Wednesday, July 22, 2015

A collection of random thoughts on a Wednesday night

It's Wednesday night on July 22nd, 2015. I'm now 28 weeks pregnant, which means I'll have a baby in about 10 weeks. Wow. I just looked at my belly which is really starting to show lately. Despite the fact that I am unmistakably pregnant and everyone on the train wants to give up their seats for me nowadays, the idea of me becoming a mother still hasn't quite caught up with me yet. I thought I became pregnant only a month ago or so but it's been 28 weeks already; yes I have come a long way. I didn't have a morning sickness, and I kind of knew that I would have an easy pregnancy even before I got pregnant. Why? Because I'm lucky like that. I have never even had cramps during my period, and who doesn't?? I hope I'll continue to be lucky and I'll have an easy delivery as well, but who knows? Luck isn't the most dependable thing in the world. 

The rainy season ended and the summer has come to Tokyo a week ago. We had a real nice June and the beginning of July with lots of rain and the cool weather to accompany. It rained day after day, and everyone complained but I didn't mind the rain. I actually never mind the rain. I secretly wished the rainy season would never end but it decided to go away with the typhoon which visited here out of season. Hate is a strong word, and I rarely use it, but I hate summer. I hate the heat and the humidity. I hate getting tanned. Well actually I don't hate getting tanned; I hate getting freckles. 

Tonight I watched a stupid movie on Hulu while Mike was on his weekly 2hr telecon. It had to be stupid, because I like watching good movies with Mike. And it naturally had to be a movie with Ashton Kucher in it. Mike can't stand him. He just can't. 

Now we're getting ready to go out to sento. Our daily routine. Probably our favorite thing to do, next to playing with stray cats in the park. People can't help staring at my big belly in the bath but I'm getting used to it. The baby seems to like it when I take a bath. It kicks a lot. I was actually taking a bath when I first felt the baby kicking. Indescribable feeling. Utter joy.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

仕事に出かける時の自分、どんな顔してますか?

今日は日曜日だけれど、マイクは朝からHTML5 Conferenceという会議に意気揚々として出かけて行った。その晴れ晴れしい顔。見ている方まで楽しい気持ちになる。この人は、本当に仕事が好きなんだなあ、とあらためて感じる幸せな瞬間。思えば、「情熱が持てる仕事に就くことの重要さ」を教えてくれたのは、他でもないこのマイクだ。

今から6年前。私は30歳。9年ほど住んだアメリカを去り日本に帰国。ほどなく友人が慶應義塾大学のとある団体の研究室での事務職を勧めてくれた。空から降って来たような話だった。その研究室に居たのがマイク。彼の専門はWebで、何も知らない私に色々と教えてくれた。でも私の仕事は専ら事務や雑用。仕事にはすぐ慣れたし、同僚は皆親切だったが、いつしか私は退屈な毎日を送るようになる。その傍ら、マイクや他の同僚は仕事に熱い。熱くなれる何かと毎日向き合っている。そんな人達に囲まれて仕事をするうちに私も考えるようになった。私も私にしかできない、そして私自身が本当に熱くなれる、情熱が持てるような仕事に就きたい。

At W3C Keio SFC office. Look how BORED I look!! :)


Flirting? Yes :)

それから私は再び渡米をし大学院で3年間、言語学の勉強をしながら、学部生に日本語を教えることになる。正直、かなりハードだった。言語学の基礎的な知識も無い上、日本語を教えた経験も皆無だった。もう32歳になっていた私は一回りも若い同級生に体力の差を感じながらも、負けず嫌いなところだけは群を抜いていたので、頑張りすぎる日々が続き、体調を崩したり、情緒不安定になることもあった。その間もずっとマイクは応援してくれた。嬉しいことがあった時には喜びを分かち合い、壁にぶつかった時には最善の策を講じてくれた。だから、そうして取得した修士号はマイク無しでは語れない。


