such is the pollution. A good coffee at a local café is no longer less than $2 – I don’t even know if they do baby-cinnos anymore. Melbourne – still awaiting your arrival. So much to show you, so much to share, so much to talk about, so much to do. What do you remember about Melbourne? Puffing Billy, the beach at Barwon Heads, the Royal Melbourne Zoo? What about Nandee & Pa’s home at 39 Andrew Crescent, Croydon South, 3136, Victoria?

 

So, what’s your Dad been up to? Well, Monday, your Uncle Rich picked me up at the airport around 11.30pm. By the time we arrived at your cousins’, Ally & Christo’s, Camberwell, it was well after midnight. Your cousin, Chris, had tried to stay up to see Uncle Geddy, but he was calmly sleeping when we walked in the front door. Another 30 minutes and he would have been able to give Uncle Ged a welcome-hug. He had, however, created a beautiful welcome card for me – I love that! Bedded down in Allie’s room as she was up at Jo & Mary’s farm. Wouldn’t you love to visit the farm! They’ve got horses & sheep! Snakes, too! There’s a dam we can have a swim in, bicycles, and plenty of work to help Jo with. Shall we?

 

So, my first morning in Melbourne, awoke early, as is usual for your Dad, but your Aunty Rach, Uncle Rich and cousin Chris were still asleep; so I had a run and threw in a few chin-ups, too.

 

Around 9.30am, your Pa picked me up and we went to the Road Traffic Authority (RTA) to renew Dad’s Australian driving license – fortunately (and surprisingly), the procedure for lapsed renewals was surprisingly smooth. Happy Days! With my new license, Dad then had a drive of Pa’s new French car, the Peugeot 307 – very nice. After many years of reliable service, KD decided to trade in his trusty Subaru Forester. Remember the white Forester we bought in Numazu for Pa all those years ago?

 

After a little banking, KD (that’s your Dad’s nickname for Pa – Kerry Daniel) and Dad enjoyed a welcome coffee & a pie I had been salivating about since the last time I was in Oz. The cool part, was that the café was part of the bank, the Bendigo bank at Ringwood East. We had a great chat with the owner, a South African & former teacher, who had loads of questions about the international teaching scene. From the bank, Pa & I went to the post office to send your Christmas present (a bracelet & necklace)… hope you love ‘em Bella! Oh, I miss you Bella, and so wish, C & Dad could hand you your gifts on Christmas day… XoXo.

 

Finally, after a good chat with Pa, I saw your Nandee. Your grandmother still has her generous spirit, physically, however, she needs some tender loving care from you. As she’s had this cruel chronic fatigue syndrome for years and years now, she knows she needs to cautiously approach each day. Any needless exertion can push her recovery back significantly. Unfortunately, the wicked syndrome zaps the sparkle that was omnipresent in her eyes. Your Nandee is as brave as they come, and the love that she & Pa share, is an inspiration to anyone who knows their devotion to each other. Wish you were here to spread your good cheer!

After a lovely catch-up chat, Pa & your Dad headed to Aldi, a cool German supermarket chain. By mid afternoon, Dad needed a nap, then I drove into Uncle Sean & Aunty Lauren’s for pizza! When I pulled up in the car, your cousins, Billie, Luca and Tynesha were playing outside. Your newest cousin, Tish (Tynesha), has been living with Sean & Lauren for most of the year under a foster care program. She’s a six year old classic! I was most impressed with her generosity, genki-ness and her joy & passion. She’s a spunky little devil, who would, I know, jump into your arms and cling to you like a cheeky, yet comforting monkey. Undoubtedly, Tish is a little ripper! You’ll love her. After pizza, we all enjoyed a kick of the footy up on the oval. Tish & Billie treated Dad to gymnastics show of twirling, rolling & somersaulting.

 

Tuesday evening, I read a story or two to Tish, then Luca gave up his bedroom, so Dad bedded down with a great book by Mark Haddon – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. At sparrows’ fart (pre dawn), and quite obviously early the next morning, I was reading, when I heard the pitter-patter of small Tynesha feet. Tish, the little affectionate monkey had crept to the top of the stairs, spied me reading, then sprinted and launched herself beside me. We had a chat, then she raced downstairs to retrieve her book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. After about 10 minutes of Aslan, Peter et al’s adventures, Billie joined us for more reading. It was a very, very special read with my nieces… a moment in time I’ll never forget. Just wish you were there, too.

 

That morning (Wednesday), we all had a run along the Merri Creek – Sean, Lauren, Luca, Billie & Tish… only you were missing. Of course, Uncle Sean smashed me, but it was grand to blow the cobwebs out coming up the last hill in front of their home!

 

After breakfast, Dad drove out to Croydon South to see Nandee & Pa. It was good to sit with Nandee and just chat, although, I was conscious that even these chats can exhaust her.

 

Things to do – off to see your cousins. Will be back to you soon, Phi.

 

BREAK IN TIME & FAST FACT

Your Pa’s middle name & your Dad’s middle name is Daniel.

 

G’day Phi. I’m sitting next to Allie at Hays Paddock in Kew East. Chris is busy riding a ripstick (a swervy – wobble skateboard). It’s a beautiful day, perhaps around 21 degrees Celsius. The playground is pretty cool, even for 14 year olds! We’re waiting for Lauren & Sean to arrive with your other cousins, Luca, Billie & Tish. Just looked up and noticed Chris is missing. I think he has ventured back to the playground, or perhaps he’s looking for the missing piece in his cousin-jigsaw, you. We all miss you, Phi. So wish you were with us! Allie’s reading over my shoulder & helping me with what to write to you…

 

This afternoon, I’ll take your cousins back to Camberwell, then head back to Kew to see Uncle Hayd. Tonight, Tim, Hayd & myself will have a bbq on Hayd’s deck… how do you like your scotch fillet steak? It’ll be good to see Timmy, especially after the cancer he’s overcome. As a result of losing two vertebra to myeloma, he’s also lost about 10cm in height.

 

Just so you know, we’re expecting 37 degrees Celsius on Xmas day – if you’re able to make it, bring your swimming gear! Did you receive Dad’s present? Perhaps tomorrow… Oh, look who’s here!? Sean, Lauren and your cousins, Billie, Tish & Luca. They have just arrived at Hays Paddock, too. Fun times…

 

Wish you were here… XoXo.

 

Dad & Allie.

 

 

Saturday, December 24th 2016

 

Hi Ophelia,

 

At the moment, it’s 5.15pm, and Dad is sitting in Xocolatl café in Kew. Wishing you were beside me sipping your favorite milkshake. C Chan is now on her way from HK to KL (Malaysia). She has a night in KL, and then arrives at 7.40pm tomorrow night (December 25th) – 24 hours to go, so not long to wait now.

 

Just a couple of days ago, I was back in Kew for a BBQ with Hayd & Tim on the deck. It was grand to see my old mates. Hayd & Dad have known each other since grade 3, that’s more than forty years. And Tim & Dad met in year 7, so that friendship too, has been almost four decades. They’re both beautiful men. Loyal, generous & full of fun. They’re both worldly, well traveled and so interesting to chat with. I hope in the near future, you get to know Dad’s mates well, too. That night, Dad stayed at Uncle Hayd’s and enjoyed a workout the next morning. We ran along the Yarra River, and threw in a few push-ups and chin-ups. After we sweated, Uncle Hayd made a grand breakfast with salmon, eggs & hash browns! Brilliant. You would have loved it!

 

Yesterday, Dad had the good fortune of meeting Lian – Nandee had been teaching his parents (Burmese) English, and ever since, they’ve become family friends. Lian, a local middle school student at Ringwood High and about the same age as you, helped Pa & Dad clean the gutters at 39 Andrew Crescent. I asked him, did he want to earn $20 an hour doing a few jobs with Dad. He jumped at the idea, and wow, did he work hard! After a couple of hours work (he refused to take a break), we scoffed down a vegetable pastie, then we took to pruning trees in the front yard. I was so impressed with this kid. A refugee with such drive. Australia is lucky to have such kids. Respect. Brilliant work ethic. Polite, humble, driven. Champion kid. I would love you to meet Lian one day, and hear his story.

 

Later in the afternoon, I drove Lian home to Kilsyth. Then Dad enjoyed a bourbon with Pa. While we sipped our evening drink, we cooked ravioli together.

 

Later Dad headed to Uncle Ralph’s for a chat with my old mate. What a generous man, our Ralphus Maximus is. You know we’ve been mates since we were 12 months old! Incredible, hey! Love him!

 

Good times… XoXo… Wishing you the best for Christmas… Love always… Dad… XoXo.

 

COOL FACT – AUDREY IS ONTO SOMETHING HERE

“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible’!” Audrey Hepburn

 

Sunday, January 1st 2017

 

Happy New Year Phi! Did you watch the rising sun break into 2017 earlier this morning?

 

This morning, Dad cleaned out Pa’s gutters (once again) after the crazy rain on December 29th. Just as well Lian & Dad had cleaned the gutters out pre-Xmas. Uncle Richo had his gutters overflow, and Uncle Sean had leaks in the roof because his gutters clogged up. It was like a typhoon, such was the downpour. The only bonus, courtesy of all the rain, was that we were able to water the garden with all the excess run off into the water tanks and rubbish bins placed beneath downpipes.

Merry Christmas 2016, Phi… XoXo

And right now, guess where your Dad is? Presently, I am sitting in the back of Rich & Rach’s car sandwiched between your cousins, Chris & Allie. Allie, is once again generously helping Dad with what we’ve all been up to.

 

So, let’s see, what’s been happening in your country, Australia. Well, the evening of the 29th, Dad & C went to Uncle Ralph’s for an amazing meal of seafood from the Victoria Market. Ralph had been in the kitchen all day cooking up a storm! We started with mussels for entrée, fried calamari, and then his signature dish, the astonishing spaghetti marinara! Scrumdillyumptious! Diana & C had a great dance to Abba before Ralph & Dad took control of some choice music. Too much wine, too much food – we needed your common sense!

 

Wednesday, December 28th Dad & C caught up with Aunty Brenda & Uncle Allan from Sydney. Again, we reminisced about you, Numazu, Katoh, and all the good times we shared together when you were little and always amongst us. We talked about David, Nicola and Tim, and hope the four of you enjoy each other’s company some time soon. Deb, another teacher from our Katoh days also joined us. Dad drove us all out to the Yarra Valley for a bit of wine tasting. For lunch we dined at the Yarra Glen pub. C had snapper & potato mash, while Dad had prawns and a trout tartare with salad. That evening, Madame C & Dad headed to Uncle Sean’s for dinner & a play. Sean tried out his new bbq, Pa arrived unexpectedly, and Uncle Jeff was also there to keep the banter alive & well. A great night with family; except your poor Nandee couldn’t join us. Oh, Phi, how we all wish Nandee’s chronic fatigue would loosen its stranglehold on your grandmother.

 

Boxing Day, Monday 26. C & Dad ended up at Rich’s and had Vietnamese in Box Hill. Earlier Hayd arrived for a chat. That evening C Chan & Dad slept over and the 27th C, Rach & Allie went into town for some Xmas sale shopping. You could have joined the girls! Dad, Rich & Chris drove out to Pa & Nandee’s, where we worked in the garden. Sean & Lauren arrived with Tish. Great working bee! Nandee & Pa’s garden is looking good!

 

Xmas day was hard without you & C. Your beautiful Uncle Sean played one of Dad’s favorites, Tim Minchin’s White Wine in the Sun. Fortunately/unfortunately memories of you flooded back and Dad had to take himself upstairs for a quiet cry. Inevitable, I guess. Every Christmas my heart splinters some more. I hope Xmas 2017, we’re finally reunited, together again, forever.

 

I miss you Phi… XoXo… Is it possible to miss a person more…

 

WICKED WISDOM

“Life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent of how I react to it.” Charles Swindoll

July – September 2016

THE TRUTH IS ALWAYS THE TRUTH

cimg3793

Front & centre – next to Masako.

