Cicadas and the peeping Tom

 

I recall my first day in these islands as if it were yesterday, but not because of the excitement of arriving in a new place to discover, to learn from, to treasure in my heart for the years to come. But because of the noisy, impolite, nerve-wracking singing of the cicadas, that woke me up at godforsaken hours.
Let me be candid and tell you that these tree-friendly bugs have annoyed me since day one. With their unstoppable singing, I thought I was going mad. Perhaps, I went crazy after all. But my mental sanity will be probably discussed in another post. 😄

I was so upset with the cicadas that my murderer’s instincts started to flourish that year.

I would stare at the trees outside my window with my sleepy eyes, ruffled hair, and sweaty face. So, one of the neighbors thought I was a peeping Tom ( a pervert who spies people while they undress)
The 85 years old gentleman who called the police on me accusing me of such crime (peeping Tom) came later to apologize for the misunderstanding. Of course, he came accompanied by his wife. Just in case. You never know, right?.

 

But times have changed, and even to my surprise, I have grown fond of the little tree-loving insects (cicadas). I don’t look forward to their endless singing, but I am happy they always make me look out of my window.

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Laura

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.

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Broken pens: the drama and the inspiration

I love pens. I love holding them. But at this moment, all the pens I own are broken. Why are they all broken? I have no idea. 

The spring that unfailingly lowers the tip is stuck..!And It’s hard to make the ink leave a mark on the paper. I try writing with the other pens, but it is all the same result. 

And when inspiration strikes, it has to wait until I finish battling (dueling at times) with the pen, the ink, and the spring.
I’d love to curse and let it all out, but I shut those thoughts down because the inspiration is a sensitive spirit, who needs to feel peace and calm to work her magic. So there she is now waiting with crossed arms in front of her. She is huffing and puffing at me, and the foolishness of who I am. 

“Buy new pens,” she says. 

“I like these old ones. I’ve had them forever” I simply reply.

And the inspiration just rolls her eyes at me as answer.

When I finally get the pen to work, I write it all down, but something is missing. I know. And the inspiration knows I know. I look at her, but I don’t beg her. 

“Fine” she says angrily. And she starts pouring silk on air.

She cries with me in the funeral of Prince Charming and smiles at the birth of his heir. And when we finish the story she leaves without warning or a goodbye. But I know she will come back. Because although I know, she doesn’t like me because I am a talentless writer, I know she will come back because she has nothing better to do than torture me.

Tea ceremony

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.

Nobody speaks.

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.

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Japanese business etiquette II: Business cards

Although, Japan is one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world. Our daily business interaction hasn’t changed much in the last decades.

What do you mean? You may ask

I mean that our ways to interact, to connect, to build relationships in business are still traditional. We still don’t rely on social media as most people, in other countries, do because we don’t trust it much yet.

We still go old school when it comes to “network” We go through the whole process. We make phone calls, send faxes (yes, you read that correctly) we make appointments, wait for appointment confirmation. Then on the day of the appointment, we dress formally, make our way to the meeting place, while being sure to arrive at least ten minutes before the agreed time, wait in the lobby room and greet our counterparts one these arrive.

And once we get inside the room where our meeting will be carried out then we finally exchange business cards.

There are also few steps for this simple and yet crucial moment.

1.- Hold your card with both hands. Do not simple handle the card. But offer it.

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2.- Then respectfully receive the business cards you are being offered.

3.- Once you get back to your seat, lay all the business cards you have received and read them.

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As you can see, business cards, physical business cards are a must, because business cards tell the person you are meeting that you are trustworthy. And if you translate your card even into simple Japanese, people would be grateful. And you’ll be showing your commitment and your willingness to go the extra mile, which will speak highly of you. Moreover, as Japanese people tend to be shy, your business card will be giving them “a hand” because they will make small talk based on the information you provide on them (your business cards).

In other words, business cards are still ,in this time of internet and social media, the best way to introduce yourself in Japan. And secure the beginning of a good business relationship with your possible clients and business partners.

The “successful” guy: The poor girl

 

The guy sitting at the cafe nervously looked at his phone. 

Someone was running late. And we were all witnessing his impatience and the cruel ticking of the clock that wouldn’t stop for him, or anybody.

A few minutes later, she came almost running through the door, ordered a cup of coffee, and sat at the table mumbling apologies that he wouldn’t listen because he had news to share. 

“I have finished my book” he announced with a big smile.

“Congratulations…” She said happily “And……” she tried to continue. 

“You have no idea how great my book is” he said with an intoxicatingly happy face that started to resemble a hysterical mask. 

“Yes, I see. But…” She tried again 

“You know? Most of my friends are writers, journalists, poets, and editors. And they all say my book has potential” His happy face has mutated into the joker’s face. He had a happy grin on, but there was something scary and obscure in its expression. 

“Great..” She managed to say

“I mean my friends just love it. They love my book. I am sure that in less than three months I will be an international success, and you will be the luckiest girl in the whole world for being with such as a great guy as myself” He said with a laugh that could freeze your blood.

 

She only nodded and started sipping her coffee knowing she was not invited to speak but to reassure him silently.

 

We all try our hardest not to look at them, but we couldn’t help to feel sorry for the poor girl sitting with the “successful” guy.

 

 

Miyazaki: And his magic at Kichijōji

As I arrived at Kichijōji station, I couldn’t help but notice little gnomes, faceless ghosts and other “magical” creatures walking around. They all seemed busy and preoccupied.

And although I gave them the best of my smiles, they were not kind because they didn’t stop to help me when I asked them for directions. They just ignored me.

And neither the scarecrow that so kindly helped Sophie in the moving howl’s castle seemed to be carrying out good deeds this morning.

I knew the Ghibli museum was close to Kichijoji station, but all those “magical” creatures were taking the whole station for themselves. The volume of their voices was growing louder and louder. And they didn’t seem to be going anywhere but rather waiting.

But waiting for who, I wondered.

And just after few minutes, my question would be answered.

Because just before me, Mr. Miyazaki himself appeared at the ticket gate. And those magical creatures, his creatures, jumped to attention.

He was wearing a wool checked jacket along with a hat of the same print. He, all of him, was just as colorful, enchanted and fascinating as the characters he creates. And they all followed him on to the next train like obedient and lovingly children. And without him, the Kichijõchi station became gloomy and silent.