Have a splendid day, birthday girl!  May all your dreams come true.



Recently I was asked to pinch-hit as an emcee and singer for a huge kids’  Christmas party (150 kids, a dozen teachers).  Although it was at such short notice – I only received the party plan yesterday, and had never worked with most of the teachers before, or sang the songs before – I was really, really determined to do a good job of it.   To be honest, with typical gaijin hubris and over-confidence, I was convinced that I would simply breeze through it all, and that everyone would be fantastically impressed with me.   How wrong I was.

I bombed.   It was awful.  It got to the stage that they ended the party early because I had so clearly run out of patter and musical inspiration, and the kids were getting fidgety.   I felt just dreadful, and I know it showed because kind people kept coming up to console me afterwards.   When I got home I found some supportive emails on my computer, including this wonderful line: “Thank you for your hard hard work and your constant coming today.”  Oh, if only my job were that simple!

I still feel awful, I haven’t felt this rotten in ages.  I wonder if I should return the money that they paid me (not that they’d accept it back).   To be sure, in the grand scheme of things, it’s not a big deal.  I  mean, the kids were okay, thanks to “Santa” (thanks Dave from Australia!) making an appearance at the end of the party to distribute presents, and as for me, I’m pretty sure that I haven’t done any major damage to my career prospects or reputation or anything like that … but my pride has been damaged, and that’s not something I’m used to.  Serves me right for being so cocky.  Oh well, chalk it up to experience … hopefully not one that I’ll ever have to repeat.

What would you do if you discovered you had an Amerasian stepchild?

One of my elderly friends from the bookclub revealed something to me recently: quite some time ago, when he was a young soldier with the Occupation forces, he had a secret affair with a Japanese girl (despite the fact that he was already married to his childhood sweetheart).  She got pregnant by him, was thrown out by her family, and died shortly after giving birth.  Somehow he managed to smuggle the baby back to the US with a nanny, and eventually was able to raise the child as his own (obviously with the help of a very understanding wife!).   That son is now a successful lawyer with a family of his own, and very close to his father and adoptive mother. 

By a strange twist of fate, my friend and his wife were posted to Kobe in the 80s, and chose to stay on here after retirement, because she loved the place so much.   She does a lot of charity work around here, much of it with children. When I heard this story, I immediately wondered how this woman could’ve been so tolerant about taking on an unexpected Amerasian child, and later moving to the land where her husband had been unfaithful to her.  I just don’t understand how she can put her own feelings aside.  I don’t think I could do it.


Today, when I asked my third-grade class to write their names on the whiteboard, I noticed for the first time that one of my brightest girls is actually left-handed.  I was so surprised.  It is not common to encounter lefties in Japan, because traditionally they are trained out of it in early childhood (and if I’d had a left-handed child – which I don’t – I probably would’ve done the same thing).  A “leave them alone” trend seems to on the rise in modern cities, but it’s still really unusual to encounter them here. 

Therefore, I really was surprised to see someone unabashedly writing with her left hand.  I don’t think I’ve seen anything like that since my NZ days. 

One of my Japanese cousins is naturally left-handed, but was trained out of it when he was a kindergarten student.  He ended up becoming ambidextrous, and once bragged to me that he could hold a pencil with one hand and a pair of chopsticks with the other.  Apparently he got really good grades at school because he could eat and study at the same time, thus saving a lot of time and effort.   I can see the merits.

Problem page (not Japan)

“My sister and her boyfriend are having their wedding in an overseas resort next October. I will find it hard to save the money required for my husband, me and our two children. I don’t want to borrow the money or put it on a credit card. We recently moved house and spend all our money on our house, nursery fees and supporting the four of us.

My sister is having chemo for breast cancer and tried to make me feel guilty by asking how I would feel if she died and I hadn’t been to her wedding. I really resent being forced to spend money I don’t want to spend, when if I had the money I would buy furniture or childproof the garden.”

I was personally astounded that almost all the comments generated by this post were hugely critical of the writer.   Some even told her that she would regret it for the rest of her life, if she didn’t show up at her sister’s wedding.  Leaving aside the fact that the sister is undergoing chemo, is it ever okay to try and emotionally blackmail someone into spending possibly huge amounts of money (well, YMMV) and take valuable time out from work and housekeeping just to indulge someone’s princess fantasies?   (And let’s not mention the fact that statistically speaking, it may not be the only wedding for the sister anyway.)  The writer mentioned honestly that she would rather use the money for improving her home and taking care of her children, and came up for fierce criticism for that as well. 

Is it just me, or is the bridezilla being the selfish one here?  If she really cared about her nearest and dearest, and wanted them to attend her special day, then she would have a simple ceremony and a garden party much closer to home – and then have her honeymoon in the exotic resort, if she so desired. 

As a houseguest once said to me when I apologised for the smallness of my home, “it’s not the place, it’s the people.”  In this case, I agree.

(By the way, this issue seems to be a relatively common one in some western countries.  It’s far less of one in Japan, where the parents of the happy couple are expected to stump up for the majority of costs.)

A miracle occurred this morning!

On a whim, I called Benjamin and he came running!  And no food was involved, either.  That was the first time in my 10 years of knowing him that he has ever responded to his name.  Unfortunately, now I can’t replicate the result, no matter how much I call him.  I wonder if he’s playing mind games with me?   Cats seem to like those.

Anyway, I’ve been smiling all day about this.