Friday, July 1st 2016

 

These letters are for you Ophelia Hirakawa-Morice (Ishijima), and anyone who loves you…

 

Good morning Bella. Another quarterly installment of missives begin. Seven years of letters to you. Seven years waiting. Seven years hoping. Every letter of those 2555+ days brings me a little closer to you, and every moment wasted, a little farther from your heart. 84 months… have you started reading these letters online, or have you yet to discover how much your Dad really loves you? 61,320+ hours waiting – surely as each hour passes, it must bring us closer to again meeting… But as each hour passes, another hour is wasted.

cimg3771

Nandee & her three boys. That’s you & me on the left.

I am always here Phi. Always here for you…

 

It is also FIVE LONG YEARS (this September) since your mother last permitted us to meet. What really has she imagined all these years? Ironically, her independently constructed fear stands opposed to the decision of your birth country’s Family Court. Even her own country’s highest court, the High Court of Japan, strongly urges your mother to follow the Family Court’s recommendations. The law of Japan advocates that we see each other… alas, we cannot, solely because of your mother’s self interests – but I will never give up on you. There is hope in truth.

cimg3816

Family – always has been, always will be. You & Luca

Looking back, September 11th 2011, was the last day you slipped your small hand in mine. It has been seven years since you last met with your Australian grandparents. A year is a long time without your presence gracing my life and lives of your Australian family… five years an eternity of grieving every day. Still, your presence lingers in the homes of your cousins – your photo proudly displayed, and stories of your personality and gentle ways linger at every family gathering where I am present. Phi, you shall never be forgotten.

cimg3794

Working hard at Katoh Kindergarten.

As disturbing as this struggle has proved, given my time again, I would never “pass” on the opportunity to have you as a part of my life. There have been moments of depressive wonderings when I have pondered not ever having met your mother, and to move on, but… How could a Dad ever give up on his own child? Never, ever will I pass on an opportunity to meet you again. NEVER. The adventures we shared will live with me forever. Each of those shared moments with you, Ophelia, still shine brightly, still passionately resonate, and still bring me a glorious inner smile. I am so proud to be your Dad… My love for you has not diminished – you are everywhere, and always close.

 

The times we shared provide me with the strength to continue writing to you, to continue willing myself that this pain will end one day soon. Writing to you is a therapeutical means of giving something back. The writing enables me to remember golden moments shared with you that I will cherish and will cling to for as long as I live. Our absence from each other’s lives must surely soon come to an end. You, my dear Phi, will soon turn 14 years old. As a sassy & independent teenager, truth awaits.

cimg3774

You with your busted lip after a fall with Riku.

Our time together was gold. Of course we often look at yesteryear through a rose tinted lens, but really, in reflection, life did seem so perfect (though I didn’t always know it at the time). Numazu, our home, just the two of us. A garden for bbqs and your cubby-house. An awesome bilingual (immersion) education for you. Friends such as Bonnie’s family, Brenda’s family & Pat – friends to us both. So fortunate when I contemplate the kindness and generosity that surrounded us. Did I ever know? Did we ever realize how lucky we were?

 

Five years since our last visitation and still so many vivid memories of you float through my mind every single day. Photos of you on our walls, photos of you on our screen savers, photos of you in your cousins’ homes, your Nandee & Pa’s home. You, smiling and laughing. You, my darling daughter riding piggy-back or atop Dad’s shoulders. I can still see you thinking through your next picture to draw. I can still feel your hand so calmly, lovingly slipping into my own as we walked the main thoroughfare away from Tokorozawa Station during that final visitation together. I can still sense your imagination alive and free, and I pray that very soon we will once again be safe and secure together.

 

Renewing our relationship, probably won’t be easy, but I know in both our hearts, we trust. From little things, big things grow… The life we shared, and the moments we remember will help us rekindle, embrace and bring the memories of our soul back to life.

cimg3795

Plum Class

When I think of the past, sometimes my eyes fill with tears that threaten to explode. Whenever I think of these thoughts – sometimes when I imagine you returning to me (like I did when I hoped to see you at your school in June this year), I imagine you smiling shyly then hugging me, both of us afraid to let go for fear the other will be gone from our lives again. Am I right to believe? Will this hope, this dream, this omnipresent vision eventuate? Will this gift that was taken from me ever be given again?

 

I love you Ophelia Hirakawa-Morice (AKA Ophelia Ishijima [sic])… I always will… XoXo…

 

Phi, here’s a classic KD Lang song for you:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_NpxTWbovE

 

*So many times, to so many people, your absence remains incomprehensible. In many, many hearts you’re a constant. Our thoughts are with you, and hopefully knowing you have our support, you will one day soon find the courage to contact us. When you’re ready, you could call me, or Skype me at: gerardmorice. Initially the voice may not sound like the voice of the Dad you remember in your dreams – you may hear the quavering in my voice and see the tears in my eyes. Whatever you are comfortable with – you can write too: moriceg@hotmail.com or gedmorice@gmail.com

 

 

Sunday, July 3rd 2016

 

Hey Bella,

 

How’s my princess this hot humid morning? Had your workout this morning? Apologies, it seems I’m always writing to you about health & fitness – but diets & fitness binges will never reap any longevity rewards. Your decisions must be lifestyle choices. Being happy and healthy starts with you, and only you can make that commitment. Forgive Dad’s forwardness, but staying physically & mentally fit has to become your lifestyle choice. A sense of WELLBEING is paramount to happiness.

cimg3775

Giving more than receiving also helps build a healthy mindset. A recent study that resonated with your Dad gave one group of adults & children $5 or $20. The money was in an unmarked envelope and provided every day for two weeks to spend as they wished. Sometimes there was nothing in the envelope. To a different group of people, the researchers gave the same monetary envelopes, but instead of keeping the money for himself or herself, each recipient was told they had to donate/give the money away. They could simply buy a friend a coffee or lunch, or they could donate to charity, but the money could not be used on themselves. The research showed that the group that received the cash for themselves showed no increase in happiness (wellbeing), regardless of whether they received 5 or 20 dollars, but the group that gave away the money showed a significant increase in how they felt about themselves.

 

Be grateful. Be appreciative. Give thanks. How lucky are we who have legs to run?! So, long-legged Ophelia Morice, what was your workout like this morn’? Your Dad was up at 6am to beat the sun’s rays and ran 10 laps of Victoria Park. Your 48 year old Dad mixed it up by doing some old man interval training = 30 chin-ups, 100 crunches, 100 push-ups & 3 x one minute planks. Not too shabby.

cimg3796

Oh, by the way, I think it’s your cousin’s Allie’s b’day today – or perhaps it’s the 5th… She’s in grade 6 this year, very tall like yourself, and just like her cousin, loves horses – in fact she has her own horse called Abby! Wouldn’t it be grand to be riding horses alongside Allie up at Lancefield (that’s where Aunty Rach’s parents have a farm)? She’s doing well academically, your cousin Allie. She has a real presence about her. She’s inquisitive, well spoken, intrinsically motivated, and already ambitious. And, she’s never forgotten you. I love that about my niece, your cousin. Someday, you two will be more than just cousins.

 

In great news, Dad’s aunty Den (Den is Nandee’s sister) is out of intensive care (ICU). Nandee & Pa have driven to Sydney to help out with Mike & Den. I hope your Nandee will be okay – it’s a long drive to and from Sydney, and she’s not the most robust grandmother these days. We will Skype your Aussie grandparents in Sydney later this evening. I’ll say hello and “ganbatte” from you.

 

Aunty Den will surely ask, “How’s our Phi? Any news?” I wish I could deliver the news that we’ve all been waiting for… the moment our souls are united again, alas, I cannot… but I know our reunion can’t be too far away.

cimg3776

Sometimes as I dream of that first moment when we’re reunited, I feel I’m being indulgent, fantasizing that everything will be okay. I have to snap myself out of La-La Land because I feel secretly ashamed, unrealistic, and somewhat narcissistic. Am I right to believe in a future for us, together somewhere, happy somewhere? Still, I wait for that miracle because I believe in the bond we once shared. In so many ways, we were inseparable. Our feelings, our thoughts, our stories came so naturally. That moment, when you find the audacity and courage to contact me will ultimately arrive… even if time moves ever so slowly on the reunion-front. It goes without saying, each morning I wake and ponder whether today will be the day that my Ophelia contacts me.

 

In some ways, time helps, grudgingly so. Time, and my C, a wonderfully supportive family, and a great job, ease my burden. But these precious days that pass by us both, these weeks without each other, these months without your touch, these years without our commitment to one another, the pain is always there. Ingrained. Deep within. It hurts to know we’re being deliberately kept from each other. Why would anyone deny that love? Time. Time so precious. Time I wait to see you again. Time passes agonizingly slow.

 

The cold hard truth of reality is I know that when you do actually reach out to me, things will be different. I know. You know. Seven years is a long time. You will likely be subdued, I will probably be hesitant, certainly quiet. It’s understandable that after all this time, we will be unsure of our next steps. What was once totally natural, will most likely feel unnatural, even somewhat tense and strained… let us be patient, generous and understanding of one another…

cimg3797

With your Nandee

One would have thought that with all this time, your Dad could plan a smooth transition to our eventual meeting. Seamless and without tears, I think not. There is much unanswered. Much to be gained in our first embrace. Much to be lost in every day that has been taken from us.

 

Will you stand next to me not knowing the truth? Or will you forever be afraid of the ghost of the past that someone conjured on your behalf? These letters perhaps hint at the truth, but the sad reality is that as much as possible, I have tried to spare you. If you seek the entire truth, you should access the truth of your mother’s actions through the Family Court of Japan. It is your right, should you seek to know what really happened after your mother strangled custody from me.

 

So much has happened, so much time has passed, so many missing pieces that questions alone cannot fill.

 

I love you Ophelia… Dad… XoXo…

 

WICKED WELLNESS

“Our nature lies in movement; complete calm is death.” Blaise Pascal, Pensees

 

 

Tuesday, July 5th 2016

 

Hey Phi-Fai-Pho-Fum, how are you doing?

 

Keeping fit? Strong mentally? I hope you’re running amok, running hard & fast, and livin’ the life of a runner! Because baby, you were born to run! Why walk – when you can run? Just remember that effort matters more than performance. Someone wise once said, you can fool a lot of people on talent alone, at least for a while. But hard work and consistent effort develop a character that lasts. At the beginning of every x-country or track season, I tell my runners that I’m only interested in those runners willing to genuinely pursue personal bests. I look each of them in the eye as I tell them that if they’re content with last year’s times, even if they were ranked #01, they might as well walk away now. Perseverance, resilience and sheer determination are gold in my eyes.

cimg3777

Your Dad ran for 40 minutes around the yacht club and then onto Victoria Park earlier this morning. It’s an awesome feeling exercising while the rest of the world continues to snore… Zzzz! Your Dad also threw in 50 chin-ups, 100 crunches, 3 x one minute planks & 50 push-ups. What you got gal, hey!?

 

Yesterday and Sunday Dad drifted to the Causeway Bay library and spent three hours writing to Kyoko Sensei (lawyer) and tidying up letters to you. It was good to finally find some time to revise my letters to you. Usually I just write to you and then leave the letters to ferment. Weeks, and sometimes months later, when I’m in the best of moods, I revise, edit and delete some of the anger my selfish side still saves for your mother. I don’t want to blame or undermine your mother. Revenge is for the weak minded. It’s wasteful, twisted and hopeless. Hopefully, my revised letters to you Phi, don’t sound like they are penned by an exasperated, vengeful, disgruntled & single-minded dad… After all, I’m just a dad who loves his daughter – and even after all this time, I still can’t quite believe that I am living without you everyday of my life… My hope is that I am a good model for you, but you will one day see that I fall a long way short of perfection. I am what I am. Forgive me when I let you down. Allow my imperfections to shape you for the better.

cimg3765

Look what Pa carries in his wallet…

Again, I sometimes worry that my inability to move on is just some form of narcissism, that I cannot imagine you not needing me, not needing to confide in me. Do you? Can you even remember me? Are there remnants of the joyous times we shared still in your heart? But I keep writing as any parent who loves their child would. It’s the right thing to do – the force & connection is still strong young Ophi – Jedi Knight.

