Tuesday, September 28, 2010


The day finally arrived for Hiro, I and so many of our good friends here in Kyoto to celebrate the marriage of our dear friends Eri and Bill. To say it was emotional, perfectly them and a great party would be... just about the best way for me to sum up how I felt!
(Love how they are looking at each other :-)

At the wedding Eri thanked our friend James from Oz because it was at his going away party that they met. Tearfully she said, "If it wasn't for you, I probably wouldn't have gotten married." Come to think of it, if it wasn't for him, our group wouldn't be what it is today. That was the night when we met Bill, too! Well, to me he was "leather jacket guy" because I never caught his name, just, apparently, his attire.
(Looking very dapper here and might I add that the way Eri is standing is very, very Eri! So cute!)

My heart strings got tugged and it really got me thinking that if it wasn't for Chuck and Nadine we would not have the support and love of several friends who we cherish so much. I can also say that many of these people are why we came to Kyoto, too.

I see Eri and Bill's wedding as a celebration for everyone in our fun group. What a symbol of the love I think we have among us. And Bill, I, too, am so glad that we are friends who aren't going to leave.

A final shot and a cheers to our Dear Friends! You got us for the long-run!

Friday, September 24, 2010


Recently, while talking with my girl, Li, I somehow signed up for my first 5K race... in January. It will be cold and I don't know what the ef I was thinking when I thought my first race should be at the coldest time of year. Two days after signing up and paying my money, I hear it is not only going ot be cold, but it will be a very cold year. You know, to balance the hottest summer in over 100 years. Great.

Reading Murakami's book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running I am often making analogies to things in my life, and sometimes, though less often, relating to him as a runner. I am not what he would consider a serious runner, though I don't think I am the person he (and I am paraphrasing) might identify as someone whose doctor just told them they are heading down Heart Attack Lane, either.

I certainly can relate to his emphasis on keeping his breathing in check. It is all I can focus on when I am getting discouraged. It is all I focus on when I first get going. I know if I get too winded the whole run will become an excruciating mess and I will hate it. So, I spend a good amount of time thinking on that.

I also relate to how he says that he doesn't think of anything in particular or how he may take something bad that has happened to him and channel it into his running. By taking that pent up disappointment, frustration or anger and putting it into something cathartic, that leaves him stronger and better in the end, he doesn't let the negative get him down. After reading that, I notice I can use running in a similar way. I may think about things while running but not deeply. Instead, like I am putting them in a box and running on them. I come out better and in spite of the negativity that would otherwise suck me in, wasting my time.

I sprint at the end to tell my muscles I expect more, even though at the end I am most tired. I feel happy when it is over. I have not yet felt I could have run more. No, I am usually ready to stop. When I do feel I can run more is when I hit the half way point. That's good only because I can then push my half way further and so little by little increase my distance. I am now at 4.2 km. That's 4 km more than 2 months ago when I started running up a hill at the end of my walk.

So, while I am relating to some things, finding how I can frame other things, and learning about myself as a runner, I also found an apropos comparison to his running post-completion of an unltramarathon (running 62 miles in a day) and my teaching post MA.

He writes (And I am not paraphrasing, because he is just such an acute writer),
"At this point, a new feeling started to well up in me -- nothing as profound as a feeling of pride, but at least a certain sense of completion. A personal feeling of happiness and relief that I had accepted something risky and still had the strength to endure it. In this instance, relief outweighed happiness. It was like a tight knot inside me was gradually loosening, a knot I'd never even realized, until then, was there.

...Still the most significant fall out from running the ultramarathon wasn't physical but mental. What I ended up with was a sense of lethargy, and before I knew it, I felt covered in a film, something I have since dubbed runner's blues... I lost the enthusiasm I always had for the act of running itself... it's as if loosening that knot I'd never noticed before slackened my interest along with it. It wasn't just that my desire to run had decreased. At the same time I had lost something, something new had also taken root deep within me as a runner. And most likely this process of one thing existing while another comes in had produced this unfamiliar runner's blues.

