Tonight, it started raining suddenly. And in the blink of an eye, the sky broke into thousands drops that showered us all, making us shiver and looked for refuge in the busy streets of this metropolis. I ran trying to scape it. But it was in vain, my clothes resembled the wet streets, and my shoes got heavier than the asphalt with every step. Unbelievably, there were couples taking pictures of themselves in the middle of the chaos. At times, it seems like love is not only blind but creates a fortress that shields us from adversity.
But tonight, although, I’m not alone, I feel like I’m carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders. Why? Well, sometimes that how life goes. But then a drop of rain on my cheeks reminds me that the rain has always been a good omen for me. It announces changes. Good changes. And against all the odds, the rain is bringing me hope in this cold night. The rain is telling me that trying days are ahead, but it all works out in the end. I just have to be patient and not to succumb to past ghosts. And I hope the rain brings you peace, comfort and renewed faith in your future.
I walked in the dark alleys of the city thinking of nothing else but my troubles when I saw a little store illuminated with bright yellow lights.
I got curious and made my way towards it.
And to my surprise, I discovered that it was not a store, but a shrine, a place of worshiping for Radha Krishna. He is Krishna, and she is Radha. But they love each other so much that their names became one. How romantic!
It’s said that their love wasn’t physical but spiritual. Their love was pure and unconditional. They were one soul split into two bodies.
Taipei is a vibrant city, not only for the brisk pace of its people on their every-day lives or the nippy rhythm of their routines but because, and principally, because of the colors that adorned the city.
Taipei is dress in gold and red, like a goddess.
Yes, Red and gold are everywhere to be seen, to be felt and enjoyed.
Before leaving, I looked back one more time, just to be sure I was taking all the colors with me.
Japan is my home, and its beautiful language, the Japanese language, brings back warm childhood memories as if its beautiful sounds could melt time at will; But as beautiful as melodious as it is, we somehow misunderstand katakana changing its meaning, and confusing katakana with English.
And it was during this last summer that my nemesis, katakana, and I engaged in frenzy battles.
At work, I entered the room full of expectant faces; they all looked at me with anxiety. I could sense their nervousness without “reading the air” (空気を読むkūki o yomu), I smiled at them trying to break the ice and I following my motto “when in Rome, do as Romans do” I decided to sacrifice precious lessons minutes of class to introduce myself, my likes and dislikes; telling my students about the random things I love doing.
“My name is Yoneko, I love sewing, and I love cooking,” I started.
Excuse me, Shiraishi-san, what does that word mean,? someone asked
“Which word,? I asked “Sewing?, perhaps?,” I tried replying
“No, the word you said before that,” he said
“Oh, you mean love,” I answered only to be welcome by ghostly silence.
I tried saying “love” again with more emphasis. But again their blank expressions told me I was getting nowhere. So I tried again this time but with the katakanize version of love = rabu (ラブ）Then I saw understanding blossoming in their eyes like sakura flowers in warm days.
I spent the summer traveling and lecturing in various places in the island, facing the same conundrum, as soon as I said the word love; using its English phonetics love「lʌv」I was received with clueless stares, but as soon as I used the katakanized version of love 「rabu」(ラブ in katakana) people understood what I was saying. In the summer of 2018, I traveled around the country lecturing 150 people from which 140 people didn’t understand the proper pronunciation of the world love favouring its katakanize version instead.
This made me understand that we not only misuse katakata when it comes to borrowing words from other languages but what’s worst, we think our katakanize pronunciation of English words are actually English pronuntiation.
As I mentioned in one of my posts on consult-culture.com, misunderstanding katakana “as most Japanese speakers will keep using the katakana pronunciation when speaking English because, as aforementioned, Katana is the alphabet that helps us understand sounds we are not familiar with, we rely on it. Therefore, some people, as it is logical, trust that the sound katana is providing us, it is the sound in the original language, which is, unfortunately, not always true” Indeed, not always true, if we keep relying on katakana as if holding onto a crutch to avoid a false move, we would never actually reach port, furthermore, I would like to assure you that making mistakes are an important, if not vital, part of learning. Do not feel afraid to make mistakes, because those students who make mistakes are the bravest of all.