 

In a short time you will be fourteen years old – selfishly, I sincerely hope there are some sassy genes that bubble to the surface and seek answers. Unsolved mystery – the disappearance of your Dad. Answers to calm your identity. Resolutions to sooth your soul. It can’t be easy for you kiddo, not knowing, not being in a position to discover how much I love you… Everyone talks about the resilience of children (especially educators & doctors), how kids adjust to new lives, how they survive, and move on. But can you really move on from this? How can you move on when your mother has unlawfully prevented us from seeing one another? Will things ever be the same again?

 

Probably not, but one thing will never change… I love you Phi… forever waiting… Dad… XoXo.

 

THERE ARE ALWAYS TWO SIDES TO EVERY STORY

 

“Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less travelled by.” Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken and Other Poems

 

 

 

Thursday, July 7th 2016

 

Hey Possum. The old man was at it again this morning. Sweaty, salty, red in the face, feeling grand! Exercise. It’s a damn fine medicine. Fancy some? Dad ran through Victoria Park here in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong, and continued his old man interval training. 30 chin-ups, 125 crunches, 50 straight-legged kick-ups, 100 push-ups, 3 x one-minute planks, and a 40 minute run. Gotta love your lifestyle!

cimg3798

Lego with Masako

And now, another attempt at an epistle for you my daughter. Once upon a time the enormity of losing you loomed so large it blocked everything else out. In many morbid ways I lost confidence in who I was. In numerous other ways I shrank inwardly, and to some extent away from family and friends. I allowed myself to wilt professionally, retreating from committees and presentations to faculty, unable or unwilling to give of myself as I once did. And though I dived into the Saint Maur Tsunami Relief Committee, I was really only treading water. As much as working as a volunteer reinvigorated my soul, it still couldn’t match the energy you had provided me. With you by my side, I felt I could have been anything. Your smile, your energy, your goodness was all the spark I needed. The way you lived your life, even as a child of six, made me ever so proud. But after losing you, despite the mask I tried to hide behind professionally, I slipped, and refused a Curriculum Coordinator position, and on another occasion, a Middle School Principal position. Not reluctantly, I balked at the idea of extra responsibility despite believing I was the best person for the position. Administration and leadership positions would have to wait while I figured out how best to manage the situation with your mother. C came to the rescue, running helped, and I somehow managed to breathe through it, pretending to those nearby that life was normal.

cimg3766

Normalcy came through writing to you. I have Aunty Maur to thank for that… God bless her monstrously magic heart! When I write to you, nothing else matters. As I write, if I keep you front and centre, I needn’t address your mother at all. Most often, it’s calming sharing my thoughts with you. There are moments when I reminisce that bring me brief joy. Sometimes it hurts, especially if I allow my mind to drift to, “What if…”. Even so, I feel it’s my own personal therapy, a rehabilitation of the heart and soul, and a strengthening of the mind. All of which, I owe to you & C… thank you Phi… thank you C… XoXo.

 

You may not be beside me as I write, not even in the same country, but I feel your presence and believe that the end is nearing.

 

Always awaiting you… Dad… XoXo…

 

THAT ROPE EXISTS

 

“It’s an old sailor’s idea that every ship has a rope with one end made fast to her bows and the other held by the loved ones at home.” Bruce Chatwin, In Patagonia

 

 

 

Saturday, July 16th 2016

 

Hey Phi, this time last year we were preparing to leave for Hong Kong. Another year with no word from you, another 365 DAYS lost to us. At the time we were packing our bags for our next adventure, you were twelve, and I guess Dad was hoping that around October 2015 when you became a teenager, you might begin to wonder about the gaps & contradictions in your mother’s side of the story and reach out to Dad. Not yet, but perhaps soon… There are always two sides to every story.

cimg3799

Dad has just finished his first week of Summer School at the Tai Tam HKIS campus. I’ve been teaching ‘Critical Thinking’ to G4 – 6 students. It’s a great mix of kids from different local and international schools. I teach a morning & afternoon session from a classroom with the most amazing view of a bay on the southern end of Hong Kong island. From the classroom window we can see the Dragon’s Back Mountain in the background, and in the foreground there’s a mighty gum tree. Unbelievably majestic.

 

This time next year, Dad will be packing up his classroom at Repulse Bay and moving alongside his colleagues to the Tai Tam campus. The plan is for the school to renovate the Upper Primary campus (where I teach now), so we’ll all be shipped off to the Tai Tam campus for 12 months… hope I get a classroom with a similar poetic view!

 

Thursday night, C went out with her JP mates, so Dad caught up with Maurice & Sophie in nearby Northpoint. It was good to catch up, talk a little footy and chat about our Tokyo days together. It’s a small world Phi – Sophie’s father was one of my lecturers at university. You even met Maurice & Sophie’s daughters, Mave & Dara, when we visited their family in Melbourne.

cimg3767

To prevent me from getting soft, I also ran home from the Tai Tam campus Monday & Wednesday afternoon. It’s a grueling run in the afternoon heat with the humidity feeling like a blanket, but it’s character building! My plan is to continue the trend, running home twice a week, what do you think Phi? Care to join me? Great hill training for aspiring runners!

 

It’s been another horrific week in world news. What’s the world coming to??? Yesterday we awoke to the devastating news from Nice, France, and the mentally deranged rampaging truck driver. Then this morning, we’re listening to the attempted military coup in another of our favourite countries, Turkey.

cimg3800

With your G3 Buddy

But, let’s finish on a positive. Here’s a little dedication especially for you – Spice Gals givin’ gals some power:

http://www.vox.com/2016/7/5/12099730/spice-girls-wannabe-girls-feminist-whatireallyreallywant

 

Love forever and ever and ever… Dad – XoXo… Kick like a girl – STRONG!

 

 

Sunday, July 17th 2016

 

Hey Little One! What are those long legs made of? This morning your Dad was at it again. Exercise – should be the single most prescribed medicine in the world! Ran for 40 minutes, did my mandatory 30 chin-ups, slipped in 100 crunches, banged out a 100 push-ups, threw in 60 kick-ups, followed that with three x 1 minute planks, and finished it all off with a few lunges. The glutes might be a bit sore tomorrow; haven’t done any lunges for a while. And you? Strong spiritually, mentally and physically? I can’t wait for the day when the two of us can exercise together… what do you say Ophelia? Sounds like a plan, right?

cimg3801

With your Pa, Luca & Billie

After breakfast and coffee with C, it was off to the library to polish up a letter I had penned to our lawyer. Here it is:

 

Hello again Kyoko Sensei,

 

Ishigaki was fantastic. As it’s only two hours direct from HK we plan on visiting again. Perhaps next time we’ll visit Iriomote. Do you recommend any nice (reasonably priced) places to stay?

 

Thank you for getting back to me with an action plan.

 

Firstly, there are a few things that you may need to know:

  • My wife & I haven’t lived in Japan for more than three years (from July 2013).
  • After I parted ways with your expertise, I used a less expensive lawyer. It was not successful. After which M. Otani became the third lawyer to represent me. Perhaps you know of her; she’s quite famous and has just been appointed the first Japanese independent expert to be elected to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. Sad to say, I feel that she used my case more for her own interests than for my daughter’s wellbeing (and mine). Indeed during the time Otani Sensei represented me, the visitation rights you had fought so hard for, were not protected by the Family Court.
  • My last visitation was Sunday, September 11th Within seconds of leaving her mother, Ophelia took my hand. I’ll never forget that moment. Her warm and loving act brought me much strength. The visitation was for 90 minutes. The next day, Monday, September 12th 2011, Ophelia’s mother (via telephone) told me that my daughter did not wish to see me. It’s genuinely impossible for me to believe that the Ophelia who took my hand just 24 hours earlier, smiling & laughing, did not wish to see me again. Nevertheless, this September, it will be five years since I’ve seen my daughter.
  • When I was living in Japan, I used to attend Ophelia’s school festivals. On Saturday, October 13th 2012, I attended with my parents. They had flown from Australia to see their first grandchild. We were denied access to Ophelia. The presents my mother gave to Ms. Ishijima for Ophelia were thrown to the ground by Ms. Ishijima before my mother’s eyes. For no reason, Ophelia’s new family threatened to call the police if we continued to attend her school events.
  • On Sunday, October 28th 2012, I arrived at Ophelia’s school with my wife and a family friend who had known Ophelia from birth. Shortly afterward, Ophelia’s family contacted the police. Six police officers surrounded my wife & I and escorted us to the front gate. Originally they accused us of attempted kidnapping [sic], but it soon became apparent to the police that we only had the intention of passing presents to Ophelia. From that point on, one undercover officer seemed to sympathize with our predicament and he personally took the presents and passed them to Ophelia’s maternal grandfather.
  • On Wednesday morning, June 22nd 2016, I visited Ophelia’s school. I spoke with a teacher at the door of the faculty room. The teacher informed me that if I returned during the lunch hour I could see Ophelia. Upon return, the school gates had been closed. I was met and denied access to Kamiyamaguchi Middle School. On the school’s website it stated that the week was designated as “Open Week” for parents and other interested parties. I spoke with the Kyoto Sensei and the year 8 Middle School team leader by the front gate. They told me that the presents I had delivered to the school had been taken by Ophelia’s grandmother. They also told me that Ophelia didn’t wish to see me. I suspected it was the influence of Ophelia’s Japanese family that brought this decision, even so, I remained calm and respectful. I informed Kyoto Sensei that I too was a teacher, that I didn’t want to cause any trouble, and that I understood the difficult position they had been placed in.

 

Secondly, I am only interested in the wellbeing of my daughter. I want to do all I can to support her. I want her to feel comfortable and proud of her identity as a beautiful and proud bicultural person. I want her to realize the love of her Australian cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents. And I want her to know that a day never goes by without her dad thinking of her. Indeed, even though Ms. Ishijima denies me access, I write regularly to my daughter. You can view seven years of letters at: opheliaanddad.com

 

So, I am not interested in monetary compensation or any sort of revenge; I just want what is best for my daughter. I believe my family and I can only do good by Ophelia.

 

Despite the fact that the Family Court has only given me grief upon every occasion, I guess the most sensible avenue is to follow your first idea (1). To let the Family Court urge her mother to follow the judgment of the High Court and allow me to see my daughter.

 

We also seek your advice in liaising with Ophelia’s Middle School. My wife & I are preparing to send Kyoto Sensei the same court documents we forwarded you. I want them to realize that I am a reasonable person. I’m not interested in causing them any trouble, however, at the same time, the courts have urged Ms. Ishijima to continue visitation, communicate school events, and to keep me up to date with Ophelia’s school reports; all of which she ignores. Is it better that this communication comes through you?

 

Thanking you,

 

Gerard Morice.

