Archive for September, 2018

The joy of eating in Japan

Today is my last day of work and our last day in Tokyo . We return tomorrow. There is likely to be more work here later and I am contemplating whether to seriously study Japanese.

While I worked, Axel has been exploring Tokyo, one day with our friend Miho, and the other days by himself. Sofar I have had a day and a half to accompany him on his explorations. It has been mostly raining which has literally dampened the fun a bit.

This has not dampened the food explorations. Every day we have the Japanese breakfast: miso soup, nato (fermented beans), rice with all sorts of interesting add-ons, seaweed, tofu, and more. There is a continental breakfast as well but why bother.

We have had, of course, our sushi, but there is more to Japanese food than sushi and sashimi. Twice we were invited to join with the founder and program manager of the Japanese Women’s Leadership Initiative (JWLI).  On Saturday she took us to a lovely small yakatori (=small brochettes) restaurant named ‘the dirty stinking southerner’ (Nambantei) according to our host. It referred to the smelly Dutch people who entered Japan in the 1600s, the first foreigners to be let in. The walls and menu were decorated with copies of old drawings of these smelly foreigners on their ship (yes, with the Dutch flag I am embarrassed to say) and sitting around a table drinking beer.

Last night (Sunday) we went to a small restaurant where we grilled thin pieces of beef on a small grill in front of us, accompanied by spicy kimshi, salad and a variety of pickled vegetables. The restaurant is located in the neighborhood where our host grew up during and right after WWII. She pointed out where her house had once stood, now replaced by a 4 story building.

Yesterday we got a taste of overpopulation at and around the very busy Shinsuku station, one of four large stations that spew out thousands of people every minute into Tokyo. It has a Times Square feel to it (and there is a Times Square just around the corner). We are glad to be in the quiet Rockefeller house (by invitation only, we are so lucky) with its beautiful gardens, tucked away in the district known for its active and noisy night life.

 

Next assignment: Japan

 

August came and went too fast. In the US Labor Day (first Monday in September) signals the official end of summer. The roads fill up again, university cities add tens of thousands of residents as students return. Faro returned to his immersion Chinese school, first grade now, and babbles easily in mandarin according to Sita- none of us understanding him of course.

Sita went and returned from her job at the eventful ASEAN World Economic Forum in Vietnam and barely got to explore Hanoi. She wants to go back there, as we would want to.  It’s an idea for a family vacation.

I completed the lion’s part of my consultancy with an organization in North Carolina, just in time before hurricane Florence moved in. I have started to immerse myself in the preparations for my teaching job in the fall and put the finishing touches on the lectures and workshops in Japan.

We left for Japan on the 12th using up my last Delta global upgrades before they would disappear forever. Even in business class the trip is long. We emerged in a  daze after 19 hours from the moment we got up. After entering and leaving various stations and trains and going up and down stairways and escalators, we found our way to our lovely hotel in the Roppongi area of Tokyo. Our abode here is the Rockefeller-built International House of Japan – a building with a philosophy of cultural and intellectual exchange to get Japan back on its feet after the war. It certainly did!

 

Abundance and gratitude

Leaves are starting to fall. It’s a time of both nostalgia and great beauty. September is the best month here. There is excitement in the air (new schools, new teachers, new classes), there is the crispness of the air and the abundance in the garden.

Abundance pops up everywhere and it makes me stop to smell the roses.

I am immensely grateful for so much. For one I am grateful for the people I have known who have left this earth. Most recently that was Baba Ted who we met in Kabul and who got Axel involved in Sola where he (and I a bit) worked with Afghan teenagers who were so thirsty for learning, and so full of energy and hope in spite of everything going on there. Through him we met others and formed lifelong bonds.

Gratitude for being able to swim at dawn in Lobster Cove – the water still and clear, the sun coloring the rocks rose and blinding me as I swim towards it.

Gratitude for all the people on Cap Ann who do their bit to counter the forces of evil that are lurking at every corner to destroy the beauty of this place. Last night we sailed on the Roseway Schooner, a fundraiser for Seaside Sustainability, led by the son of a good friend. We learned that the schooner (built in Essex in 1925) had been sinking in the mud, abandoned at a pier somewhere in Maine when (those forces again) people came together to bring her back to her old glory and use her for good. The good includes fundraising events and being a school for young people who are pulled to the sea and sailing. If I could turn the clock back, I think I would have signed on. I watched a young girl move around the deck with great agility, a knife dangling on her side, knotting the ropes on the sail. She had been a schooner crew member for ten years and had been promoted to first mate recently – the latter pronounced with great pride. So young and so accomplished!

Gratitude for my family, the joys of my life – the amazing things they do that make me marvel every day.

Gratitude for work. The laying off in June turned out to be a good thing. It opened so many doors. I am so busy, nearly too busy for summer days. This week I worked 27 hours. I am definitely not retired. The last few weeks I have worked nearly full time.  One week I was in Chapel Hill, this one I was ensconced in the studio across the driveway. We were in the middle of a heat wave and it is the coolest place to be.

I was putting together all that I learned from some 50+ interviews I had done the week before in Chapel Hill where I was on assignment to tease out how my client organization can best move from one state of being to a new desired one.

I am also preparing for our trip to Japan and the three talks I will give there, and a bit of preparation for the leadership and negotiation classes I will teach this fall for a local college.


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