But I do understand the apprehension to speak English and not to make mistakes, after all, the Japanese language has a very specific set of rules that must be followed in order to make the message clear to the listener, but remember those rules do not apply to English.
Moreover, the hesitation of Japanese people when learning a language can be traced to their cultural characteristics.
In the graph above we can see six cultures dimensions (hofstede-insights.com) in which the hesitation of making mistakes can be understood in the dimension of uncertainty avoidance according to Professor hofstedes means “The Uncertainty Avoidance dimension expresses the degree to which the members of a society feel uncomfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity”. Thanks to Professor Hofstedes we can understand in depth the hesitation of Japanese people, when exposed to the unknown and new, and this also allows us to create teaching methods suitable for our students.
The airplane took off leaving Tokyo; taking me with it, and my expectations about Taiwan. I had done my research. I always do, I mean since I am an obsessive-compulsive reader, it’s not a surprise that I read everything I could possibly read about Taiwan. But what I hadn’t done were hotel reservations, that’s right ladies and gentlemen, this traveler doesn’t like making hotel reservations. Before you condemn me, hear me out, because I have valid, if not, strong reasons to not make hotel reservations
1.- I want to go to the places, where tourist doesn’t usually go; and don’t want the travelers’ websites to tell me where to go. I want to discover my journey on my own. 2.- I want to search and look for the city treasures as soon as I land. 3.- I want to get to know the locals and talk to them; not as a customer/tourist but as one of them. And nothing better than getting utterly lost to do this 🙂 4.- I love the adventure.
I know this might sound illogical for some people, but one of the reasons why I learned some much other cultures is that I always tried experiencing the country as one of them, not as an outsider but as a local. And arriving at a hotel makes it difficult for me to achieve this.
I know, I know this might sound strange for some (ok maybe for most of you), but it works for me. However, I have to admit that I regretted my decision when it started to rain; and the heavy drops began pouring on the English man, who bravely accompanied me in this adventure and me. He needed refuge and candidly asked me “Where did you say we were staying,?” he asked hopefully.
And it broke my heart to answer “I haven’t made any reservations, remember?,” I said awkwardly.
The disappointment darkened his blue eyes making them as gray as the sky above us. I could literally see his hopes shattering with every drop of rain that fell on him. And the sting of guiltiness pierced my heart.
Yes, I felt guilty.
But as always lucky was on our side, we found a warm, dry shelter for our tired souls and hungry bodies. We found a hotel within walking distance that promised us the experience of our lives at a reasonable price. Once the English man recovered, we started exploring the city, getting lost together in the tropical night of Taiwan.
The English man smiles, and I felt the universe in my heart.
Taiwan was a long overdue expedition for me. Its history and culture have always attracted me with a magnetism I can’t quite define with logic. And the opportunity to visit this fascinating place, presented itself when I least expected it, as a gift from the Gods themselves.
Taiwan’s history is longer than I imagined, it was a surprising realization to discover that agriculture was developed 3,000 years ago and that the aboriginal occupants of the island presented more than one unshakable obstacle for the forays at conquering many tried.
In Asia, the calendar indicated the beginning of autumn, but not in the tropical Taiwan, where there’s sun, mango ice cream, and tea everywhere to ease any discomfort its everlasting summer might cause to its visitors.
According to legends and myths I came across, Taiwan was created by the tears of a goddess. And its women were born from the ashes of bamboo trees. However, whatever its origin, there is something undeniable special here, and lucky us, the Gods have blessed this journey.
Life has been hectic these last few months, so my stories had to wait for me, my drawings were suddenly abandoned in dark draws. But life is returning to its normal rhythm. I’m neither extremely busy nor static; I’m in balance. And once the balance is restored to my world, the drawings jump out of the draws searching for light. And here’s just some of the drawings I’ve entertained myself with the last few hours of this beautiful, peaceful morning.