 

And so, we must continue to fight the good fight. Truth always wins – sometimes, it just takes time – ask Nelson Mandella. Integrity is everything – doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.

cimg3802

Atop Kanuki with Pa, Nandee, Allie, Rich & Rach

I love you Phi… XoXo…

ONE MUST ALWAYS BELIEVE

“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” Jimmy Dean

 

 

Thursday, July 28th 2016

 

Hey Buddy, how’s the summer vacation treating you and your friends? Are you headed to the beach, a swim in a mountain river, some camping & a barbeque? Perhaps you and your friends will all dress up in your yukatas and watch the fireworks… an alchemy of unimaginable teenage passion – wish I could be there with you, not to interfere or be constantly in your face, but just to play a small part… bless you… XoXo.

cimg3769

Tell me about your friends – are they kind, considerate and generous? Hadyn said something profound to me recently: we are the average of the five people we see most in our lives. Show me your friends, and I’ll show you your future! The idea that we are in good measure a reflection of our soul mates, resonates deeply with me. The more I think about it, the more I know there is truth in the five people we choose to surround us permeating our hearts & mind. We allow each other freedom, we support one another, we listen, we compromise, we give, and we’re honest with one another – and if they don’t, we owe it to ourselves to ask: do they truly have our best interests at heart? Are they truthful with themselves? Are they generous of spirit? At the same time, everyone needs a second chance – perhaps they’re just having a bad day…

 

Back to our journal together – our journey in print (crafting each letter with my two-finger typing!). So, today was Dad’s second last day of three weeks of Summer School. It’s been an interesting change for me, as I’ve been teaching at the Tai Tam HKIS campus. The short story is – it’s been great. I’m a lucky person to love teaching and children so much! Adding to the fortunate fun, we have an unbelievable classroom overlooking a gorgeous bay. Not the most swimmable bay, as it’s quite full of sharp oyster producing rocks and somewhat on the murky side, but from our angle – high above on the 6th floor, it’s a glorious view. Beyond the bay is the famous Dragon’s Back, a hugely popular hiking ridge with views of the bay and ocean down each side.

cimg3803

Enjoying Dad’s bento at kinder

Dad has been teaching ‘Critical Thinking’ to students from G4 – G6. They’re an interesting bunch of HKIS students, students from other international schools in HK, students from some of the local public schools, and even a few students from China & the USA. Twice weekly, around 4.30pm, I have managed to brave the 34 degree Celsius heat and humidity and run the 12km home. C enjoys joking with me when I arrive home – by the time I push the key in our front door, it appears I have just jumped into a pool, such is the sweat. Yeah, sorry Phi, probably not such a pretty sight. But it’s a great workout and I drink around two liters each way – the sweat cleanses the pores and the soul!

 

Tonight, Felicity, a fellow summer school teaching colleague has invited us to the HK Football Club to sit around the pool, enjoy a drink, and then enjoy dinner. I think I’ll order fish and chips! Felicity & Chris have two younger kids – fancy playing babysitter for an hour or two?

 

Last Friday our Lamma Island friend, Janet, popped in for a pre-dinner drink. She’s also a dog lover. Phi, you would just love her. She even brought back a dog from Thailand that had been left for dead after injuring its two back legs. Janet has spent a small fortune ensuring it’s healthy & loved.

cimg3804

Then on Sunday, we took Toro on the ferry across to Cheung Chau Island (kind of between Hong Kong Island & Lantau Island). Aboard the ferry, it was about a 50 minute crossing to an island shaped like a bone – a very doggish day! We were expecting something remote and less developed than Lamma Island (our usual go-to island retreat), but right in front of the ferry terminal was a McDonald’s! There was even one of Dad’s favorite HK stores – 759. Despite being on an early ferry, thousands of other island hoppers had joined us. To escape the hordes of holiday makers, we walked to the far side of the island and took Toro for a dip in a small bay. This is something I love about Hong Kong – we could have been on any beach anywhere in South East Asia. Happy days! After our dip (Toro isn’t too keen – he has to be strongly encouraged and pushed to swim), we found a bar/restaurant and ordered some fish ‘n’ chips! While we waited we ordered an ice-cold beer each. Lovely! By 1.30pm, however, the sun was doing a number on your Dad, so we were back on the return ferry for HK island.

cimg3770

Life is good now. C & Dad feel settled, safe & comfortable. It’s just the two of us, three if you count Toro, and hopefully one day soon, you’ll join us from time to time. I often feel brave & bold with our life-changing moves. Japan, Egypt, Hong Kong. I hope you don’t feel betrayed by my apparent optimism as C & Dad explore this world. Malaysia, India, Saipan, Ishigaki, Turkey, Spain, Switzerland, France, UK, Italy, China, Kyushu, Thailand, South Africa, Austria, Belgium, New Caledonia, Australia … so many places, so many stories to tell you one day soon, so many spots I’ve found a moment to think of you – call it prayer, remembrance, call it what you will – when I think of you nothing else matters. Usually, it’s a smell, a song, a child’s voice as they call their dad that brings me a smile as I remember you in a similar light. Even so, sometimes my happiness feels dizzy and hollow because somewhere in there, there is a hole in my heart.

 

FLASHBACK – Yesteryear, your Dad was very much the extrovert, ambitious, outspoken and willing to lead. Over time, not reluctantly, I have let my world of once many friends slip away from me. There were times I felt empty without you beside me, but I soon became used to that feeling. There were even occasions when I felt I couldn’t or wouldn’t recover from my self-imposed misery. But, as the Blue Man in Mitch Albom’s The Five People You Meet in Heaven says, “Fairness, does not govern life and death. If it did, no good person would ever die young.”

 

I LOVE YOU… XoXo…

 

 

 

Monday, August 1st 2016

 

Hey Phi, how’s it going sleepy head? I woke early, always do now that I’m old and wrinkly. Your Dad seems to rise every morning around 5am, even before the 5:20am alarm. It’s good & bad – the good is I can largely beat the heat and get some exercise in while the rest of the world sleeps; the bad, well, your Dad is often in bed with his book at 9pm. Even so, the early bird catches the worm! The streets are deserted, there’s no Cairo-esque feral dogs to battle, and by 7am I am back home enjoying breakfast and writing to you. My core, my cardiovascular system, and my wellbeing get some cleansing, and I have the whole day ahead of me. Life is a celebration of health & wellbeing! Being fit mentally & physically has enabled me to push through everything your mother has thrown at me, and not only survive, but prosper in happiness beside C and my family & friends.

cimg4055

Yesterday (Sunday), your Dad ran again, joined the 100 Club by banging out 100 push-ups, 100 crunches, 30 chin-ups (I think my arms might drop off if I ever attempted 100 chin-ups in one session), and 100 kick-ups. Later in the day, I ventured into Central and bought a new sports jacket from Zara – kind of pink, red & white – very chic for your 48 year OLD Dad! I’ll send you a photo!

 

Saturday evening Maurice came over for homemade Dad sausage rolls and a game of footy. Sophie and the gals are back in Australia, so he got a home cooked meal. It was good to finally catch up and watch some footy together – Boomer’s 427th game for North Melbourne; a new record.

cimg3805

Who’s the leader at camp?

Friday night Dad enjoyed a couple of drinks with Rob & Felicity to celebrate the end of three weeks of Summer School. The three of us worked from the Tai Tam campus to save a few extra bucks for rainy days. Each week my goal was to run home twice from Tai Tam. Last week, I ran home Monday & Wednesday. Lucky one of my kids gave me a Camelback! It’s an awesome backpack that comfortably holds 3 liters of icy water – it’s a long run back to Causeway Bay in this thick humidity! I skirt the Tai Tam reservoir and then hit the hill to Park View. It’s a good long hill, very steep in some parts, so when the body is crying out in pain, I picture you and start a conversation with you – you usually start. It goes something like this:

 

You start, “C’mon Dad! Is that all you’ve got?”

“Puff, huff, puff,” is all you get from me. And a grin.

“Dad? It’s not that steep. C’mon, pick it up.”

My eyes smile, I grit my teeth and think of you beside me, or just in front of me egging me on. “You know I’ll be 50 the year after next?”

“What do you want, a medal?” you wink at me.

“Nah, just a day with you,” I pant. “A whole day.”

There’s a pause, like you’re teasing me. “That would be great,” you respond.

And so it goes. Before long, I’m at the top of the mountain and feeling pretty good about myself and life.

 

When I exercise the endorphins bring a good deal of positive energy, but at night if C is working late on one of her translation jobs, I’m not always full of hope. I lie in bed, alone, wide awake and hope you can read my heart. I really wish you could see my heart – then you would know, know everything, sense the loneliness I feel everyday without you. Put your hands on my shoulders, look into my eyes and feel the warmth, hope and love. I wish you could pull me close and feel my life rush into you. Feel the depth of my commitment and the way so much of my life still evolves around you. You would see that your Australian family has not forgotten you. My life is no waste, nor are these letters I pen for you. Each week I put aside a little time to write to you; it’s a small sacrifice to make, and it’s never enough – you deserve much, much more from me and your mother. But, it is my time to sit and think of only you. Just the two of us. Wonder how you are doing. Wonder what you are thinking. Wonder when we will meet again. I am not alone, you never have to pity me or feel sorry for me. This hardship has made me a better person – stronger, a better listener, a deeper thinker. It’s not fatal, or a dream set for self destruction – life is about becoming a better version of yourself. Be the person your dog thinks you are! As the Blue Man says, “The only time we waste is the time we spend thinking we are alone.”

cimg3806

Together we painted your camp t-shirt

Sacrifice. You’re making one. I’m making one by playing fair. Sometimes I regret not fighting aggression with aggression, but usually that’s a selfish person who puts herself/himself in front of you. I don’t want to be that person. You come first, it’s only fair. I want you to see that I am waiting for you. Waiting for you to realize the truth. The truth is not far from you now. The truth is always the truth.

 

The truth is that you, my dear Ophelia, lived with me for the first six years of your life. If I close my eyes I can still see you sleeping. Your mouth open, your cheeks rosy, your hair tangled and matted with a little perspiration, your innocence – your noble, heartbreaking innocence. Your beautiful face, so peaceful in sleep.

 

I love you Phi… XoXo…

 

GOTTA BELIEVE

“Build your own dreams, or someone else will hire you to build theirs.” Farrah Gray

 

Sunday, August 7th 2016

 

How’s my gorgeous daughter this evening? Thinking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? We should visit together some day. I miss you… can’t help but think of you each time a school year begins. I know you won’t be starting your second term until later this month, but here, on the international school scene, we’re gearing up to start another academic year. I always wonder what might have been if your mother hadn’t taken you and alienated you from your Australian family. If I ponder the now impossible, it only gets me down – so, let’s just smile – we can both hold on Bella!

cimg3807

Dad spent Thursday, August 4th & Friday, August 5th setting up my new classroom. School for us teachers doesn’t officially start until Tuesday, August 9th and I think the kids don’t arrive until next Monday. I’m still in fourth grade, but I had to move rooms, so there was plenty to move, organize and rearrange. I’m on the 7th floor – talk about a vertical school! After two solid six-hour days of organizing, sorting, discovering and tossing, the new classroom looks pretty tight and neat. It’s a good feeling to have my classroom setup pretty much ready to go. Alone, I accomplished a good deal, but I could have done with your help Phi. You’re pretty artistic, right? When you were little, you were quite the artist – hope that creative streak has been encouraged. You could have helped me with some of the finer touches on the anchor charts I’m preparing for literacy and math.

 

Missing you Phi… time for Dad to enjoy a scotch with a little ice… Oyasumi nasai…

 

Love Dad… XoXo…

 

 

Sunday, August 14th 2016

 

Hey Ophelia Morice, did you think of me today? I had a day away from the classroom, so I found some time to run, do 100 crunches, walk with C & Toro, and write/revise some letters to you. Usually, I just write, spew my thoughts to you, unleashing all of my emotions, dreams, hopes, wishes and feelings. I write from the heart, and at least from my biased point of view, I at least endeavor to keep blame, misery and sorrow from creeping into my writing and your heart. But, if I’m honest with myself, that’s quite impossible. Writing to you is in some ways my therapy, a healing that enables me to better accept reality. So, once written, I let my words & thoughts rest, and then weeks later, with fresh eyes I reread and revise, doing my best to erase or soften any of my words that might hurt or undermine your mother. Some of the words I leave to ferment, and hopefully with time and wisdom, I can deal with them properly. And sometimes, I leave the wording as is. I know I’m not always successful in shielding you from what your mother has done to us and the relationships you once treasured with your Australian grandparents, cousins, uncles & aunts – and for that, I’m sorry.

cimg3808

Alas, let’s drink to hope, second chances, forgiveness and family.

 

Tomorrow, my new bunch of G4 students will join me in the classroom for a quick orientation with their parents. Tanoshimi! I’ll get to meet them and their parents and get a feel for what this year holds for me, and my 22 new students.

 

Cheers big ears! Love Dad… XoXo…

“Remember no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Eleanor Roosevelt

 

 

Sunday, August 28th 2016

 

G’day Gorgeous. Sorry it has been two weeks since I put pen to paper. First impressions of Dad’s new class are super encouraging. They’re absolutely wonderful, and I don’t mind one bit spending a good deal of my weekend actually at school planning and preparing the classroom & curriculum.

cimg3809

Dancing at Christmas with Nandee & Den

Working Saturday isn’t such a chore; in fact, it sets me up for the week, and usually I find some time to write to you, let you know how I am, what’s happening and the sort. And, I guess, it keeps me busy – my quite remarkable adaptation that has enabled me to not only survive, but to flourish!

