A rainy day of 2002, I was landing in Costa Rica, a paradise on earth, where the stress and rush of the modern world are not to be found. Just yet. Not just yet.
As always the same routine, immigration, taxi, and hotel. Just do it all over again a few days later.
But little I knew my life was about to take a turn.
Arriving at the hotel, a casual phone call home would confirm the worst. He was gone. The time stood still for what it seemed hours. The auricular fell from my trembling hands. And I stood there unable to move. Everything became a blur. Someone offered to help me with my bags. I looked at him. And tears started pouring uncontrollably. I collapsed crying onto the floor.
I woke up the next morning with my all my clothes on. I felt lost. It took me a while to remember where I was. And what had happened. And when the memories of the previous day came back so did the tears. And while I was debating if it was worth living another day, a knock on my door interrupted my suicidal thoughts.
I opened without asking.
“Laura” said a husky voice in the semi-darkness “it is time.”
“I know” I replied, “I had been waiting for you.”
He extended his pale, bony hand to me. I took it. And without words, he led me into darkness.
I have recently read a couple of interesting books “Samurai Williams: The adventurer who unlock Japan” and “The Tale of Murasaki: A Novel.”
Both books talk about remarkable historical figures, who have had a significant impact in shaping Japan’s identity as such. And to my surprise, in both books, the “Japanese tea ceremony” is mentioned, almost as a coincidence.
So, I decided to join a “Japanese tea ceremony” to experience this ritual first hand. And my scepticism was overthrown by the sacred atmosphere that surrounded the room as an invisible veil had covered it all leaving only our naked souls exposed to what whatever might happened.
I was first, presented with some sweets to help me stand the bitterness of the tea. They were hand-made, beautifully-shapen and, as I confirmed later, nectar of Gods.
Then, the preparation of the tea itself begun, a girl, whose skin resembles the white snow of Akita, with gracious and precise movements started folding and stretching a piece of cloth. Such movements had the audience in a trance. We all fell under the spell of her. She pours tea powder into a bowl and whisks it with intensity and reverence. Then she slowly pours water into the bowl.
Once she finishes with the preparation, a handsome young man passes the bowls around.
He sits the bowl before you and reverently bows before leaving. We turn the cup three times clockwise. And drink the tea in three gulps.
I feel as if a spell has been broken and I can hear the traffic sounds, and people outside in the street again.
I’m asked to eat the sweets I had been given previously, a very polite reminder that it was time to leave.
Life goes on.
“I’m telling you when I started my career, we didn’t have internet, we didn’t even work with computers” was saying, my middle-aged colleague.
I stared at my colleague while holding my fork halfway to my mouth.
My colleague’s words shocked me because, although, I interact with technology every day, as most of you, it is shocking to be reminded that it was not always the case.
My colleagues started talking about telephones, faxes, and notebooks and pens.
“Can you imagine? I even had to go to a seminar to learn how to send e-mails?” My colleague was saying in a low voice as if making me a confidence.
My colleague’s words resonate with me because in the back of my head, I still remembering the world without internet, perhaps my generation is the last generation to have grown up without it (internet). Yes, I am that old 🙂
I still remember the boring Sunday afternoons and the horrible silence in the streets when the children went back home for dinner.
In other words, I remember daily life without internet. But business without internet, I have never experienced..!! and I think that is a huge (very big) challenge.
Just think about it, you are only giving a notebook and pen. And you can use the office’s phone and fax machine as long as the other thirty people, who work with you, are not using it 😫
I don’t know you, but I couldn’t work properly. Or maybe I am just spoiled.
Working without computer or internet, I have never done. And that’s why I take my hat off (I want to show my respect) to those colleagues who have achieved so much without technology. Thank you, and I hope one day, I can be as good as you are.
Mondays are not my favourite day of the week, I loathe them. They (the Mondays) fall on me like a curse from the Gods. And that’s why I decided to do something nice for myself and take me out for a nice cup of coffee on Monday evening.
But where? I thought to my myself and then the answer presented itself.
I have been listening for years people talk about this “great place” where you can listen to classical music all day, “this cafe” somewhere hidden in the heart of Shibuya.
So, I made it my task to find it.
And guess what? A with a little help from my friends, I found it, and I felt as if Shibuya were confiding me a secret.
Lion cafe is not your typical cafe, it is something else, it is a house forgotten by time, a sanctuary of peace, or perhaps a gigantic music box.
Lion cafe’s classical music contrasts with the catchy pop melodies we hear all over Shibuya. Once you enter Lion cafe, it takes you a while to desintoxícate yourself from it. But then your senses give in, your eyes adapt to the soft light, and your body relaxes.
And you start wondering how can you live in the turmoil and pandemonium of modernity. Problems seem so far away, so distant and blurry. You are at peace here, and this Monday becomes a fantastic day.
It was a lovely ride home, almost no one on the train, just a lady, wearing a “more than indiscrete” skirt sitting right in front of me, two college girls next to her. And next to them a very grumpy old man, and a lovely couple, one of those couples, which makes you hate them for being so lovely to each other.
As I had enough space for myself, I took out my iPad. And I was about to start reading my new e-book when I noticed my train-mates were raising their voices. I lifted my eyes, and a “more-cheeky-than-life” spider was making its way down from the roof and was landing-to everybody’s horror- on the lady with the “more-than-indiscreet” skirt, who was sleeping as peacefully as if she were in her own bed.
“What should we do?” everybody was asking.
Shall we wake her up? said the grumpy man with a grunt.
Nobody knew what to do
Then a brave young woman, one of the college girls, courageously took the spider threat and delicately took the spider from the unconscious woman and put the invader on safe ground.
