I am writing this in the midst of jet lag. In the last week, we have flown from Honolulu to Providence and have come home to London. It’s a lot of flying and frankly, airports are pretty much the same everywhere so we tend to identify them by what we ate there. It was a 5 week holiday and the theme was family.
For many years now, we have made the trip to Honolulu every summer. My sister and her family live there and my parents come in from Tokyo so it’s a family vacation for my side of the family. This means that while I am in a gorgeous setting with people I love, there is always drama. As my parents have grown older and less independent, the amount of arranging and negotiating that happens every year has increased. This year, with my dad still recuperating from heart surgery coupled with my mom’s fear of doing anything on her own meant that they needed constant attention. I tried to be philosophical about it but I must admit, there were times when I regretted going. My sister works full time and they aren’t on vacation while we are there so the burden fell on me to keep my parents entertained. Add to that two young adult children who are used to living their own lives thrust into a situation where they had to be with each other for long periods – more drama. I know I could have been far more gracious about it, but you can only do what you can do. I hope my parents went home thinking they had a nice holiday.
I also realized that in addition to a generation gap, my mom and I also have a major culture gap. I was raised mostly in the States and haven’t lived in Japan all that much. So while I consider myself Japanese, apparently my thinking is not typical. This led me to being frustrated with my mom’s inability to just come out and say what she wants whereas she thought she was being totally forthright. As far as I was concerned, she was being forthright at all the wrong times and not where it mattered. We were able to have some chats about this which is a first in our relationship. Maybe I’m finally growing up.
But I do realize that every year we get together we come away with shared experiences and memories. The joys and frustrations of being with family are what keep me connected. When you move as much as we have, home is not a location, it is wherever your family happens to be. Mine is messy, crazy and wonderful. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Flying has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. According to my mom, we were flying from Tokyo to Osaka to visit relatives before I could walk. Then the back and forth of being an expat kid followed by college in NY/ parents in Japan and my own nomadic life has meant that the way I see family is by first taking a very long plane ride. But all of a sudden, what I took for granted is no longer a sure thing. The volcanic ash didn’t affect me in the first round of chaos except in the happy form of seeing friends I would otherwise not have seen, but now it may keep me from seeing my family this summer. Add to this the fact that hubby is about to start a commuting life involving planes and I am wondering what will happen. I had to break the news to my mom this morning that we may not see them this summer. We’ve been getting together like this for a long time now, it’s the one opportunity my parents have to see all the grand kids together. As both my parents and the kids get older, I cherish every year thinking this may be our last year, as parents become slightly less mobile and kids develop more independent lives. I hope the ash clears soon and then my only worry will be where to stay.
I must admit, I’ve been feeling very harassed lately. My cooking classes, which are going well and so much fun to do, still require a lot of time. Add to it, a translation job with the exact same schedule as my classes, needing to plan for the summer, a quick weekend in NY possibly jeopardised by the BA strike, and the myriad of phone calls it takes to keep a life running smoothly and I was feeling a bit overwhelmed. I make a quick strike to Waitrose to gather ingredients for tonight’s class and am tearing home. I pass a mother and little boy on the street. He’s probably about three, doing the running, skipping thing little boys do because their legs just don’t move fast enough for their liking. He’s also carrying on by himself because his mom’s on her phone as she walks. I try not to trip over him as I cross the street in my rush to get home. Then, I hear him say, “look mum, flowers”. I expected the mom to just acknowledge briefly or even ignore him, how often have I done that do my kids. But instead, she came to a dead stop, got down to his level and just matched his enthusiasm for how gorgeous the flowers were. I wanted to go over there and congratulate her for being a wonderful mother, but of course I continued on my way. It was a very little thing, but it made me stop and think, life is not about the grand gestures, but an accumulation of little moments. I know everyone says that, but I feel like I may have seen it first hand today. Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but I feel like my life was made just a little better for having been a witness to their love. A deep breath later, I am ready for the rest of my day filled with just a little more gratitude than this morning.
I have a new profile photo. Now, I think I photograph really badly. But my friend who took my photo today said something really interesting. She said no woman including models she knows has ever said they like their photo. I know what I look like when I look in the mirror. But I usually look to check out an outfit or to look at some part of my face close up. So what is it about a photo that makes you look different from the mirror? My thought is that maybe that’s what I look like to the rest of the world..
So after my friend took my photo and sent it to me, I looked at it as I usually do and thought, “oh why didn’t I notice the sweater was crooked, my hair’s messy, do I really smile like that”, the usual stuff that leads me to conclude that that is in fact a bad likeness of me. But today, I took a step back and tried to look at it objectively. Then I could appreciate that it was a good photo and probably not a bad likeness. So while it doesn’t coincide with the mental image I have of myself, I can accept that perhaps this is the way I look in real life.
Here it is
May 5 is Boys’ Day in Japan. It is a day when various good luck items are displayed in the hopes that the boys will grow up to be healthy and prosperous. Even though my boy is almost 18, I thought I would put his display up today. My parents bought this for him when he was born and from the leaflet that came along with the set (because how would I know what goes where without it) it is traditionally something that the wife’s family does for the boy. According to the literature, I was supposed to have put it out mid April and it really needs to be put away mid May at the latest. Well, I’m going to take some liberties and leave it out for the month of May so that all my students who come for class can see it.