So I adapted, but I haven’t moved on. It’s impossible to forget what happened to us. It’s possible to forgive, but at the same time, we both know things will never really ever be the same. Still, you don’t win anything by being the saddest the longest. There’s no prize for being the most miserable. I am not betraying anyone by trying to live a better life. And I am not giving up on anyone, especially you.

 

Mostly, I do try to make the best out of an impossible situation. A long time ago I decided I cannot spend the rest of my life being angry with your mother. When you were taken away from me, the foundation of my life was shifted. I had to start from zero again. Once upon a time, every time I blinked, I hoped that I would wake from the nightmare I was in, but every time I opened my eyes, every day, every week, every month, the unimaginable horror remained. I guess in some ways I have moved on, and though I have my obstacles to happiness, none of them are anywhere as difficult as losing you. I sleep well most nights, because unlike your mother, I don’t bed down to a dark, immovable wall of truth. What she did changed your life in an irreversible way. Her lies, alternative facts, and deceitful actions blackened her own soul… I feel sorry for her, I really do – when we lie, we only cheat ourselves. As horrible as it sounds, she really has backed herself into a terrible hole.

cimg3810

With Pa & your cuz, Luca

Your mother may never be able to right this wrong, but she can save herself by being truthful to herself and her own heart.

 

Dad… XoXo…

 

WISDOM FROM HADYN’S FRIDGE

Listen twice as much as you speak – most people get this backwards and talk twice as much as they listen. That’s normal. But watch what happens when you start to listen more – you’ll display how much you care and people will develop more trust in you.

 

Sunday, September 4th 2016

 

Dear Ophelia,

 

How’s life in Tokorozawa? Living this far removed from you, I can only imagine an infinitesimal number of life’s possibilities thrown your way. Do you have any international friends? Where are they from? Is Japanese your common medium, or has your English survived? I so hope that you are still bilingual – it’s such a rare gift to be as totally bilingual as you were as a six year old. You were the envy of many, so naturally switching in and out of English/Japanese. A silky smooth communication skill! Do you still identify with being bicultural, or has someone wrestled your identity from you?

cimg3811

So many questions, so many wonderings… I know you’re in the track & field club at your Junior High School, but even before that fact was revealed, your genes meant at some stage you would try your legs out on the track. So, how fast can you actually run 5km? Your cousin, Billie, who is 11 is preparing to run in a 5km Fun Run next month – wouldn’t that be neat, running a Fun Run with your cuz & Uncle Sean!

 

Books! Who is your favorite author? There are so many books I would love to read to you, so many titles that I feel you would just love, especially when you hear Dad talk about said books with such passion. Here a couple you might like to try: Walk Two Moons (Sharon Creech) & The School for Good & Evil (Soman Chainani) Do you have a favorite book series? I have a sneaking suspicion you’re a Harry Potter fan, or should I say, a Hermione fan!

 

More questions… Do you still help around the house? Have you kept that wonderful sense of responsibility and initiative? I was always so proud of your efforts to pitch in and help out where needed.

cimg3812

What can I help you with? Homework and building a schedule/routine? Running & building a strong core? Carpentry & gardening? English and writing? Math and the fact that it’s everywhere? Saving your pocket money? Poetry and wicked books? Friends, initiative, lifestyle & Leadership? I so wish I could be a part of your life – right now, today, this very moment – when you get a chance, seize the moment and please contact me. Or you could contact Nandee – her number is 61 3 9879 2367 – please, she would LOVE to hear from you.

 

And me, well, school is crazy busy, but Friday night, the fourth grade teachers all went to the Yacht club for some bowling, dinner and a drink. It was a nice way to finish the week, because Thursday evening was Back to School Night (BTSN). BTSN is a grand night where most parents come along for an hour with their child’s teacher. I had 26 parents, and stressful as it is, the evening went smoothly.

 

Missing you, my Little Bo Peep… LOVE Dad… XoXo…

 

LET US NOT ALWAYS LIVE IN MOTHER TERESA’S SHADOW

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the water to create many ripples.” Mother Teresa

cimg3813

 

Saturday, September 10th 2016

 

G’day Phi,

 

It’s evening here in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong. There’s a glorious sun setting on our spectacular view of Victoria Harbor. It’s breathless, wordless, and its energy inspires hope. Hope. We both have hope for a future together. Belief. We just have to believe that we will one day soon be reunited. Strength, like this mighty sunset that engulfs us all – swallows us and our pessimism. Its grandeur can’t help but build a growth mindset, edging us closer to that first conversation together. A bridge. A bridge to acceptance. That first hug will bring acceptance – we cannot change the past… we can only move forward.

 

And so, let us get on with life. Let us set goals and show gratitude. Envision that moment when we will once again be totally comfortable in each other’s presence. In the meantime, let’s be grateful and appreciate each and every day – each and every sunrise, each and every sunset.

cimg3814

Another b’day for Dad

What was the highlight of your day? Let’s see, for Dad it’s often the simple things in life; it might be the pleasure of a cheap haircut that brings a smile to me – this morning at 10am I had a 60HKD haircut (that’s about 1000 yen). A quick & easy 10 minute cut – not too shabby. Another highlight was grabbing a post-haircut coffee and writing to you my darling Ophelia. Actually, just 20 minutes ago, as I ordered my latte at the counter, a little girl of perhaps 5 or 6 excitedly called, “Daddy!” It brought me joy to hear her faith. Her loving voice took me back to yesteryear with you. Do you still dream of Dad?

 

Perhaps you still have memories of Dad & Allan watching the footy. Last night was an incredible game between the Cats & Hawks. Plenty of bash and crash and the Cats just won by two points after the lead changed all night. In fact, the Cats purring victory was halted when a Hawk player had a chance to kick the winning goal after the final siren; he tragically missed, but as Dad was supporting the Cats, it was a fitting finale.

 

BTW, your uncle Hadyn was with us during the week. Hayd joined us Thursday night after he had flown in from Thailand for a breezy 24 hour visit. C cooked gyoza, miso soup, a cool French salad, and amazing individual portions of chocolate pudding with vanilla ice cream for each of us. It was grand to see Hayd. Did you know we’ve been mates since grade 3 in primary school? We played footy together, camped with each other’s families, hiked here, there & everywhere in Victoria, traveled the Europe & North America together, ran & exercised here, there & everywhere. And Thursday evening, we sat back and leisurely enjoyed the view from Elizabeth House, Causeway Bay, laughed, reminisced and drank sparkling wine. What a gem your Uncle Haydy is!

cimg3815

Kitti Chan b’day for you – that’s Grace next to you

During the week it was your Uncle Richie’s b’day (Wednesday, September 7th). I miss my brother, his warm and quiet ways, his calming influence and his wisdom on so many issues. I’m lucky to have brothers like I do – your uncles are fantabulous!

 

 

 

Busy at school, you? Do you already have loads of tests to prepare for? How’s your English teacher? Is there any communication involved, or is the esoteric ways of teaching English in Nippon still prevalent? Do the teachers still stand on the podium at the front of the classroom dictating their monologue? Are English sentences broken down like they are some sort of mystical equation? I really hope that English teachers have stopped teaching to the test. If the test is still the primary concern, there is no transfer of learning, no meaningful takeaway, and as the evidence of reality shows, very few students graduate from high school (after six years of everyday English tuition) with any genuine appreciation & understanding of English as a tool for communication. Oops, what a rant… back to Dad.

I am crazy busy too, but I’m conscious of the fact that my fitness is good for both body & mind. Your Dad ran home from school in Repulse Bay Tuesday & Thursday this past week, and he coached his fitness class for teachers Monday. You should join us and attempt the 100 Club – 100 push-ups, 100 crunches, 100 lunges, 3 x 100 second planks & 100 squats. What do you say, Phi?

 

Last weekend Dad went to school on Saturday for the fourth Saturday in a row. It was a bit of a non-event. I need to spend more time with my lovely C. Shame on your Dad – I need to help out around home too. What about you? Helping out when you can?

 

Alrighty Angel, the sun has well & truly set on this letter. Good night Phi… XoXo… Dad.

cimg3819

WICKED QUOTE

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou

 

 

Sunday, September 18th 2016

 

Hey Bella, sorry it’s been a while. How’s life back at school after your summer holiday? Uncle Milton is here at the moment. Tonight we visited two of his former Japanese colleagues here in Hong Kong. Together, we enjoyed a Chinese meal in Kowloon. Milton is on his way to Spain after HK. He’s thinking of buying a home by the Mediterranean. Actually, C & Dad have been talking about it too. I’m not that comfortable about living in Australia, and I think your mother will make life for all of us difficult in Japan. So, what about Spain? Have you been to Europe? You’ll love it, so rich in history, landscapes, cuisine, culture, festivals & surprises. But the best part will be, you, me & C sitting down to some exotic cheese, a fresh still-warm baguette and a glass of local wine. Talk, listen, talk, listen, smile, laugh, love… How would you like to study Spanish or French? How about it Phi? If you’re not keen on wine, we can exchange the vino for fresh pomegranate juice!

 

I LOVE YOU – Dad… XoXo…

“What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.” Plutarch

 

 

Sunday, September 25th 2016

 

G’day Phi. How are you doing? You’ll be 14 in just over two weeks… hard to imagine that my baby gal is turning fourteen. Any sign of summer ending in Nippon? It’s still just as hot here – probably have to wait until late October for any real noticeable change to the oppressive heat & humidity here. Can’t complain – pretty much all day your Dad is in air conditioned comfort at school Monday to Friday.

 

Sitting here on the couch with our stunning view of Victoria Harbour enjoying a lazy Sunday afternoon. Wish you were here beside me. I’m watching Bosch. It’s a US cop show. The central character, Bosch, has a daughter who is probably about high school – maybe a year or two older than you. They have a good relationship, although she lives with her mum, who incidentally is a professional gambler in Las Vegas. The daughter calls him on Skype. Sometimes she can’t cope with her mother, or she just wants to chat with her dad. I love it when she calls. It always makes me think of you. Always.

cimg3820

With Sue, Leo & Nandee

Also Saturday, Dad went into school to act as a moderator for student council. There are 18 fourth graders, two representatives from each class. The kids seem great – very motivated and generous in their thinking. I learned one member, Ariane, has prime ministerial blood in her veins. Her grandfather was the president of Korea and until he past away, a friend of the UN’s Bung Ki Moon. Pretty impressive, huh!?

 

Here’s a letter I sent to the schools Booster Club as part of one of the Student Council’s initiatives:

 

Dear Booster Club,

 

The G4 Student Council met this morning for three hours. Saturday? Yes. You could say we’re super keen.

 

Our moderators (S K & Gerard Morice) were astonished at how quickly we moved away from me, myself & I ideas to ways we can serve the community. This year, one of our goals is to embrace our fourth grade themes of persistence, empathy, integrity & forgiveness. As student councilors we have to show initiative in ensuring we & our peers are cognizant of our Student Learning Results, namely:

Chinese Culture with looking at ways to properly show appreciation to our Chinese neighbors.

Contributing to Society and recognizing and rewarding the contributions of oftentimes unrecognized workers.

Character Development by developing an understanding and recognition of how others contribute to our own lives, and also the courage to stand up for what is right.

Spirituality by showing kindness to others as demonstrated by Jesus in the Christian faith.

As student councilors we seek to promote spirit events for the greater good of the HKIS community. We recognize the fact that we as students, teachers, and family members of HKIS are a privileged few. At the same time we are aware of HKIS’s core values: learning thrives in the presence of mutually respectful relationships. We also acknowledge that there are many around us, who constantly support us, and yet in many ways, they are not afforded the same privileges.

