Saturday, January 24, 2009

oh, the indignity

I've been teaching Nana, Kazu, and Koya for awhile. Nana and Kazu, almost four years now. They're about eight years old these days.

After lesson on Wednesday, I said, "Good job, kids!"
Kazu replied to me (in Japanese, the scamp), "Kids? Kids means children. Please, call us juniors!"

Juniors?? That doesn't even MEAN anything. OK, Junior. On second thought, it fits.

Monday, January 19, 2009

On the balcony is the slanting sunlight of the afternoon and it feels like spring even though it's only mid-January. The weather is practically balmy, although the bare winter branches of the maple pointing brittle fingers at the sky tell otherwise. It feels good to beat on the blankets and comforters with an old badminton racket, watching the dust clouds rise in great billows under the dull, satisfying thwunk of each swing. One of the neighbors is doing the same thing; I can hear her but I can't see her. It's a thoroughly domestic task and I wonder why I don't do it more often. It's better than pulling off buttons and snipping off zippers so that the victim, later, blinks in befuddlement as they realize they can't fasten anything.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

After a long journey, with a plane ride and the hubbub of Narita and then the two-plus hour bus ride, I feel like crying when there's no one to meet me at the bus station and help me with my enormous throwback suitcases. So I take a taxi, after lugging the bags, one at a time, first up and then down the stairs across the overpass to the taxi stand. Which seems to take forever. And the silver one is ancient and dented and has no wheels. And the green one is pretty ancient too but has wheels which don't seem to help that much.

But in the cab, the full moon suddenly looms large and mottled and orange and I exclaim at it. And the driver looks too and we share a moment of awe. And it's a little better.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Dulce Compañía

There seem to be surprisingly few translations of these out there, at least upon a quick search. Though clumsy, I offer these as a lover of her music. 

Dulce Compañía
by Julieta Venegas

Hoy solo quiero silencio
no quiero nada cambiar,
quiero quedarme tranquila
y saborear esta paz.

Today I just want silence
I don't want anything to change
I want to stay quiet
And savor this peace.

Tengo un momento de calma
siento el peso ceder
de esta vida enredada
la deshizo y el porque.

I have a moment of calm
I feel the weight lessen
of this entangled life
the ruin and the reason.

nada que venga de afuera
me puede hacer mas feliz,
solo sentir tu mirada
tranquila sobre mi

Nothing coming from elsewhere
Could make me happier
Only to feel your look
Tranquility surrounds me

eres dulce compañia, y mi alma tiene sed
me siento resucitada cuando tu me ves
eres dulce compañia y mi alma tiene sed
me siento resucitada cuando tu me ves

You are sweet company, and my soul is thirsty
I feel resuscitated when I see you
You are sweet company, and my soul is thirsty
I feel resuscitated when I see you

quiero quedarme sentada
ver tu silueta volver
quiero enredarme en tus manos y sentir tu piel
no puedo explicarlo
como es que pudiste entrar
mi corazon cansado, no queria ya dar mas

I want to stay seated
To see your silhouette coming
I want to get caught up in your hands and feel your skin
I can't explain it
Which is why you could enter
My tired heart, I didn't want to give any more.


me siento florecer
I feel I am blooming


Friday, January 09, 2009

a different metric

I think I'm pretty attuned to the rhythms of Japan, and generally I really like it. But it's little stuff I miss. This morning I was in a coffee shop (in Portland) looking for a clean spoon at the condiment station. And some random guy made fun of me because there was already a spoon in my saucer and I was too spaced out to notice. And I punched him in the arm. Because I'm in the USA, and I can, and it's perfectly acceptable to goof around with a stranger. This just doesn't happen in Japan.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

reading, everywhere

A certain dear one to me went away for a little while to juvy, and he reported that the only thing available to read there was religious material.

That's one experience, but we hear all the time of how prison education programs are being cut in favor of stuffing more and more people in smaller and smaller spaces. Without the rehabilitation that is so important to keep so many people from ending up in the same situation really soon. It's an oversimplification, but if someone is sent to prison for committing a crime of desperation, and nothing in their life changes while they are inside, what's the incentive to go a different way?

Obviously, people have all kinds of reasons for doing the things they do, and it's rare that you can point to one thing that caused a derailment. But it seems to me that education is a really good tool and provides options for those that could use them most.

Last week I went and volunteered at Portland Books to Prisoners. Like Books Through Bars in Philadelphia, and many other similar programs across the US and Canada, these loose-knit organizations receive letters from the incarcerated requesting books on various topics. The volunteers answer the letters, doing their best to match the requests. Frequent requests are dictionaries, GED books, mysteries, and science texts. The books, time, and postage are all donated.

It's one small concrete thing.