And what about this new thing inside me? I can't find the exact words to describe it, but it might be something close to resignation... somewhere after the 47th mile, my mind went into a blank state you might even call philosophical or religious. Something urged me to become more introspective, and this new found introspection transformed my attitude toward the act of running. "

Murakami continued doing his yearly marathon and eventually he came out of his blues, which is where I think I am now, 2 years after finishing my degree. It is as if, for me, the introspection that came along with the reading, reflecting, analyzing and writing for 2 intense years left me untied, no longer so fiercely knotted to what teaching had meant to me before, but not yet anchored in what teaching meant to me after. As if after, I was still trying to figure who I, Catherine-as-teacher, was in light of all that I had learned and what teaching should be in light of my context. My MA was not something that left me definitive about anything (unlike some of my counterparts, who I so envy), except perhaps that I had to change, question and constantly strive to go beyond my status quo. Yet, I was so philosophical about it, I think I had checked reality at the door a bit and was just coasting along for about a year and a half.

This is not to say I wasn't a better teacher. I believe I was and I think those who knew me before would say so. However, I don't think I had the same drive. Maybe because the road looked so different that I didn't know where I was going. Maybe because I saw SO MANY signs that I had to stop all the time to think about them and it slowed me down. I wasn't the bullet train who just blew through the classroom with my atmosphere, but instead I was the slow train, with big windows for seeing out while also catching my own reflection.

This year has been one of my best, I now think. I am not tired anymore and I have the challenge of 5th and 6th grade, which I didn't have last year. My MA, while it may have unknotted me, it also got me doing a project that revealed how I could do better. It also got me connected to people who could help me see deeper and now I feel that euphoria again.

Like Murakami, running no longer became the point of his life as teaching was no longer the point of mine. While it is a crucial point, I see life more like a star now, with things like cooking, running (the newest), family life (both in Japan and America) and I hope someday parenthood on the different ends. Like I am brighter now, perhaps because I can reflect more as I take in energy from a multitude of sources. No longer is a bad teaching day a bad me day. I'll come home and make a fabulous loaf of bread, run a little further and know I have more people and resources to rely on to fix the issue. Or perhaps, I can fix it myself, recognizing that I am stronger, in many ways, than I was before.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Magnificent weather, friends, views and, of course, the river. This trip to Eigenji was one of my favorites. 10 people stayed over night and the laughter was one of the best parts. Like anyone, I love laughing, but what I really mean here is the way some people's laughter sounds! I was with people who had unbridled, affected and just plain charming laughter. One, my dear old friend, has a laugh that could rival Goofy's. Li and I were waiting on the edge of our seats for something to strike his funny bone just right, so his normal laugh would go Goofy and finally, it did! Twice. I nearly pissed myself when I looked at Li. The other was Mari, whose strong laugh commanded attention and made us laugh even harder. It is an "I-don't-give-an-ef-what-you-think-cause-that-is-funny" laugh. Which means it was loud and done without covering her mouth. She is now one of my favorite people.

We arrived around 3 after visiting grandma in the hospital. She is about the size of a chimpanzee to begin with, but prior to the month in the hospital, she was also nearly as strong. Now, I think her strength rates somewhere around an active 70 year old. Problem is, compared to a chimp, that is a step back. She is quite worried about having lost her 93 year old muscle mass and does her best to get around with the tubes in. We are hoping she will be out next week.

Li had arrived already with Mashi and were trying to decide which spots to take. Our perfect place from last year was occupied, the owner having mistaken where we had requested. In the end it was perfect. Our living/dining area was shaded and right next to the river sink, and the slope down to the river was just on the right. At the bottom, a small sandy spot led us into the cool water where fish and turtles were caught by our small campers, Sara and Rin.

You may notice I don't have pictures. I think I have become a total slog when it comes to snapping shots recently. I hardly took any when I was home either. I find it cumbersome to always have a camera and I forget my phone is one.