 

At HKIS, we are encouraged to develop a mindset of empathy and service, and so, the G4 Student Council has two proposals we seek your help with:

 

  1. We wish to recognize the wonderful job our support staff do at the UP. Every day they arrive before us and depart after us, cooking, cleaning, maintaining, repairing… the list is endless. And so, we would like to serve them a special ‘thank you’ lunch. We will interview each of them to learn more about them, and then write a biography about their lives. This biography and a thank you card will be presented to them on their special ‘thank you’ day. We would also like to have some door prizes that some of our luckier support staff might be taking home with a smile at the end of the day. We (not our helpers) also acknowledge that we will need to prepare most of the food & beverages ourselves, but we will need to purchase a good many things to help make this day a success.

 

We are also keen to celebrate and acknowledge the work of all ‘helpers’ affiliated with the UP campus. Their often stoic, gentle & quiet ways go largely unnoticed, and so as citizens of HKIS, we wish to show respect and compassion by organizing an afternoon tea for all our helpers. Further, we would like to encourage all our families to help make this day a special day by granting their helper a holiday.

  1. The Student Council hopes to welcome our family helpers to a special afternoon tea, catered and served by us. To make our celebration more exciting, we would again like to give thanks by providing lots & lots of door prizes, chocolates, flowers, etc. The details of this special day are contingent on consultations we will have with student council members and the initiatives towards this goal that they would like to pursue.

The student council initiatives will have students recognizing & embracing the Student Learning Results that form the priorities for our whole child teaching at HKIS.

Please help our fourth graders in their action plan to help build a harmonious local & global community. We are hoping that with your financial support/donation of goods, these two events will grow & blossom year after year.

 

From little things, big things grow.

 

Thanking you in anticipation,

 

Gerard Morice & S K (Fourth Grade SC Moderators).

 

Wish us luck Ophelia!

cimg3821

Writing our Xmas cards

Phi, your beautiful cousins will be arriving soon (October). Ally & Chris… wish you could join us on a hike!

 

Love always & forever,

 

Dad… XoXo…

 

SOMETHING TO REMEMBER

“Control your own destiny or someone else will.” Jack Welch

cimg3822

Another b’day together

 

 

 

2016 April – June

Tuesday, April 5th 2016
Happy b’day Uncle Sean Morice!!! Ophelia, wouldn’t it be grand to celebrate a b’day with Uncle Seanus Maximus?! I wonder how old your infamous tiger snake victim uncle is… Let’s do the maths; if Dad turns 48 next month, then my little bro’ must be turning 43. Whoo-hoo!IMG_2613

 

Uncle Ralph left this morning too. It was an epic stay, but it will also be nice just to get back to Cc & Dad. Don’t get me wrong, our spare bedroom is always awaiting you. Saturday the three of us took a trip out to the Big Buddha. Dad ran to the summit from the metro station and Cc & Ralph took the cable car to the top.

message

You’re beautiful… wouldn’t it be grand if your parents could communicate just as you wished…

 

So, another chapter passes in our lives and we’re still yet to reunite. How can that be? How can someone who loves you so much keep someone from loving you? Spiritually your presence in my life is ever omnipresent. Your smile, your warmth, your kindness still jogs within my memory. It’s just that your futon remains cold, your black leather school shoes empty of your warmth, but worn photos of you within my wallet signify our love of yesteryear. Your photo graces our walls, and so many of your belongings that I couldn’t bare to part with are safely entombed in Cc’s bedroom cupboard back in Chiba.MVI_2630

 

Sometimes, only sometimes, I feel like I’m mourning the death of someone I truly love. My mind tells me you’re alive & well, but my heart senses there’s a part of me, a part of you that is dying. With death, one mourns, but there is closure; one eventually moves on. But being banished from your life is a constant. You’re everywhere. You’re in my dreams and you come to life at the smell of certain food. You’re in pictures on our walls and in my wallet. You’re in places we visited together and songs we sang to. And you speak with me in this journal. And yet, you’re nowhere near. Sometimes I forget what it’s like to hold your hand like I last did on September 11th 2011. Sometimes I forget the joy it brought me to see you smile, to hear your laughter, to hold you close. Sometimes I can’t recall the sound of your beautiful voice as we sang together, or the strength with which you hugged me. Sometimes it has just been too long. Sometimes I cry. Only sometimes. I miss you Phi…

cimg3823

Aunty Rach & Uncle Rich’s trip to Numz

I wonder why your mother deliberately took all of this away from you. The love of a family. Stolen. A beautiful identity. Gone. The innocence in which you loved us both freely. Methodically removed. All you wanted was for us to love you as you loved us. Erased. But I am still here Phi. See. I never left you. Never. I will never leave you. I will always side with love and compassion over hate and revenge.
I love you Ophelia Hirakawa-Morice. I always will.

XoXo… Dad.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Our Toro is awaiting a cuddle Phi…

 

WICKED WISDOM

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller

Here’s an epic song for you. The Sound of Silence:
Silence

 

 

Saturday, April 9th 2016
Good morning Phi.

How’s life in Nippon? It’s a humid morning here in Hong Kong. I hope it’s not a precursor for a long hot summer! The smog doesn’t seem as bad as during the week, so all the windows are open allowing the sound of Saturday morning commuters and the excavation work going on at the nearby docks to trickle in. Actually, the noise pollution doesn’t actually “trickle” in, it’s constant and sometimes thunders, especially if the renovation work upstairs is going on. It’s loud but not nearly as invasive as when we first arrived. Living in Causeway Bay, seemingly everything operates all the time; “Ratta-tat-tat… Barr-brr-baa!” A Maserati roars past, a ferry sounds its horn, protesters chant their slogans, the diggers excavate another tunnel beneath Victoria Harbour, and the chatter of this diverse melting pot breezes in and out at will. The sounds of democracy & choice? The noise of progress & privilege? Welcome to First World problems!IMG_1993

Last night we had a little celebration on Saint Stephen’s Beach in Stanley for Stan’s b’day. It was Stan’s 50th. He’s a colleague and a wonderful friend. Stan’s daughter, Hayden was there too. She’s a high school student, ever so mature, friendly and wise for someone so young. I so wish you could have joined us as we sat around tables with our toes digging into the sand. The sun set a glorious mass of autumnal colours, and then as the tiny waves washed up on the beach we noticed an electric blue phosphorescent rippling effect. Courtesy of the science teachers present, this stunning nighttime effect shows up because of an abundance of algae in the seawater. It was incredible! Dad racked his memory for where he had seen it before, but my memory failed me. All the same, it was truly beautiful. I just wish we could have celebrated Stan’s birthday and the captivating blue waves together.

CIMG3168

Stan & Dad

 

When I came home I was watching The Waifs on youtube & noticed one of your favourite songs in the side bar. Do you remember singing Kasey Chambers’ Am I Not Pretty Enough together in the big orange car with you over & over? Here you go Bella, by popular demand from the back seat of the big orange car (Honda HRV):

 

You will always be pretty in my eyes. Strong, wise, caring too. Beautiful, friendly, generous too. Funny, sharing, imaginative too. You’re pretty enough, smart enough, athletic enough, articulate enough to be anything you like. So go ahead, kick like a girl!

 

 

Love Dad… XoXo.

 

Saturday, April 16th 2016

 

Hey Phi-Fai-Fo-Fum, how’s trix with you?

 

Missing your Dad? He’s missing you, that’s for sure! So, by now you’ve most likely started year 8 in junior high school. Whoo-hoo! Where did all those precious years go? Are you out running with the track & field team this morning?

cimg3824

Gotta love baby Ophelia!

Dad woke at a very respectable 7am and headed off to the big 24/7 WellCome supermarket in Causeway Bay. I bought some coffee & an extra Danish for you! Would you like some juice, green tea, regular tea, or perhaps a milky coffee with your pastry?IMG_1271

 

This afternoon we have a micro brewery tour, although as C has started studying French again, she’ll head to her three hour class instead. Dad will meet up with several of the first year teachers at HKIS and then we’ll make our way to the brewery in Ap Lei Chau.

 

Thursday your Dad had an epic run. From school in Repulse Bay I scrambled The Twins south into Stanley with Sara & Jay Monson. In Stanley I said goodbye to Jay & Sarah, then I ran back toward Repulse Bay, up and over The Pass and onward to Causeway Bay! By the time I reached home my water bottle had been dry for 5km or so and I had run a good 20km! Felt pretty good too. How’s that for your old Daddy!?

CIMG3364

Best job in the world… MOO!

 

Wednesday Dad coached his Wednesday Wellness Fitness class. Every Wednesday there’s an open invitation to faculty & staff to attend Dad’s boot-camp. There’s a strong emphasis on core exercises such as planks, crunches and kick-ups. We also run the stairs, do Dad’s favorites: push-ups, lunges, squats & chin-ups. There are about 20 stations (depending on the week), so we spend 45 seconds at each station, take a 15 second break, then rotate to the next station. You should join us! Don’t laugh, it’s not as easy as you might think kiddo! Unfortunately only five teachers joined us this week L

 

Last Saturday we had dinner at C’s Korean colleague’s home. We were joined by two Japanese co-workers. It was a feast of mainly Korean dishes! Yum!

 

Love Dad… XoXo.

 

HOPE YOU LIKE HARRY

” ‘The thing about growing up with Fred and George,’ said Ginny thoughtfully, ‘is that you sort of start thinking anything’s possible if you’ve got enough nerve.’ ”

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Thursday, April 28th 2016IMG_1518

 

Good evening Bella-Phi. You’ll never guess who’s seated beside me on the couch this evening. Two people so central to your world in your first six years of life. Two people who love you so dearly. Two people who have spent thousands of dollars on airfares over the years to see you, only to be denied access to you each and every time. Nandee and Pa have been here a week now. They arrived at 9:50pm last Thursday (April 21st). Dad went out to the airport to meet them as they climbed off the big bird in the sky and all went as planned. By the time we arrived back here in downtown Honky Town, it was around midnight… your poor Aussie grandparents must have been exhausted. Great news though Phi, Nandee looked/looks terrific! Friday, their first ever day in HK, they took some time to acclimatize and just had a slow day. Since their arrival, it’s been a bit of a blur.

CIMG3547

 

Saturday morning we just took a walk through Victoria Park and marveled at the many diverse groups getting some fitness. After the park we grabbed a coffee and watched a bit of the footy in the afternoon. “Simple” and “nice” pretty much sums it up. Sunday the four of us had a look around Mong Kok and then ate at a cool izakaya (the same one we took Ralph to). It’s a funny little place with a cool street food atmosphere, plastic stools, shoulder to shoulder, loud jostling locals. Wicked! One of their speciality dishes is an okonomiyake type oyster pancake. Delicish! Both your grandparents loved it, though your greedy Dad probably ate the lion’s share. Monday night we splurged, put a collar on and went to a flash restaurant on the 38th floor of a nearby skyscraper. Dad had the Aussie lamb chops. Do you still love your Aussie lamb chops? When you were a baby, a lamb chop was so much better than a dummy/pacifier (actually, you never needed a dummy). Wednesday, Nandee & Pa came into school to help out with Math centres. The kids loved it and your Nandee was in her element doing what she loves most, teaching with all her heart.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Nandee & your Dad exploring Hong Kong.

 

Anyway Phi, it’s been a long week, but it’s Friday tomorrow. TGIF! Time for bed.

 

Love Dad, Pa, Nandee & Cc… Toro too (woof-woof, won-won!)

 

TRAVEL SOMEDAY PHI

“Is there any point in going across the world to eat something or buy something or watch people squatting among their ruins? Travel is a state of mind. It has nothing to do with distance or the exotic. It is almost entirely an inner experience.” – Paul Theroux, Fresh Air FiendIMG_1821

 

 

Wednesday, May 4th 2016

 

Hey Phi Hirakawa-Morice. Your Aussie grandparents left the Orient yesterday evening. Nandee & Pa jumped on the A11 bus for the airport right in front of our building and headed back to winter in Melbourne. They will be missed and we’re not too sure when they’ll be back here in HK. Nandee & Pa aren’t getting any younger, so I pray that it’s not too much longer until we welcome you back into the Morice family.

