Saturday, June 16


We are currently in the midst of a dry rainy season. All hydrangeas but no cloudbursts. Well, there was one small one today but it gave us this... 
(Which reminds me of how earlier today my coworker asked what the difference was between a banjo and a ukulele. I thought he was joking/mocking so I laughed.)

It's been very busy at work lately and I have been up late tonight putting some affairs in order. Work again tomorrow as it is one of the alternate Saturdays that my school likes to have. 

In between all of these pragmatic doings, I have begun working a few different stories. During the course of my preliminary research, I came across this:

InSight from Nicolas Lopez on Vimeo.

Really amazing to consider.

Hope you are all well. Take care.

Sunday, May 6

Goodbye Golden Week.

It's the end of Golden Week, the late Spring bank of national holidays that we are lucky to get here in Japan. It is rainy and cold outside but inside we are baking cookies and finishing up homework. It has been a good holiday week, low-key but enjoyable.

We went to nearby Miyajima twice (seven tram stops away): once in the evening when the shops were shuttered and we saw the main hall of a Buddhist temple packed with a silent audience watching a priest retell a parable in song; again yesterday for kodomonohi (children's day) but to the other side of the island where it is crowded with trees and deer and we feel decidedly more at home.

I also managed to make tracks on my new project and clean my bedroom, banishing the cardboard boxes that had been lining the walls since the move.

It has been the first proper time off since starting this new job. I was on probation for the initial six months and was not privileged to have any paid leave during that time. Most weeks I work Monday through Saturday. This means that I have not had much time to really think about what I am doing, where I am headed. In some ways, this has been nice as it has meant just following a routine, sinking into the moment rather than overthinking things like usual. 

And yet this Golden Week has given me the time I really needed to reflect and consider. And what I realised, well, that will have to be saved for another post. 

Hope you all are well. 
Take care.

Friday, December 1

Hi from Hiroshima

So, my dear neglected readers, we moved to Hiroshima. I know we said we were not going to do it and then things changed and we did. It is strange still, two months after the move, to be not on the island. And yet we are getting used to it, slowly.
Every city has its adjective: Nagoya's was convenient, Nara's was charming, and Hiroshima's is pleasant. Or at least the area that we live in. It is not at the center of the city but a bit west, closer to the famous Miyajima. 

I have struggled over so much in how I wish to document my life, to communicate my days, and after much fretting and delays, I find that this is still the best place for my regular writing.

I was looking out at the Seto Sea during a lesson today, thinking about how I really have not felt that what I am doing is worthy of recording. That is essentially why I stopped writing, because life felt too mundane to report on. And yet what is mundane for me might be of interest to other, even my children when they get to the point where they want to rake over these old chronicles.

I make no promises about punctuality or predictability; I know myself well enough to know that I work better without such constraints. Rather I will be here when I can and I will write what I will.

For now I must return to work.

Take care. xo

Sunday, May 21


Everyday I study Japanese. And everyday my brain resists absorbing the Japanese in such a direct, forced manner. It prefers passive learning, immersed in the language, absorbing it through physical clues rather than textual insistence. I am rather content to learn my second language in this manner but I have arrived at the point where formal study is required.

There are many reasons I have not engaged in such intense study before. For starters, I was never very certain about how long I would remain in Japan and thus my commitment to acquiring Japanese as a second language was wavering. And yet there seems to be no option of returning to my homeland, mostly due to economic reasons.

Another reason was that I was concerned about how being proficient in a second language would affect my first, especially since I am a writer. I know people who have lost their first language and this fear has kept me from embracing Japanese. Of course, having studied bilingualism for my master's, I know that those people were exceptions. I recently read Jhumpa Lahiri's In Other Words and was impressed with her endeavor to write in her second language, using it as an opportunity to get beyond the cultural trappings of the first language and enter into a linguistic sphere where she is blind but persistent.

I usually tell people that the logistics were never in my favor for Japanese study (a story which has merits as a working mother of four, living in places where Japanese classes are unavailable) but the truth is that logistics in general are rarely in my favor and yet I persevere if it suits me.

When you acquire a second language, it is not that you are necessarily losing yourself but that you are evolving. Evolving can mean that you must let go of old notions, old attachments, but it also means that you develop new ones. It is an adventure but not in a shiny, glamping sort of way. It is an adventure in the way that your car breaking down in the middle of the night is an adventure. It is an adventure like mountain climbing during a thunderstorm without any rain gear. You feel foolish and unprepared and really wish to be doing anything else, wish to be in the safety of the known and yet you cannot. Because this is just what you are doing, regardless if it was your intention or not. And yet these are the sort of adventures that make you stronger, ready for what lies ahead.