Graduation. Purdue University. May 2013

今私は自分が本当に熱くなれることをして、お金をもらえている。初めてのことだ。こんなにも幸せに満たされた気持ちになるとは、想像もしなかった。ケンタッキー州に住んでいた時に大学でピアノレッスンをしてくれたミスター・ルイスが口癖のように言っていた言葉を思い出す。先生はその時72歳。歩くのもままならないようなおじいさん先生だった。でもまだまだ現役でピアノを教え続けたい。この仕事からは一生引退したくないんだ。と言っていた。英語では、"I love my job, and I never want to retire!!" だったかな。もの凄く印象的だった。当時私はケンタッキー州にある自動車工場で購買やプランニングの仕事をしていた。それなりにやりがいもあったけれど、辞めたくない仕事なんて存在するのか?と懐疑的だった。今、ミスター・ルイスの言葉がホンモノだったことがわかる。私も日本語教師という職からリタイアしたくないと強く思うから。一生続けていきたいと思える仕事に出合えた幸せを噛み締めて、この気持ちを忘れずにいたい。

Sunday, January 4, 2015

読書感想文:東京タワー オカンとボクと、時々、オトン

実家に帰省して一週間も経つと、いよいよ退屈になってくる。テレビも見飽きた。そこで二階の本棚から何冊か読みかけの本を持って来て、こたつに寝転がって一冊一冊読み潰していった。「東京タワー オカンとボクと、時々、オトン」(リリーフランキー著)はその中の一冊だ。



この本がベストセラーになった2005年。私は米国ケンタッキー州のはずれにある小さな町に住み、トヨタ自動車系列の会社に勤めていた。その年の暮れ、正月休みで一時帰国した時にこの本が目に留まり、買ってみて途中まで調子良く読んでいたものの、物語終盤でいざ「ボク」の「オカン」が死ぬ、という場面になってたまらなくなり、パタンと本を閉じたままになっていた。読んでいられなかったのだ。その時は、あと何日かしたらまた家族を残し、一人アメリカに戻らなければいけない、ということからか、親が死んでしまう話など読むに読めなかったのだ。あれから9年。私は帰国しまさかの結婚もして、両親も元気に同じ日本に住んでいる。今なら読めるだろう、と意を決して、そのしおりの挟まった本を再び開いた。



大きな間違いだった。何度となく涙で目の前の本の文字がかすみ、何度となく本を閉じた。親の死。親を持つ者には誰にも必ず訪れる、悲しすぎる出来事。できれば想像もしたくない。他人事に思っていたい。だからたとえ本の世界であっても、直面したくないのだ。そう実感した。

それでも涙を拭き、鼻水をかみ、何度も中断しながらもこの本を9年越しに読了することができた。物語の終わりに、「オカン」を亡くした「ボク」(リリーフランキー)は乗降客でごった返す東京駅にたたずみ、こんな風に綴っている:

『...今日も東京には、どこからか人が集まり溢れかえっている。
それぞれが...ひとりで生まれ、ひとりで生きているような顔をしている。
しかし、当然のことながら、そのひとりひとりには家族がいて、大切にすべきものがあって、心の中に広大な宇宙を持ち、そして、母親がいる。
この先いつか、或いはすでに、このすべての人たちがボクと同じ悲しみを経験する。

...人が母親から生まれる限り、この悲しみから逃れることはできない。
人の命に終わりがある限り、この恐怖と向かい合わずにはおれないのだから。』

当たり前の事だけれど、こうして文字にされると、しみじみと考えてしまうような文だ。
私は本を閉じて、こたつでテレビに夢中になっている親の姿を見た。
優しい言葉のひとつでもかけてあげたい。
「ありがとう」と言えるうちに何度も何度も言ってあげたい。

現実と向き合うのは、思ったより難しい。



Saturday, January 3, 2015

露天風呂にて

お正月休み。私の実家のある信州松本に帰省している。風呂好きな私と夫は近くの温泉銭湯に毎晩足繁く通っているが、2日ほど前の晩、閉店前のその銭湯の露天風呂で、小学校の時の同級生にばったり会った。その子とはもう何十年も会っていないわけだけど、当時と全然変わっていないのですぐに分かり、私から声をかけた。聞けば彼女も帰省中で、今は仕事で沖縄に住んでいるという。でも4月からは東京でパートナーと赤坂にあるマンションで同居するらしい。思いがけず思いがけない場所で会えたことに2人とも興奮してしまい、時間を忘れた。気付けば閉店の時間。「なおちゃん、またね!」と明日また会えるかのようにして別れたけれど、今度会えるのはいつなんだろう。のぼせかかった頭でぼんやりと考えながら、この唄を詠んだ:

寒空の 露天で幼な友に会い
おもひで話に 湯の花揺れり

Under a wintry sky
At an outside bath
Saw a childhood friend 
Talked about old times
Hot spring minerals bloomed like flowers


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Film review: Ian Thomas Ash's "-1287"

I knew it was going to be a sad film. It was about this woman with a terminal cancer, and from the film title "-1287" and trailer, we can infer that it's about her death, and probably that the number -1287 is some number of days having to do with her death. The entire audience in the small theater where I watched it knew it too, and we all expected to shed some deserved tears in the end.