 

Monday was another public holiday, so we all went out to Stanley (former British garrison post) and had a poke around there. Stanley is situated in the south of the island. It’s a post with beaches, wicked jungle hiking trails, and plenty of touristy things to do. When we arrived, it was our first choice of neighborhood, but it’s very, very expensive L We visited a shrine, enjoyed a chat & a coffee, then dined on some cheap noodles on plastic stools beneath plastic roofing. Not too shabby.

 

IMG_1900Sunday we took ‘em out to the Big Buddha. It’s the third trek for CC & Dad, so just like last time, your old man ran to the top from the metro station. It’s a steep grueling trail and as your Dad always enjoys a challenge, it’s great to race the others as they ride the cable car to the summit. Near the top I came across two water buffalo seated right in the middle of the trail. They weren’t going anywhere, so Dad had to tip toe around their mass. In the two team race, Dad gave it his best shot, but still lost to Cc, Nandee & Pa by some 20 minutes. Even so, Dad’s old legs were a bit quicker this time, at around 70 minutes, but damn hot!

CIMG3549

Made it to the summit!

 

How’s this sound for Dad’s Fourth (next visit) time to the summit of the Big Buddah, let’s run it shoulder to shoulder Phi. I told Cc I can’t go up there again, BUT, if you were going to join your Dad… WELL! You and me kiddo… hope I can keep up!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Your Nandee. Born to teach.

 

Love Dad… LOVE running… WE were born to run! XoXo…

 

AUSTRALIA – IT’S YOUR HOME TOO PHI

“There’s no place like home.” – Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz

 

Tuesday, May 10th 2016

Hey Phi,

How’s things in Saitama tonight? It’s been a wet & windy day in the Orient! This morning we had a “yellow” then “red” rain warning. Fortunately Dad leaves early, so at 6.25am it was only threatening to drop sheets of water. In almost perfect timing, as I walked into school around 6.50am the heavens above opened. The thick sheets of rain were not nearly as dark, gloomy and freaky as the storm we had in April, but “WOW!” does it know how to rain here! We’ve never seen anything like it. When the storm hit last month, it was like an eclipse; so suddenly dark it was. Just as well I ran home yesterday! The trails would have been waterfalls even though the rain had eased up by this evening.IMG_1270

 

After school Monday, Dad had a tax information meeting out at the Tai Tam HKIS campus, so I took the opportunity to run home from there. It’s a great run that winds its way around a large reservoir, then up a 3km climb where from the top, downtown Hong Kong comes into view. My guess is that it is around 12km door-to-door; Dad came home all sweaty in just under an hour. Pushed myself going up the hill, so Dad was a bit tired last night, I even missed Game of Thrones for the second night in a row! It starts at 9pm, which is around the time that your Dad is typically thinking about brushing his teeth, grabbing his book and heading to bed. Not to worry, season 6, episode 3 is on again tonight at 9pm on HBO Signature… the beauty of cable TV I guess.

Your dear Nandee and Pa have well and truly gone from our small home. We Skyped Nandee for Mother’s Day Sunday. All the gang was up at Croydon to celebrate the matriarch’s grand day. Your cousins seemed to be having a grand time running amok on the trampoline. Cc & Dad walked into Central Piers to meet Janet and her dog Salmon who had come across on the ferry from Lamma Island. We met Salmon and Janet at the dog quarantine centre. Janet had discovered a hobbling and near death Salmon in Thailand, nursed him back to health, and brought him to Hong Kong to live with her. We jumped in a taxi with both dogs and went to the hip High Street at the far end of Mid Levels for some tasty fish & chips and a glass of white wine in the sun. You would have loved the company, the fried fish and the fun banter. The yummy fish ‘n’ chips brought back a few memories from our days returning from Shimoda when we would stop for our own fish & chips with Allen & Brenda, Phil & Bonnie, John & Kiri & all the gang.

 

Last week was Teacher Appreciation Week. YEAH! All week there were special breakfasts, Greek lunches, book vouchers, a bottle of wine and some lovely cards from students and parents alike. Dad was lucky enough to receive a Starbuck’s voucher from Helen, my awesome Korean student. So both Saturday & Sunday morning I went along for my complimentary coffee and made a start on reports. Cc joined me Sunday morning for her regular double espresso, but the A/C in public places in HK is freezing, so she only lasted 15 minutes before her frosty nose started to dribble. Dad sensibly took along a jacket both days, so he got a good 90 minutes of report writing done without succumbing to too much frostbite.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Our room with a view. When are you visiting Phi?

 

Go with care Ophelia. Hope we see you soon… I’ll try once again this summer to visit you. Wish me luck! XoXo.

 

HARRY’S BACK

“Things we lose have a way of coming back to us in the end, if not always in the way we expect.”

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Exif_JPEG_PICTURE

 

Wednesday, May 18th 2016

 

Hey Phi. Stories like our story are becoming more and more acknowledged. It’s sad and somehow strangely comforting that we’re not alone. Last week on the ABC Australia program, Insight they featured children like you. There were four adults on the panel, each of whom was abducted as a child by one parent and not allowed to see the other parent. Tuesday morning as I went to school on the bus I couldn’t block you from my mind. I gazed at the sea and the tears just flowed. I miss you Phi. More than ever. Here’s the link Phi:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aeWiy4T_lZU

 

Here’s another tragic story that both you and I can relate to:

 

http://www.sbs.com.au/news/insight/explainer/what-it-be-child-abducted-parent

What it’s like when one parent abducts

“As I read, or at least I tried to read, a story on the Buzzfeed Japan website during May (2016) about a Mr. Watanabe, a Japanese father who regained custody of his daughter after a six-year court battle throughout most of which he and his daughter were prevented from knowing and seeing each other. I am aware, as are all parents of Japan’s kidnapped children, of the importance of Mr Watanabe’s case. I’ve known of it for years. It was, I think, Mr. Watanabe who brought my case, and my blog posts about it to the attention of an American left behind parent; and from that moment, I came to know about many more parents and their difficulties, courtesy of Japan. I am grateful to him for this and more. Through speaking up and listening in this way, I gradually came to know the conditions under which Japanese family courts prevail against and permanently deny the rights of children to know their own parents. Through court and police actions, denial of parental relations is continually reinforced by the force of law in Japanese society. In time, I gradually learned of the incapacity of the Japanese people to impress upon a state over which they do not have control, that it is impinging on them in the worst, most pathological sort of way by destroying so many of their parent-child relationships.

cimg3827

[I am the father of a son, born and raised until he was nearly 5 years old, in the United States. His mother is Japanese, a professional, who made numerous back and forth trips to Japan with him throughout each year so that he could fully know his Japanese family. These trips took place two to four or so times per year. The home he knew, however, was here in New York with his mother and me.]IMG_1288

In 2010, just as with Mr Watanabe, my son’s mother abducted him. She flew him to Japan, and I have not seen him or had news of him since. This is because the Japanese and U.S. governments have agreed to allow child abductions to remain irrevocable, to go unpunished, and to remain impossible to defend against. Given the very gradually declining influence of the U.S. in world affairs, this is one of the most successfully achieved U.S. policy objectives with regard to Japan. The protection of child abductors from having to return the children they abduct.

As a result, my son no longer knows me, his now tragic, middle-aged father. His life was ruptured, and mine shattered. There are three million children in Japan who have no ongoing relationship that is meaningful with one half of their divorced parents’ families. They do not know their own fathers… and this is condoned and encouraged by the Japanese law, with the unqualified support of the United States. The U.S. stations 50,000 heavily armed troops in 87 locations on ostensibly Japanese territory in order to ensure that Japanese power structures and decision-making processes never change. Attempts at reform, at negotiating the removal of these occupying forces from Japan, at reconstituting Japan as an authentic democracy with a state that is responsive to and protective of its people, have been frowned upon and successfully thwarted.

I am writing this again because this tragic, life-destroying circumstance affects people worldwide who are guilty of no crime other than having loved and married a Japanese person who because of the material circumstances just touched on, felt entitled to take complete control of a child’s life, and damage it beyond repair. The only thing that will change this is if there is a tremendous outpouring of friction and protest from Japanese people that says loudly and clearly to the State that is in the wrong, that the children must have their family ties preserved, and that the children should not be the victims of the childish and selfish wants of an adult parent who does not know any better, or who has been well-taught to disavow the misery sewn by her actions.

Exif_JPEG_PICTURE

Mr. Watanabe’s case is important for him and his daughter. It includes a recommendation that mother have about a third of the days of each year to spend with her daughter, despite her having prevented her from knowing her father for six, long years of struggle. This young girl will now have the privilege, acknowledged as rightful of children in every other country in the world, of knowing both of her parents. And her mother will have a privilege many in Japan do not; that of learning what it means to love and to share the love of a child with another person that child loves, despite her having acted upon a beastly and selfish desire to exercise control and exclude her daughter’s family from her life. She will have –  at the very least – the opportunity to learn appreciation for that of which she deprived her daughter. She will have an opportunity to gain an understanding of the interconnectedness, empathy, collaboration and cooperation that are at the root of thriving life. As a result, her daughter will have a far higher likelihood to find happiness and a full, unbroken identity. That is a privilege, it turns out.

Mr. Watanabe, whose success is to be applauded, and who has worked sincerely to spread this success to others, hails from a privileged family, with levels of support high in the government of Japan.  Japan is a state ruled by an oligarchy, a circle of patronage and exclusivity, passed down among a privileged few. It should be remembered then, that to change the circumstances of Japanese children more broadly would require that this court case be regarded as a prelude, and not as a conclusion of great significance. For one parent to regain custody after years of maddening struggle does nothing to alter the ugly reality of hundreds of thousands of abducted children who now live in Japan. Neither does it alter the circumstance of thousands of children who were not born in Japan, nor were they being raised in Japan, but whose parent used the power of the Japanese state to carry out a Hitlerian objective: to deprive ordinary, guiltless persons of their fundamental rights by bringing them over the border of one state to another in which their rights could be disposed of. The child, in all of these cases, is treated not as a person, but as an object whose fate is decided without the protection of his family, which is excluded by law. Like other commodities and objects of property law, the child  in this circumstance has no inherent rights, and in being brought to Japan is therefore brought into a condition of semi-statelessness: a non-protective environment where he has fewer privileges than a tree, a cart full of fish, or a piece of equipment.  This removal to a non-protective environment is a criminal enterprise that the Japanese press, the foreign press, and the governments of Japan and the United States (and countless others) are loath to discuss openly because it is ugly, and because it reflects so poorly on the governments and private interests involved, those of the perpetrators- who are Japanese – and their partners abroad, who are “interested parties” that brush the stories of our kids under the rug for a handful of gold pieces.*

I beg whoever is out there to cover our stories, and urge anyone with access to the press to do so as well. I have attempted to discuss aspects of this now for 6 years. I love my son; and I want my relationship with him restored. He and I are victims of a severe, onerous crime. And it is up to the people of Japan, the United States, and all persons who love children, to alter these circumstances.”

 

Monday, May 23rd 2016

Hey Phi,

Do you know what next week brings? Just another birthday without you… I miss you kiddo! I wonder if you know Dad will be turning 48, May 31st 2016. Forty-eight… OUCH! What’s my thirteen-year old teenager thinking? It’s been too long since we’ve helped each other blow candles out…IMG_1516

Oh, I miss you. The days go by, weeks, months, and before we know it another year slips by without us seeing each other. Something is not right. How can two people who love each other so much be separated all this time? When can we blow out candles together again?

SORRY I haven’t written for some time. Not much to report to be honest. The past three consecutive weekends I’ve been writing reports. Prior to this weekend, I found myself in a Causeway Bay Starbucks both Saturday & Sunday morning writing reports. But this weekend my gift vouchers at Starbucks had run out, so I set up my report writing at home. Pretty much all weekend I wrote reports and checked assessments and anecdotal records on my students. I’m done now, so I can sit down and write to you.

cimg3832

Late Sunday afternoon we took Toro for a walk down to the Wan Chai pier area. Summer has arrived, hot & humid even at 6pm. When we arrived home Dad made lasagna and C & Dad shared a beer.

