Tag Archives: DPchallenge

This Gaijin is Game

Daily Prompt: City Planners
If you could clone one element from another city you’ve visited — a building, a cultural institution, a common street food, etc. — and bring it back to your own hometown, what would it be?
Child Dancing with Chrysanthemum Branch by Katsukawa Shunshō This file is in the public domain.
Child Dancing with Chrysanthemum Branch
by Katsukawa Shunshō
This file is in the public domain.

Years ago, I got a chance to visit Japan for a month. One thing I could not forget in the heart of Tokyo was the child center that had something different for children to do on each floor. I would love to take that to all cities I go to.

I went there for a youth camp. A group of gaijin and myself together with our Japanese counterparts built a horror ship for children in the basement and took part in various activities on different floors.

I love building things from boards, wood, nail, glue as well as decorating rooms with all sorts of materials. I also love “low pressure” acting. Once we were done building, painting and adding a tint of horror to the ship, we got to pretend we were the ship’s crew and walked children around on the ship and comforted them when they got too scared (I do hope we were not the object of nightmares for the little ones).

On another floor, children with a musical knack explored their limits. Well, children have no limits, so they explored different instruments from piano to weird pieces of sticks that make sounds when you knock them…

Let’s not forget how talented Japanese can be, so these kids had me left agaze. The room was filled with a tiny potential symphonic orchestra.

Moving up one floor, I found materials for children to show their creative skills working with clay, plaster, paint and any other possible artistic and crafty material you can imagine.

Of course there were playrooms all over the place. There were sections for all ages and I loved watching tiny toddlers move about and make a fool of every adult around them.

One day, we played games with primary schoolers for a few hours. It was love at first ice breaker! Especially one girl with an artificial leg transfixed me! Her English was impeccable, so we had a nice long chat. I never knew a ten year old could be so wise! When I told her she seemed very mature for her age, she said: “I have had a tough life.”

The whole building was constructed child friendly, offering them diverse possibilities they could not normally have easy access to. Every floor of the building allowed children to get a chance to explore all skills they may possess but be unaware of, play until they are too tired and need a rest doing a little painting, and go on adventures in worlds created for them. Plus, through international projects such as the one I participated in, children got to interact with gaijins, while foreigners unaware of the existence of such facilities were left with an unforgettable experience.

Yes, this is definitely one thing I would want to see in all cities I step foot in.

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Sand, Sea and …

“Let’s go, come on! It’s just one weekend and we both need a break!”

He did not need to say much to convince me. It was April, winter was just over, the city was still cool, and the sombreness of the muddy days was still hovering over the streets.

I needed to get away from everything. From my job, the seriousness of all the files endlessly piling up and deadlines that had somehow managed to get hold of my life. I felt boring and flat like the city I lived in. So, I said: “Why not?”

Thus, off we drove to the warmer southern coast.

When I was a kid, my parents used to take me to tiny solitary beaches hidden between rocky entrances. In those remote pieces of saved land, I lay drying on a towel on the sand with the sun warming my back while water found its way down my skin. As the smell of the sun-dried towel dug its way into my memory, I listened to the humming of the earth under me. I listened to small creatures tunneling their way in the sand, building kingdoms, reigning the underworld. I followed tiny grains of sand all the way to the line where the water brushed over the flattened shore. I listened to the rustle of the waves. I listened to the power of water to give and take, as waves moved to and fro.

Watching the world from such a close angle at such a quiet spot made me also realize how inescapably lonely I was. My parents were there on the beach with me, but they were somewhere else, on another land. While I saw the sand grains or heard the force of the water, they were watching a different world from mine. Thus, I accepted a reticent existence to be shared with no other.

Until I met him.

He, too, was quiet like I. Bit by bit, with words unuttered, from shy sparkles in each other’s eyes, a slight touch, a breath let out in silence, we grew closer. Little by little, we allowed each other in. We allowed ourselves to be discovered by the other. In silent whispers, we spoke and we shared our existence.

We shared nights and days together; meals at the dinner table and chocolate in bed, wine from the bottle and tea under the blanket. We shared our thoughts and aspirations, our likes and dislikes, our passions and fears. We grew tomatoes and shopped for chairs. We grew on each other, internalized one another…

So, when he suggested a trip to the seaside, I knew my answer. We both needed to be away from the solid cement of the city to recalibrate our gentle harmony.

Thus, we boarded our car and drove southward towards sunnier days.

We found a nice quiet beach, just like the ones my parents used to take me. We soaked ourselves in the sea water, until all city gloom was cleansed from our bodies, and swung our weights on the cool soft waves till we felt as light as a feather.

When I lay on my towel, and watched the sand, this time, the grains took me to him, at the line of the water brushing the sand. This time, the sound of the earth and water, blended with his soft strokes on the water. This time, my world was not solitary. I had him to marvel at the grandiosity of the sea and the complicated beetle realm with me. I had another pair of eyes and ears to absorb the surroundings with me.

Lying on the towel, I watched him, enter the water, and peacefully, I closed my eyes.

When I woke up, I listened to his steps on the sand and followed with my ears his actions. I heard him behind me, drying with his towel. I turned around, smiling. I saw his towel, disarrayed on the sand. He was not there.

I looked at the open water, searched for his head bobbing over the surface. I examined the sea, not to miss him in between the waves, and reflections of dimming light. I watched carefully, to see him appear from a deep dive, or come back from a long swimming venture.

I waited to catch sight of him in the sea and over the land. I searched him in between waves and rocks. I looked for him until I could see nothing in utter darkness. Finally, I returned, once again, utterly solitary in existence.

In time, I came to accept, with quiet trepidation, that nature, whose power I deferred to, whose processes I admired and sought to find equilibrium in, had fumbled up the joy I had found in another. The waves offered me company in my loneliness, but took away the break I had taken from my isolated existence.