As you can see from the photo, it is a helmet, sword, bow and arrow. There are more elaborate ones involving the entire suit of armour, but my mom liked the simplicity of the helmet and the workmanship. These items are meant to defend the boy against accidents, illness and other misfortunes on the road to growing up. Maybe it will bring good luck for my son on his A levels, you never know.
We went out to dinner this evening. It was at the home of a woman we’d never met. It was our first experience with the underground gourmet movement. Our friends C and E suggested we try this out. The way it works is, you sign up and pay online, you are sent the address of the venue, you turn up and they feed you. Once you get there, you find out what’s on the menu. It was lots of fun, we met some lovely people and had a really good time. The food was all really delicious, it’s amazing that she was able to cook for 35-40 people on her Aga and do it well. It was an around the world menu, starting with pasta, with a mains of Thai and ending with kulfi. Somehow it all worked together and tasted great. I can’t imagine the work that went into it. But the end result was very professional and well organised. They had a rice cooker malfunction but managed to cope with style.
We are going to see whose house we can go to next. Thanks C and E for a lovely evening.
I changed the photo on top, is it creepy? Should I got back to the other one? I would love some of your thoughts.
It’s been a busy and productive week. I taught another class on Tuesday night. There were two people in the class, my friend and her husband. It was just as much fun as my first class and it’s really gratifying when you make a connection and they get what you are trying to do. A terrific compliment came in the form of my friend’s husband signing up for some more classes as he had really enjoyed it. Thank you and I hope I can continue to deliver. I have new dates up for the next round (hint, hint) if anyone is interested. I am planning to add one off classes to what’s already up. I also added a sign up feature so I can stop sending out mass e mails to all my friends soon I hope.
I went to Southfields yesterday to order a cake. It may seem like a long way to travel since I don’t live anywhere near there. But my son is graduating this year and I thought it would be fun to have a cake at Speech Day lunch which is the last time the boys will all be together until the last day of school. This was the shop that made the cake at my daughter’s graduation and that’s where I got the idea. I was very impressed with the shop and the owner, who left banking to do what she loves. I’m really excited with the cake we came up with, I’ll try and remember to take a photo to put up here before we eat it.
I ended my day by hearing Lynne Franks speak. She is one of the pioneers of PR in this country and has balanced out her business life with a spiritual one. She was very inspirational and it is funny how everything she was talking about resonated with me. Of course I bought the book, something I never do, and even had her sign it. What’s even more astounding, I’ve started reading it.
Well, back to the translating. One more episode to do for this week, then to finalise the class for next week.
What a fabulous night. I taught my first class to two lovely friends. I couldn’t have asked for a better beginning to my new adventure. The evening was relaxed and fun, they asked lots of questions so there weren’t any awkward silences. Here’s what was on the menu last night.
The two onigiri on the left were made for me by my students, they were very tasty. The evening concluded by sharing the meal and a bit of socialising. Thank you M and C, for making my first attempt such a success. I’m going to stop here because I am sounding very big headed.
Taking the day off today, getting together with a new friend, it looks like another lovely day.
I knew that flights were grounded because of the volcano in Iceland last week. I never thought it would affect my life in anyway since none of my family is flying. But it turns out there are plenty of other people, mostly friends whose lives were affected.. Being grounded has not all been bad as I got to see a friend and his kids. I have not seen him in 15 years, I had never even met his daughter. They had been in Scotland for a week and got diverted to London when flights were grounded so a reunion ensued. Friends for life do not make you feel the passage of time and if the very grown kids hadn’t been there, it could have been 1986. We had fun catching up and hope to see the whole family the next time.
Then last night, my other friend who was grounded came over with his wife. We were supposed to go out for dinner, but I ended up waiting for a delivery so I cooked. The kitchen worked really well and I got to socialise while finishing the cooking. I tried out a new beef recipe which worked really well. Might have to buy bigger tongs as it is hard manipulating a hunk of beef with small tongs. My delivery arrived, the stools for the kitchen counter. The boys unpacked and we all tried them out after dinner.
First cooking class this evening, wish me luck.
A gorgeous weekend in London, I did get to enjoy it some, but not the usual lazy weekend. Yesterday, a trip to Japan Centre for yet more rice and other stock items. It is truly scary the rate at which we blow through rice. Hubby came along to help so we got the 10kg bag of rice. That was my only contact with the outside if you don’t count windows being open. I puttered around in the afternoon and gradually made some sushi. Here is the end result.
The family were certainly enthusiastic about it so I think it was a good result. I didn’t have a set kind that I was making so it turned into many different fillings, a bit of a grab bag especially after it was all cut up.
Anyway, it never rains but it pours, or something to that effect. This week I am finally starting my cooking classes, which is a big deal for me since I’ve never done anything like this before. So what happens? On Friday, I get asked to do subtitles for an anime. I’ve been talking to this agency since November about doing some work and it finally came together. The timing couldn’t be worse. I did one episode and really enjoyed it so I hope it is something I can do more of in the future. It was a challenge translating colloquial Japanese into subtitles. I took a few liberties to get the point across, we’ll see how it goes over.
Today, Sunday was another glorious day in London and I was determined not to miss it. Hubby and I took a very long walk to Marylebone from our flat only to discover my destination was closed! Well, it was a nice walk anyway, and the allergies not tooo horrendous.
Maybe time for a snack, or actually it is dinner time.