It’s 4.48pm now, and a little later I’ll run back to home from the Repulse Bay campus. Tonight it’s another Game of Thrones episode. I hope it features my favorite Aria.

Just finished a cool book, Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper. One of my kids recommended it. I think you would like it.

Love, love, and LOVE again… Dad… XoXo…

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK:

My teacher thought I was smarter than I was, so I was!

 

Tuesday, May 31st 2016

 

Hey Gorgeous, thanks for thinking of me today. It was a nice birthday… FORTY-EIGHT! Cc gave me a lovely card and two cool summer casual shirts. Tonight we’ll celebrate with a steak and a bottle of red at a steak house in Mid Levels. Cc is looking even more beautiful than when we met in 2009 as she readies herself for our dinner date.

 

IMG_1869At school, my glorious kidlets organized a b’day party, with not one but three birthday cakes!!! My colleagues also organized a small gathering during lunch recess; so it has been a special day for your Dad.

 

In more good news it looks like we’ll be hosting a dog from August at the Upper Elementary Campus. What a grand idea! The lab will work with our kids for 12 months then head off to train as a seeing-eye-dog. I’m looking forward to getting my kids to read to our new class member. In other news, Dad is keen to get my class involved with children with special needs. I have a contact who seems interested in getting her children together. More news coming your way soon.

 

Gotta grab my b’day steak… see ya Kiddo.Photo 24

 

Dad… XoXo.

 

 

Thursday, June 9th 2016

 

Hello Possum. Whoo-hoo! The academic year for Dad is almost at a close. One year, where did that go? 11 months ago next week Cc & Dad arrived in Hong Kong via Japan from Cairo. Another adventure started. An ancient culture & people to explore and embrace. Life is good, as good as it can be without you. I miss you Phi, especially on days like today because in my imagination, days like today, given a principled result from the Family Court of Japan, I feel you would be beside me helping me up at school. It’s in your nature to be helpful, willing and generous. Caring & sharing in spirit, that’s you kidlet!

cimg3833

It’s a public holiday today in Hong Kong, even so Dad arrived at school around 6.30am. I could have done with your help tidying up my classroom (I’m moving classrooms next year), filing reports, taking displays down, and ticking off around one hundred other jobs that needed doing.

 

Last Saturday the mighty G4 team led by Hyun had an amazing lunch at the W Kitchen across the bay in Kowloon. The food was delectable; the only thing missing was freshly shucked oysters. All the gals headed into Wan Chai, so Stan & Sean came back with Dad to watch a little Aussie footy later in the afternoon. Gotta love that!

 

I love you Phi… missing you… XoXo.

 

WICKED QUOTE

“It might be said that a great unstated reason for travel is to find places that exemplify where one has been happiest. Looking for idealised versions of home—indeed, looking for the perfect memory.” – Paul Theroux, Fresh Air Fiend

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

Friday, June 17th 2016

 

Hey Phi, I’m on the A11 City Flyer bus headed to the international terminal here in HK. CC is on her way to drop off Toro at the Pooch Hotel. From HK we’ll fly to Narita and hopefully some time in the next few days, I’ll actually see you. Wouldn’t that be grand!? I have a cool light blue GAP top (that I purchased for you yesterday), a bracelet, and a card that I really hope you get the opportunity and choice to read. I miss you kiddo!

book

Part of your gift…

 

Yesterday was my last day of my first year teaching at HKIS. It was a wondrous year, surrounded by extremely supportive & collaborative colleagues, a super bunch of fourth graders and an exceptional setting. Being our last day, and no kidlets, I skipped my morning shave and ran into school. I thought of you often, especially as I chugged the horrid hills in the merciless humidity. Even at 6.30am as I jogged by Deep Water Bay the sign read 29 degrees. By the time I made it to school, my colleague and good friend Stan wondered if I had just had a swim; I was rather sweaty! Perfect Dad moment for a hug Bella! Actually as I arrived in Repulse Bay, I couldn’t refuse taking my shoes & sox off and walking the length of the beach with my sweaty feet being washed over by the morning waves. Bliss.

gift

Your bracelet & top…

 

Last weekend was fairly nondescript, although we did create two magnificent homemade pizzas. It would have been smashing to roll the dough and add the three cheeses & toppings together. They were sweet times we stood side-by-side together and created our pizzas. You standing tall on your bench, concentration and delight all over your bubbly hungry face.

cimg3834

Passed through immigration now. Cc found a wonderful book of sketches (for you) depicting Hong Kong in the book shop, so now that book will join your cool summer top as a present. Hoping to give them to you next week. Kamiyamaguchi Junior High School has an Open Week for parents and other interested parties, so that, and the court order stating that we are within our rights to see each other at school events should prove no problems. In theory. But, we can never guess what your mother’s family will do to thwart access. I wonder if the police will accuse me of attempted kidnapping again…

 

See you soon Phi… Love Dad… XoXo.P8080300

 

MIGHTY MEANING

“O public road, you express me better than I can express myself.” – Walt Whitman

 

 

Wednesday, June 22nd 2016 (The day before C’s birthday)

 

Hi Ophelia. It’s 2.04pm and Dad is on his way back to Chiba. I’m on a train somewhere between Tokorozawa and Hibarigaoka. I’ve just been to Kamiyamaguchi Junior High School for the second time today. I feel broken. My head aches from thinking too much. I want to cry, but I cannot. A piece of my heart was taken today. Another piece. I’m not sure I can talk. If I talk, I might cry. I can’t cry.

cimg3835

This morning I visited your school. It’s supposed to be Open Week, or in Japanese Gakko Koukai Shuukan. Earlier this morning around 9am I met a young teacher by the office and introduced myself. She told me to come back at 1.20pm because there would be a 20 minute window after cleaning where we could met & chat. I was too nervous about what your mother would do when she discovered I was at your school. I returned to Kotesashi and nursed a coffee, hoping, praying that the school wouldn’t contact her. It was a long wait. Alone. When I finally returned the school gates were closed. The head teacher (Kyoto sensei) and the team leader of year 8 were waiting. Waiting for me. I half expected police, but there were no officers to feed off your mother’s fears. The teachers representing your school were polite. I was polite. It was plain to see, I could not enter the school. They told me that the gift that I had passed to the young teacher this morning was taken by your grandmother. Maybe you’ll receive the adorable light blue & white top, the book and the bracelet with your name. Maybe it’s been disposed of already.

 

Life moves on. Friday we’ll meet your old friend Nicola Hamer, Saturday we’ll enjoy a glass of wine with our great mate, Milton, and early Sunday morning Cc & Dad fly for Kabira, Ishigaki. Relax we will.

 

Phi, sorry Dad failed once again in his attempt to see you. I am not giving up. I will be back. Don’t give up on me Ophelia… I love you… XoXo.PC260022

 

STRENGTH – WE BOTH NEED IT

“Stuff your eyes with wonder,” he said, “live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.” – Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

 

 

Thursday, June 23rd 2016

cimg3836

Hi Phi. Here’s a letter I penned to your Kyoto Sensei:

 

Kyoto Sensei,

 

Thank you for listening and not passing judgment when we met Wednesday, June 22nd 2016. I respect your calming influence and your role in this situation.

 

I am writing to you because I need your help in guiding my daughter. I firmly believe that a good teacher affects eternity, as such, she/he enables and empowers truth, integrity and spirit. A good teacher listens, motivates and always puts the interests of the child first. As a teacher I also believe that:

  • Diversity enriches community and strengthens society.
  • Learning thrives in the presence of shared high expectations and mutually respectful relationships.
  • Integrity is essential to trust and credibility.
  • Together, parents, teachers and students create the conditions for children’s success and a healthy lifestyle, and that includes a child’s mental wellbeing.

 

Ophelia needs a third party to listen to her heart; she cannot speak freely with her family; our bias is obvious. From afar, Ophelia may seem fine, however, there is no denying that she carries many unanswered questions in her heart. She needs the support and trust of someone outside the family whom she respects.

 

With this letter, I am enclosing some documents meant for your eyes only. You will see that according to Japan’s High Court and Family Court, there is no reason to deny me access to my daughter. Contrary to what you may have been told by Ophelia’s mother, in fact as documented, the court strongly urges Ms. Ishijima to continue visitation, to keep me informed of school events and update me with Ophelia’s school reports. The truth of the matter is that for almost five years she has aggressively denied me any access to my daughter.

 

With your own eyes I feel you understand the depth of my love for Ophelia. You witnessed the pain etched into my heart; but my pain must be ignored. It is my daughter I pray that you may guide.

 

Ophelia was once a happy bilingual, bicultural child, loved equally by two families. She was confident and supported in her identity. Since my family and I have been alienated from her life, the truth of her identity and her own feelings have been suppressed. The truth of what happened and what passed through the courts has also been smothered. PC260034

 

There is no denying the love Ophelia’s Japanese family have for her; it should not, however, drown her identity. Ophelia needs to feel safe and not threatened by the love her Australian family have for her. Her cousins still talk about her, her grandparents still send presents, and I still write to her weekly:

 

Opheliaanddad.wordpress.com

 

Please keep a special eye on my daughter. Be the gentle, caring, supportive listener I cannot.

 

I look forward to meeting you under better circumstances in the near future.

 

Yours faithfully,

 

Gerard Morice.

 

 

Thursday, June 30th 2016

 

Evening Phi. We just returned from Ishigaki, Japan. It’s been a busy evening as we’ve just been Skyping with our mate, Bonnie who is set to head to Cairo American College. I hope CAC is a good match for Bon, Phil, May & Cate. 72 minutes aboard Skype; there was much to tell.

cimg3837

We had a delightful time roaming Ishigaki searching out snorkeling spots. Cc & Dad stayed in an apartment in Kabira, on the north-west side of the island. We rented a car and drove here, there & everywhere in search of the perfect snorkeling location. We also took a 50 minute ferry ride out to one of the smaller islands, Hatoma. It was remote, almost shadeless, but as we spent most of the day in the water at three different snorkeling locations, the heat wasn’t too much of a factor. Plenty of sunscreen! Dad spotted two highly venomous black & white sea snakes L Scary! The first sea snake seemed to follow me and gave me quite a scare. I had to flip over and turn on the freestyle jets to escape. The second snake fortunately ignored Big Red’s presence. Together we enjoyed the sashimi and on the last day we feasted on Ishigaki beef J

 

Oh, and last Friday we caught up with your old pal, Nicola Hamer. Do you remember all the fun you once had with Nic? Do you recall the infamous hamster Xmas?! She remembered you. Nic came out to our Tokyo pad to help with the gardening. What a gem!

garden

Some gardening to do!

 

Look what I found on my previous lawyer. Mikiko Otani is/was the high profile lawyer who seemed so interested in our case, but as the court sessions wore on, I wondered if she was really only serving her own ambitious interests.

Lawyer from Osaka first Japanese to join U.N. child rights panel

NEW YORK – Lawyer Mikiko Otani on Thursday became the first Japanese independent expert to be elected to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. Otani, 51, and an Ethiopian candidate both garnered 152 votes, the highest among the nine experts elected to the committee. “I think this is a result of trust in and expectation for Japan, rather than me. I want to try my best to help protect the human rights of children around the world,” she told Kyodo News.

 

Otani is an expert on international human rights law. She served as an alternate representative of the Japanese delegation to the U.N. General Assembly’s Third Committee on human rights in 2005 and 2006. A native of Hirakata, Osaka Prefecture, Otani graduated from the Faculty of Law of Tokyo’s Sophia University in 1987. She earned a master’s of international affairs degree at Columbia University in 1999.

 

The committee, which monitors implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by its member states, is comprised of 18 individuals who serve four-year terms. Half of the group’s term will expire next Feb. 28. Otani and the other eight new members will serve beginning next March through 2021.

Your call… see you one day soon Ophelia… XoXo…

 

ACE QUOTE

“He who does not travel does not know the value of men.” – Moorish proverb

2016 January – March

Monday, January 4th 2016

cimg3877

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…