Sometimes, in between the streets, on my way to work, buying tomatoes at a store or on the window of a furniture store, I catch a glimpse of him. Momentarily, the loneliness is lifted until it sinks in again and I am reminded, nature gives and takes at its own will, and we can only watch and accept it.

Written in response to “Weekly Writing Challenge: Threes”

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/03/03/writing-challenge-threes/

No flowers for me, thanks!

The husband I have under my “jurisdiction” is a sensitive man though lacking in romantic chromosomes. The sole romantic action he has ever undertaken, apart from lending his lighter to a friend who was about to propose to his long term girlfriend, was scanning a comic I liked and mailing it to me when I went overseas.

But you see, at the time, we had been together for only four months. In other words, he still felt the need to woo me, which worked, giving me hope for future surprises…

A hope to be diminished in the years to follow.

On one Valentine’s Day, a time of the year we had never celebrated during our relationship of then four years, -since being the “intellectual” individuals we were, we saw it as a pretext for increased commercialized expenditure-, I decided I did want to obey the industrialized shopping day.

Despite my negative opinion about the day, given that we did not celebrate our relationship on any other day, I needed a change! I needed a “festivity” to show our love for each other.

So I called him on a mid February day, only to hear a woman’s voice, that of his mother.

I asked her to wake him up, which normally I would have never done and she would have never accepted. No one shall perturb her precious baby’s sleep, but she must have heard the determination in my voice, because eventually I heard his sleepy response at the other end of the line.

“Huh?”

Thus, began my instructions:

“Get up, come over here to my place. On your way, buy me a bouquet of flowers. If possible, daisies. When you get here, act like it is a surprise and say ‘Happy Valentine’s!’ when you hand me the flowers”.

Being an engineer, he did an excellent job following clear instructions.

However, when I found out the price of the damn plants, I felt terrible. Plus, the flowers died a few days later, and guilt took over.

So, we went back to no celebration…

Especially, NO flowers!!!

So far, it has worked fine. We enjoy our evenings together, watching “Walking Dead” or cooking, or simply lying at the opposite ends of the sofa, our feet touching while we surf the internet on our laptops. These give me more pleasure than any high priced flower doomed to die in a few days. I think what we are doing is spreading the heightened pleasure that lasts a single day throughout the whole year…

Or so I would like to think… 😀

PS: I am still expecting a major proposal. After five years of relationship and three years of marriage, he must have figured out what I like, right? And he can’t go wrong! What are the chances I will reject him after having officially said “yes” a long while ago?…

Written in response to WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge (http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/02/10/writing-challenge-valentine/comment-page-4/#comment-310890)

No More Wondering

Weekly Writing Challenge: Ghosts of December 23rds Past

I had gotten home after a seven hour flight to find a bombardment of e-mails from family and friends basically asking if I was OK.

I was living in the Arabian Peninsula, working as a flight attendant, and I had just returned from a one-week layover in Singapore and the Cebu Island in the Philippines. On Christmas Eve, I was at the hotel lobby in Cebu, sipping eggnog with the cabin crew from different parts of the world. During the four days of the layover we got to spend in Cebu, we had taken a river cruise where I watched kids jump into the river from branches on huge trees, where the water seemed brown with mud yet reassuringly clear and inviting, where it was impossible to see what was next on our route due to the dense foliage, where despite the hot and humid weather, the voyage felt relaxing with a soft breeze caressing my fingers sweetened with mangoes and papaya.

The next day, we went to the city center and visited a church with Hispanic names inherited during the Spanish colonization. I was astounded to see a place of worship with no glass on its windows. That is when I realized that this place was warm throughout the year and that nature was not an enemy. The people were in peace with nature. They were friendly welcoming people, ready to accept and deal with whatever the world might surprise them with.

When we went to higher lands, to a restaurant on a mountain, I had a chance to watch trees that smelled of exotic tastes I had never tried in my home country swaying lightly under my feet as I sat at the terrace of this small secret eatery and savored the delicious food served by the delightful staff. While watching the tree tops and the ocean further down the island I thought of the breeze on hot summer days when I was a child. The days when I could lie down in a garden and hear ants passing through the grass staring deep into my eyes trying to figure out if I am a living being or a rock it has to walk around.

On the last day, on our way back to the hotel I got a chance to peek at the lives led in between the towering trees. Some were residing in between walls made of what seemed like tin plates. Imagining myself living in one of these homes, I could hear flies buzzing outside my bedroom. I could feel the wind through the cracks on the tin plates. Unlike my life in major city centers constricted by cement structures, I could still have a bond with nature, making use of the plants I was seeing for the first time to feed as well as heal myself. Life there invoked peace of mind in me and helped me befriend the wind.

At home, when the anxious mails greeted me on my screen, I found out that Sri Lanka and Maldives had been hit by a tsunami wave caused by a quake in the Indian Ocean. These were two countries I had flown to the week before. Singapore and the Philippines had been spared from the major disaster of 2004 but it was recorded as one of the greatest disasters in human history.

A few days ago, I found myself thinking about the Christmas that had left such serene memories and the news of misery that had followed afterwards on lands nearby. It made me wonder about how the people of Cebu were spending their Christmas when they had been hit by a terrible typhoon only two months ago. I wondered how many had survived the typhoon in their tin homes and among the survivors, how many were able to enjoy their Christmas beverages. I wondered about the soft breeze in Cebu that had carried me to moments of my childhood devoid of any concern and asked myself how many had to feel the wind in their fingers because they had no home to go to and how many had to chase away flies as they had to sleep without a shelter. I wondered about what I could do but to wonder and asked myself what could be done if all stopped wondering and started acting.

Here is a chance to act: World Food Programme