Speaking of phones, I had reception out there, which was impressive as Softbank (the iPhone carrier) has notoriously bad service. Maybe it has improved? I used it only once in 24 hours; for music when I did a run the first afternoon. 32 minutes and a lot of uphill! I didn't even stretch but jumped right into the cold river, floating down stream without a care in the world. Lisa said to wait until I get runner's euphoria. Then I will really wonder what worldly cares are or perhaps ever were! Sounds like taking drugs!

Unable to keep my eyes open further I will sign off. But, I want to report that I am running over 4 km now, and my love for camping, nature and friends runs deeper than 4 days ago. I am grateful for the blessings in my life and I hope I can always sustain these bonds and see the good through it all, enjoying laughter all along the way.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

In case you were wondering...

...what rice looks like when forgotten in the rice cooker for several hot days. To be fair, the rice didn't change, but the cooker was the perfect host for this web of mold. It made a perfect cloud like nest, resembling cotton or the womb of tent caterpillars. Hungry?

...I am thinking I should share recipes which I get from popular cooking magazines, but translate them into English and add my touch.

...I can now run 3.5ish km. Before, if I said 3.8, I was mistaken. I take it back. Might get there tomorrow though as 3.5 is getting easier.

...We will be camping for 3 days with our friends. There we were last year. One of my favorite 3 day weekends of the year!

And finally... the cool Autumn air has come to us, bringing rain and breezes to a very parched populace. The plants probably don't mind either.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Stream of Conscience

Finally cooling off, though the days remind you of their noontime heat by leaving a good sticky layer behind upon retreat.

Running: check. 3-4 times a week. Up to 3.5 km or 2.2 miles. Nothing short of a miracle for me. No feeling like I want to stop, so that's cool. Saw a foreign guy yesterday when I was out. We acknowledged each others existence, which all too often is ignored.

I see the "say 'Hi' or say nothing coin" from different sides: I don't acknowledge all the Japanese people I see, so why should I acknowledge every foreign person I see? This is just my life. If we are both shopping, we are simply doing what normal people do and there is no reason to do anything other than go about our business. I also sometimes get the feeling that by acknowledging another foreigner, who is, let's say, doing their grocery shopping in the same store, that their experience in this foreign land is being watered down. Like seeing another foreigner breaks us from some state of feeling like we are the sole "other" in Japan and by another "other" being there that a sense of this country's foreignness is diluted. Personally, I think I could just give an ef most of the time cause I am thinking about other stuff, like what to cook for dinner, what something that happened in class that day meant or what I'll wear the next day. I'll keep working on this idea.

John, my sis-in-law's nephew, just left for Tokyo for his 1 year study abroad. We had him for 4 days and it was nice. He's a good kid. Said thank you, tried and asked later, never complained. Next time I will know to serve more meat. I forget how important meat is to most people. I eat it in any quantity and the next day I am guaranteed to have issues. It's just how it is and I don't know why. I can live without it.

Sunday should be fun with a brilliant speaker coming to talk at out ETJ meeting. Kim Horne will go down in history over here. She's a powerhouse and so creative. Love. her. Love many of the people who come to see her, too. Really going to be a great day. Which reminds me that I better start getting ready for my November presentation at JALT. "Operation no procrastination" is in effect. Thankfully, I am co-presenting and my partner is really a great can-do person. So, I think we should be fine and in plenty of time!

I gave my little guy students their accomplishment certificates today and the joy! Oh boy, to be 3 and get a certificate and a badge on your bag! Hot damn! Then to have Mommy smiling with pride at ya'! Double hot damn! I'd take that over paying bills any day! No, I really would love to see my Mom's face as I get a certificate again. She was always so proud of me.

Speaking of Mom, she came out of her shell one day a few weeks ago. It was insane! I'd not heard her talk that much in over 2 1/2 years! It was like her old self just popped out where she left off for a brief moment. She spoke about things she saw on TV, things she saw back then as if they were today. She acknowledged how scary it is that she can't remember things and she said, "You know, I can't walk anymore. I can't drive either," as if her old self was meeting her current self. I've heard of bad trips, but to see someone having one is almost as painful. I cried after we hung up and shook my head at the fucking weirdness of Alzheimer's. At least she remembers me, even if she doesn't remember that I was just there for a month.