Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Soothing Effect

I was once a huge Ally McBeal fan. In one of the episodes, Ally was frantically running off to work (as she always does, without exception). Her attire isn't quite right, her hairdo is all over the place after whirlwind of last-minute accidents in the morning, and she - in her usual self - had been pondering about the meaning of the strange, computerized baby dancing in her bedroom the night before as she - in the meantime! - tried to juggle in all such morning craziness.

She rushed into office seeing Georgia about to take her first sip of coffee in a big gulp.

"Hold it, Georgia!" Ally yells, across the entire law firm as she always does.

The whole law firm stared at her.

At last pushing Georgia into her office closing the door behind, she cleared her throat, held the cup high, and began her parade of coffee-drinking ritual.

"Think of this as the foreplay of ... *ahem* ... you know," Ally said.

Then she took her first sip, her tongue twirling in the softness of the milky foam hanging out on the little opening on the lid.
She took her moment to enjoy the aroma of the roasted coffee beans, to smell the thick sweetness of the cream and sugar, and she let her imagination went wild.

"Now, your first sip," she said, at last picking up the cup and tilted it by 30 degrees.

"Hmmmmmm ..."

And the rest is history, all the morning craziness.

These days, that image of Ally and Georgia having an erotic fantasy with their starbucks coffee keeps coming up to mind when I pick up my very first cup of coffee and before I take my first sip. Not that I could identify fully with the erotic sensationalism that they experience, but I can appreciate that moment of pause that allows one to fully experience and enjoy the moment in hand, as if time too has stopped for a while.

We live in a day and age of intense busyness. Classes, lectures, meetings, grading, section preparation, email reply. Lunches or coffee with friends, late-night talks. In between appointments moments of peace can't even be attained without the company of iPod. And at times, I can't find my momentary, emotional rest of solace unless I take my first sip of coffee. Even at lunch today I again a) eat b) checked email and c) waited for the customer service to respond to me on the cell all while trying to finish some last-minute prep for sections.

The evil of multi-tasking despite efficiency.

I really want life to be less busy.

梅ちゃん at 3:50:00 AM


Thursday, October 19, 2006


The sun is actually beaming, and temperature is just right. If I don't notice the change of orange, red, and yellow on the trees, I'd really be mistaken to think that today is a spring day.

In fact, it's just an atypical mid-autumn day. Atypical, because it's so warm ... So warm that it doesn't make one happy but sad to think about the gruesome winter about to come.

Identities, identities, identities ... I'm supposed to lead a discussion session on the issues of identities in a few days. What an irony, as someone who's the last one to know which identity(ies) she really beholds.

"So what's the definition of 1.5 generation, Professor?", a student in class raised his hand.

"Well, according to sociologists, it's the generation of people who left home at their formative years of their lives and lived in a new country where they have the language ability of both home and the new and understand both cultures well."

"So what if you are a baby who arrived in the states at the age of 3?"

"Well, then you are more qualified as the 2nd generation. Because what we mean by the 'formative years' really refer to, say, the teenage years, so ... junior high or high school."

"What if you go back and forth, even now?", another student of Chinese-Indonesian descent asked?

"1.8 generation?", the girl across from him suggested.

Everybody laughed.

"Sojourners," the Professor put it at last. "You are a sojourner, an international one."

The student smiled. His beaming smile, however, told me that he hasn't really figured out what that means.

But I do.

"Would it be possible that your interest in Japan and your passion for this 'foreign culture' really is just an escape from reality for you? An escape from learning about who you really are and where your home/ID truly lies?" A friend challenged me the other day.

Woh woh woh ... Hold on a sec ... You could've put it in less straightforward terms, you know.

"Well, I have to admit that when it comes to learning about Japan and Japanese culture, in a way I can detach myself from it because, yes, I start as a blank sheet of paper, with no expectations, no baggage, no attachment. Whatever I learn I take it as a step forward. No personal, inner struggle, and no questioning of my own identity ..."

"Yes, in a way, it's a much safer route," I said, at last, finishing my long monologue of nebulous thoughts.

"So why don't you spend some time getting to know your root, your culture, and the place where you grew up from?" My friend challenged again.

"Well, the thing is, I was never brought to the consciousness that I don't know anything about that piece of land. For whatever little or big that I'd known of that place, I learned it through experiences, through growing up here. So who is to challenge that and say that it's not complete or real?" I fired back. Well, at least I tried to put it in the nicest terms to hide my little rise of anger inside.