On the first weekend of July, I will be somewhere in Kyushu (location yet declared) to take the Japanese proficiency exam. I chose a level that I thought I would pass easily but now that I am studying, I realize that I will be damn lucky to pass, mainly because of the grammar. Listening and reading (passive skills) come easily to me, and kanji is not really an issue (I have a strange instinctual grasp of kanji). But grammar is kicking my ass. And it is terrible and humbling and yet strangely alluring. I am contrary by nature so the fact that I am failing grammar makes me more determined to learn it. My brain is intrigued by it much as it is intrigued by those subject that it cannot consume readily like calculus and quantum physics. And yet unlike those subjects, I actually need to conquer Japanese grammar.

 I originally signed up for the proficiency exam to help boost my luck with job-hunting. Recently an opportunity has arisen (technically re-arisen) and the odds are in my favor. With any luck, we will be in our new home, off the island, by October. My younger self would take this as an opportunity to quit studying and to return to my usual antics but something has evolved within me. I don't want to return to my usual antics. It turns out that I actually want to be proficient now, that I am comfortable with turning Japanese, or Japanese in my own manner (which is definitely unauthorized by the official Japanese notion of being Japanese but I don't mind being rogue). Of course, I am really just turning into myself because that is all we ever do, the true adventure.

Sunday, May 14


Today is the first mother's day since this happened.

Let me share a little antidote that illustrates how much my husband loved his mom.

About a month after we first met, we took a hitchhiking, greyhound-bus-riding road trip. We stopped by D.C. to check out the Matisse and from the museum, my then-new boyfriend called his mother to check in with her. She was visiting her sister in the hospital at the time in Massachusetts but my boyfriend had been concerned about her and wanted to make sure she was having a safe journey.

This was very impressive to me, seeing a twenty-two year old guy take the time from his adventures to call his mama.

In our closet, we have a ton of little presents that he had collected for her, gathering them for a box that never got shipped. He was always thinking of her, making sure to buy anything that he thought she would get a kick out of. He talked to her via the computer several times a week. The conversations were usually long, both of them wandering into the dangerous territory of political debate (she was a staunch Republican, Fox News viewer) but each of them emerging without injury.

In our kitchen cabinet, we have about twenty boxes of Star Wars jello that she sent in her last care package to us. We have a hundred little relics of her from those regular care packages, yarn craft magnets, American flag tee-shirts, plastic Halloween cups. When we move, maybe we will find a way of letting go of the jello and worn out tee-shirts but for now, it is our way of keeping her with us everyday.

Today is not going to be easy but we bought distractions: water guns and sidewalk chalk and bubbles. All to be brought with us to the park on top of the mountain where the kids can run and play freely and we can have enough space to remember a very special mother who will always be missed.

Happy Mother's Day, Alice.

Happy Mother's Day, Alice from Tiffany Key on Vimeo.

Friday, May 12

Scenes from the week

-The first week back from Golden Week is always a bit vicious but I survived somehow. 

-It was a week without any mishaps (lost paperwork, forgotten homework, teachers calling- well, S's teacher called twice but that is better than everyday).

-This was also the week when we mad cleaned the house since we were due our annual home visits from the teachers. I like the tradition and having a nice clean house at the end of the week is a bonus. Essentially, the teachers drop by for about ten minutes to get an insight into their students' home life and to talk about their progress so far. I am pleased to report that this year's visits went off without a hitch. The kids, it turns out, are indeed alright. (N needs to master long division and C is really slow with her classwork still but she's always the first the raise her hand in class now so that's an improvement).

-That tall gangly kid up there got his head shaved today for kendo (by moi, of course) so this is probably the last picture we will have of him with hair for a long time, since he is really into kendo now. (Did I mention the everyday thing? Everyday he has kendo. E.v.e.r.y.d.a.y..)

-The week saw the start of the 50 day countdown to my Japanese language proficiency exam. It is hard work, my dears. Grammar at one in the morning is not ideal but I need to pass this test. It gets easier the more I study and I actually have gotten to the point where I look forward to my nightly study sessions and have become utterly boring. But July 2 will be here too soon so I must straighten my nerd cap and go forth.

-We had a wild storm hit us today, lightning, flooding, the works. And it is still going. 

-Speaking of storms, oh my, America. Can't you give a gal some rest? Seriously. You know it is bad when American political news gets into the elementary school newspaper. My, oh my.
-I'm going to get some more coffee and return to my studies. Hope you all are well. 



Monday, May 8

Golden Week

Everything has been a mad whirlwind of activity since school started back up. It turns out that junior high school is intense. And then there is still elementary school matters and kindergarten matters and work matters and studying for the big Japanese test matters and scheming to move matters. I get dizzy just thinking about my to-do lists.

So it was a great relief to have a proper sunny Golden Week last week, a bank holiday of three days wedged up against the weekend to make five solid days of no work or school. We didn't travel off the island (Sebastian has kendo club everyday which makes it hard to go anywhere) but managed to enjoy ourselves all the same.

Golden Week from Tiffany Key on Vimeo.