Everbody was speechless. I was speechless. I had just witnessed a real hero in action.
But the invader was not happy, the little “more-cheeky-than-life” spider was coming towards me.
Straight to me. It wanted a victim, and it was going to be me.
It is not my time yet. I must kill it before it kills me, I thought. But then I couldn’t.
Then destiny intervened, and the spider made a wrong turn, and to everybody’s shock, the “more-cheeky-than-life” spider and the grumpy old man were facing each other now.
We all saw it coming.
The grumpy old man lifted his foot, and it was the end of the “more-cheeky-than-life” spider’s adventures 😭
It was Sunday, I was alone at home so I decided to take my camera and travel to China town in Kanagawa-ken, where I used to live few years ago.
And the energy hasn’t changed at all
Maybe it (the energy) has increased.
I also made new friends
And before I went back I stopped by the police box (koban in Japanese)
It was a lovely afternoon indeed.
Cabe la casualidad que siempre que el silencio cae en mi alma, acallando la inspiración, tengo una taza de café al lado haciéndome compañía.
En esos silencios, siento como si el mundo entero se detuviera, y solamente de mi dependiera su continuidad, como la historia que nunca acaba. Pero aún así, las letras caen al suelo, y ni el miedo a desaparecer puede recogerlas de ahí.
Las letras caen y se niegan a levantar vuelo, como aves heridas, se quedan allí, sin vida. Y el aroma del café recién hecho consuela de alguna manera mi duelo.
Porque no hay pena mayor que la de querer escribir, y no encontrar las palabras, o peor aún, que estas se nieguen a cooperar. Y cuando estoy pasa, decido dejarlas ser. No les ruego, ni les suplico que me perdonen por mi falta de talento.
Las dejo a su capricho.
Y me envuelvo en obscuridad, pero cada mañana al regresar a este mundo, antes incluso de agradecer a Dios por traerme de vuelta al mundo de los vivos, preparo una tacita de café, como si esta obscura poción tuviera la clave de todas las preguntas que ya entran por la ventana sin darme tregua.
Bebo cada sorbo, y puedo sentir cada gota de café mezclándose con mi sangre, reencarnando mi conciencia en la persona que debería ser yo y que sin embargo nunca llega a ser.
Y al terminar el día, las letras yacen ahí, mientras yo termino de beber las últimas gotas del bendito elixir.
Es así que el café marca, para mí, el inicio y el fin de cada día.
As soon as you step into the garden, something changes in the atmosphere, I don’t know if it is the temperature, the cicadas that sing in unison with the wind. Or the voices of visitors that become a mere whisper in the distance. I have no idea, what it is, but something changes. Or maybe it is the Empress Shōken herself welcoming you to her garden.
I see the lights on in Empress Shōken’s tea house, and I can’t help but feel naughty, as if I were spying on someone. But I imagine that if Empress Shōken discovered me outside her tea house, instead of getting upset, she would invite me to drink tea with her. Because I think she was indeed a generous soul.
I just imagine her (Empress Shōken) sitting there in her tea house, looking at the little lake in front of it (the tea house), letting her maids entertain her, and ask them to leave as soon her husband arrives. Of course, nothing of this is written anywhere. I just like to imagine it.
A few shots of the empress’s lake little lake, where the water lilies imperceptibly move with the soft afternoon breeze.
A shot of the tea house from the little lake
I distractedly (without paying attention) walk through the garden and, as always, my feet take somewhere I didn’t mean to go and I arrive to Kiyomasa-Ido well, which is famous for the purity of its water.
But I am afraid it’s time to leave, because I am the only person in the garden now. Or maybe I’ll just stay a little bit longer so I can make Empress Shōken company, at least for a little bit longer.
NOTE: Although, Meiji jingū gyoen (Meiji jingū inner garden) existed before the construction of Meiji Shrine, according to the Meiji Jingū gyoen brochure, I always think of the garden, as Empress Shōken’s garden, because the tea house that adorns this secret garden was built especially for her.
There was upon a time, where I thought the most important things in life were economical success, travels, status, and money. In other words, I was a cold-hearted bitch.
Some people still thinking I am that person, but they are granted their opinion, FYI (For your information) I think I am a softy-walking marshmallow. But we all got the right to our opinion so that I won’t fight it. But we all got, as well, the right to change and to become better persons, and maybe that’s why we have changing life-moments.
And God knows I’ve had so many changing-life moments..!! But in this case, the breaking point came when I was hired to teach children in the Japanese elementary Schools.
At that time that was a dreadful prospect. Because I couldn’t even stand the sights of those mini-humans. But I needed the money, so I took the job.
If you met me in person now, perhaps you would think I am lying, but as I don’t like lies, you can be sure that I am absolutely honest, when I say that when I got hired to teach children, I couldn’t even stand the sight of them. I thought them as humans on the making. Some sort of half humans, who were not quite there yet and who were rather annoying and not even interesting enough to deserve my attention.
My first day, I was obviously nervous, and I was begging the Lord to let me go back to the corporate world, where I belonged, or so I thought at the time. But five years would pass for me to return to the corporate world, where I finally found money and the other shenanigans (silly things) I have been looking for.
I thought I was happy but every time, I faced bumps on the road, I remembered my little children, whose faces would light up as soon as I entered the classroom. I remembered our songs, and I know they still remember them as well. And above all, I remembered their dirty little hands covered in mud and unthinkable bacterias while their little eyes looked into mine telling me how much they loved me with their sweet innocent voices.
They did love me unconditionally, and with that avalanche of love, I learn to understand them, to listen to them, to love them. And to love my inner silly banana side. I was their teacher, but it was them who taught me to love.