"I'm not saying that what you'd gone through wasn't valid or anything. I'm just saying ... There's still a lot more to learn, and why don't you spend some time getting to know the other story, the other voices? Perhaps through that you'd be able to find a sense of rootedness or belonging to ..."

"But so what if I don't? So what if I don't have a home, a sense of rootedness or belonging?", I cut him off and put it forward. I must have said "so what" more than 5 times.

So what?

So What?


I thought I was told in class that all of these hot words - "nation," "nationalism," "culture," "identity," "home," "rootedness," and so on - are nothing but merely construction of ideas. If they are constructed, they are equally prone to deconstruction as well, aren't they? And hasn't grad school trained me to become an expert of deconstructions?

At the end of the day, as long as each day of my life passes by with something concrete done in the area of helping people and making someone smile or happy, who cares who that person is? Who cares if he or she is African, South American, North American, Australian, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Indians or what not? Who cares? Human rights are entitled to all beings, and all beings are entitled to love and happiness. Who cares who gets cared for? I'm too small of a being to do too much all at once. So what's the big deal with the loyalty issue?

But is that reality?

Somehow ... Somehow at the end of the day, I wish I could be sitting in the Cafe Comsa ism in Harajuko overlooking the streams of people flowing underneath in front of the Harajuku station. Among all the places that I've ever been to, that place came to mind in particularly.

Sometimes, there's comfort in being in a place where no one knows you, no one judges you, no one cares about your existence. You flow in and out of the crowds, like a wandering spirit. You may choose to participate, or you may choose to remain in silence behind the scene. You understand most of the language spoken around you, but you don't understand it all. But it is precisely such inability to understand it fully that grants you - ironically - peace and liberation and a cozy personal space in which you are allowed to speak your own language that joins and combines all the mixes of languages that you know. And you don't need to worry about grammar, accent, or the terrifying need to sound "authentic."

There are blessings of being an outsider, though lonely, extremely lonely at times. But perhaps only by remaining an outsider that I could have the fullness of all my cultural, ethnic, and spiritual ID's remain intact.

It's like sitting in a semi-crowded, post-working-hours local train home in Tokyo. I sit among the people, my make-up, handkerchief, feminine outfit, and cell phone text messaging help me blend into the crowd. Yet with the playing of a Chinese pop melody in my iPod, all my mind and thoughts are concentrated on memories of home, that one afternoon at the beach of Kending, or that day before high school graduation. Stepping out of the train and following the salarimen up the stairs, I spot a white expatriate walking past me trying to offer a flirtatious smile.

"Thank you sir, but I'm not interested in your Asian fetishism," I want to tell him, in fluent English.

An outsider with constantly shifting of identities.

The story of my life.

梅ちゃん at 6:17:00 AM


Sunday, October 08, 2006

Time Switch

I finally switched my watch back to the east coast U.S. time.

No more Japan time.

A friend once left a comment saying, "別害怕即將失去的,因為妳將擁有更多". That line never left my mind ever since I saw it. At moments of fear, doubt, and extreme self-critique, I recited that line to myself over and over again.

Leaping forward, I'm waiting for the "更多" to come, whatever that may be.

Thanks for those who've loved me deeply and continue to love me and support me against all odds. Life would not be the same without you guys.

梅ちゃん at 5:31:00 AM


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

All that Matters


On a warm, sunny, beautiful day like today, I could literally sit here believing that I could stay for another full school year. Winter seems too far away to ever arrive, autumn comes as postcard-like images of red, yellow, and orange foliage, and time could easily jump ahead or fast forward to late-April days when one could at last toss the heavy winter coat away and breathe in the moist fresh air while stepping on freshly grown lawn in bare feet.

But all that is illusion. Once the rain comes and the temperature drops by 10 degrees, I'd again sit here thinking that the state of mind during the composition of this post is nothing but hallucinatory.



Probably the most comforting words I've ever heard in a long time.

Sometimes when you dream high and far ahead yet reality takes you to the bottom pit of doubts, illusions, and hurtfulness, all you want to do is to stop dreaming, stop expecting, stop hoping. With great expectations there come great risks, and great risks great returns. But no one is to foresee the returns being the pleasant or the most afraid of. But what becomes of a man without dreams and hopes and aspirations?




梅ちゃん at 2:49:00 AM