The ending was pretty much what I think we all predicted—but what we weren't prepared for was to experience the death of someone close: someone who is so much alive with  sense of humor pouring out, and genuine laughter from her belly. After the showing of the film, one of the audience members (while sobbing) said, "I'm so sad and can't find words because I feel like someone I knew has just died." That may sound a bit too dramatic if you haven't seen this film, but I shared this sentiment, and so did the rest of the audience, I'm sure. I couldn't stop crying. It wasn't so much about her death itself that made me cry— instead what moved me was how she lived and the tender and honest conversations she had with the filmmaker (Ian Thomas Ash.) And how she wanted to be loved—"truly truly truly" loved by someone, and how she wanted that even until the very last days of her life. 


We know death happens to all of us one day. What we don't know is when that one day is going to be and how to come to terms with it. And we really don't think about it so much because we somehow effortlessly forget the fact that we all die one day or maybe because it's just simply scary to even imagine. When the movie star Ken Takakura (he's often noted as "Japan's Clint Eastwood") passed away last month, I came across many tweets saying something like, "I never thought he would actually die one day!" As silly as those tweets may sound, that's probably how we think of our own death too: we just can't imagine we all die one day! 

In "-1287", through the lens of Ian, we get to know Kazuko, a lovely woman in her 60s, who loves cooking and reading books in English. It begins with a shot in her kitchen where she's cooking for him. Then he starts asking her questions. The film consists only of dialogues between Ian and Kazuko: dialogues of two complete strangers to me. But to my surprise, I was quickly drawn to their world and the tender moments the filmmaker shared with Kazuko. The tender moments of the two of them were so intimate and perhaps so personal that I sometimes felt shy or even wrong about watching it. It's not because of what they talk about; Ian asks Kazuko fairly general questions: who she is, about her family and her hobbies—and then he moves on to ask her about her illness, and about big questions: life and love.

What made me feel a bit shy watching was I think the tone of his voice. He's shooting the film so we don't usually see him on the screen. We saw him occasionally when she held the camera, but we mostly just heard his sweet, calm, warm, modest, and sometimes very interrogative tone of voice. And how happy & shy she looked, responding to his voice, which revealed a unique intimacy they embraced together. Their conversations (carried out mostly in Japanese, sometimes in English) were incredibly real and honest; not even a tiny bit was phony. I don't even know how I know that, because I don't know her in person but I was somehow able to sense that she was true to herself, and to Ian, the filmmaker. Maybe it was more about him. She wanted him to hear her story. Her true story—the true her, that she'd probably never shown to anybody before. 

After the film, Ian was invited on stage so we could ask him questions and/or share our thoughts with him. One woman in the back said, "I'm turning 70 so I'm Kazuko's age, and I envy her that she had a friend like you. I have a husband but we never really talk. I wish I had someone to tell honest stories to each other, like you and Kazuko did." She continued, "Maybe it's my generation thing, or maybe it's a Japanese thing. We don't really talk!"

I looked at Mike who was sitting next to me and I thought, no, it's not a generation thing or a Japanese thing. We're a bit younger and married internationally, and we do talk but we don't tell honest stories to each other, the way Ian and Kazuko did, either. Then I thought, do I tell honest stories to anyone really? To my parents? To my brother? To my best friends back home? 

We never know what the future holds; we don't even know about tomorrow. But there is one thing that we know for sure: we all die one day, sooner or later. That much we know. I think about this fact a lot lately thanks to this film—but give it a week or two, I can assure you I won't be thinking about it a lot anymore. But I just don't want to forget the conversations between Kazuko and Ian and how she lived and shared her honest stories with him, and with us.