Tears of what?

I wrote this ‘poem’ as an assignment for The Writer’s Studio Online. The assignment was to take an object and tell its story.

I put it off for weeks. Then I sat down with my object, so I could get my one point for posting to the discussion. As I wrote the last line and thought of the many things one thinks about when thinking of herself as ‘foreign’, I felt an unexpected urge to cry.

But no one cries in Starbucks. Least of all a black woman wearing a burgundy sweater and a headscarf with all the colors in the world, in this winter of navy, black and brown.


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Black dust

Brown flakes

Some once perfect spirals

Now broken from being shuffled around

Then cramped inside

This blue drum with three different blades pointing down the middle

 

Which of these flakes made way for the perfect point to write 質

To help execute the mild flourish for the thin upper strokes

What dust was shed after erasing and rewriting れ for the fifth time

And still seeing that a sixth would be necessary

 

Black dust stuck to the blades

Black dust in the corners of the blue drum

Black dust in the crevices of the screws pinning the blades to their white holdings

 

Is there a perfect pencil to write kanji

Lol, no. But I think you can try No.2

 

Rows and rows of packs and packs of No.2 pencils

No fewer than 12 in one pack!

One row of sharpeners

Choose quickly before the baby wakes up

Blue because not pink

Three-way because, well it must be better than one-way

Only 100 yen

 

Black dust

Brown flakes

Metal blades

White holdings

Blue drum

White lid

Holding the errors of a foreign fist

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Full speed ahead!

I’ve finally decided to give writing a go.

And what a time I’ve chosen. I have a newborn baby, and I am working on two other courses of study.

I’ve enrolled in SFU’s The Writer’s Studio Online. Some months ago when I was reflecting on myself, it came clear as day to me that I should’ve done a degree in English. I’m grateful for the opportunities my journalism training has given me, and it was a practical choice at the time. But I don’t think it was the best choice. So I decided to redeem myself to myself and find a sensible creative writing programme.

Some people say if you want to write just write and these progmmes are a waste of money. I agree with them. But I’m the kind of person who won’t write much without some kind of big stick over my back. So I see the value of these programmes. This is only the first week. And I hope I am able to produce work that comes a bit close to what I want to see come out of me.

My other projects are the JLPT, and Trinity Dip. TESOL. Both have been on the table for a while and I enjoy studying Japanese, but I’ve developed palpable resentment for the Dip and what it represents in my life.

I’ve enrolled in Kumon’s Japanese correspondence course to help me prepare for N2 next July. I’ve put it off til then to focus on the writing. The Kumon course is basically completing worksheets and sending them in. First will arrive in October.

Now the Dip. There are four units. I’ve passed two, failed one once and the other twice. I don’t fail things. So this has been quite stressful for me. But I know it’s because deep down I don’t want to do it. I also don’t think the way the programme is organised is not best for me. But I’ve been trying hard to let go off this negativity. So I will complete at least one of the failed units November, and the other next May.

In a year’s time, I hope to be able to read this and think ‘whew, you did it’. And even if I didn’t, to be OK with it.

Oh, I’m also about to sign up and begin training for my first run (10k) since baby. It’s going to be on November 4, about seven weeks from now.

 

Pillow Talk (Dreaming of Sleep)

I spent the better part of yesterday thinking about a pillow. More accurately, how my face felt against that soft pillow in the morning before I was awoken by shrieks. No, a shriek.

During the feeding session that followed, all I could think about was how good it would feel when I got back to that pillow.

Many other demands followed that feeding and by 10:00 p.m., when I got close to the pillow again, I chose a firmer one.

I knew sleep would be a challenge with a newborn. And it is.

It’s been two months now, and we’ve had two successive five-hour nights, so let’s hope that trend continues.

The boy came two days after his due date and a day after the doctor declared that he was nowhere near to coming out. We scheduled an induction for the following week. But by that same night, he started to make his way. To cut a long story short, I got to the hospital 11:45 a.m. the following day and he was born at 12:01 p.m.

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Here’s something I jotted down while just staring at him soon after he was born :

Nostrils like little butterfly wings. No, moth wings. Little ones. Opening and closing impatiently. No, they seem to reach their limit quickly because of their small size. Flapping, no, quickening in the breeze of his new breath.

13 ducklings!

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Today on my walk along the river, I saw a snake, two kinds of heron, some other birds I don’t know, carp, AND a mother (parent?) with 13 little ones!

Before that, I saw a mother with four little ones behind her, but they were moving too fast for a snap.

These 14  were just taking it easy.

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Dreaming of Sleep

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Some  nights I want  to leave this body on the bed

Just slip out of this bulging mass

And just go

For a drink

For a run

Dancing til dawn

On a trip home and back

Anything that will exhaust me

So that I can sleep

Jamaica/ hahahaha

Sometimes when I use the swipe keyboard on my phone to type ‘Jamaica’, it gives me ‘hahahaha’. A lot of times.

At first, I used to have a little chuckle at this technology taking ‘intuitive’ to a whole new level, then I started to get annoyed.

Mi nuh want nobody, least of all an algorithm or whatever, a mek fun a mi country.

Then I let it go. I mean, I typed this on my phone, using the swipe keyboard.

Just love Oprah

Oprah a mi boss.

There was a time I wanted to be on the Oprah Winfrey Show. In fact, I was convinced that I was definitely going so great that I would naturally end up on her show. I forgot I used to think like that until I came upon her graduation speech at USC Annenberg.

Toward the end of that speech filled with so many gems, she encourages, ‘And when the time comes to bet on yourself, I hope you double down. Bet on yourself!’

I don’t have any new lessons. But I often think that it’s not the new lessons so much as it is really learning the old ones again and again. 

Your job is not always going to fulfill you. There will be some days that you just might be bored. Other days you may not feel like going to work at all. Go anyway. And remember that your job is not who you are, it’s just what you’re doing on the way to who you’ll become.

While I’ve picked a couple of what I found to be useful reminders from her speech, the strongest message was to develop and adhere to a social conscience. Gwaan keep it real, Oprah.

Aside: I once applied to USC Annenberg to do a PhD. Oh now desires change.

 

Am I a bored housewife?

Yesterday I was reading some brochures and pamphlets– mail advertising. My husband said, “You look like a housewife.” Or “You look bored; like a housewife.” He didn’t like that look. I’m in the last month of pregnancy. I’m on maternity leave. I stay home all the time except for when I go to cafes by myself or with other women, or when I go to the doctor. I’m effectively a housewife. But I guess my husband doesn’t want to see me that way. I didn’t pursue it.

Perhaps I wouldn’t mind seeing myself that way if we didn’t live in this country. It is very common for women to be housewives. They either have never worked or stop working as soon as they get married, or later, after having children. Of course, many women work as well.

And precisely because of the fact that I live in this context, perhaps I shouldn’t mind if I am perceived as a housewife, by self or anyone else. And what is wrong with looking like a housewife anyway? Or was it the suggestion that I looked like a bored housewife? Does that mean all or many or some housewives are bored? I know many who aren’t. Or maybe my husband just has an image of what he doesn’t like a housewife to look like. Or his wife. If I feel like it, I’ll bring it up again.

housewife quote

 

Complication

When I was 15

LinkedIn recently turned 15 and prompted users to recall [what they wanted to be] when they were 15. I couldn’t remember 15 exactly. But a few things stand out from that blurred together block between 15 and 18.

15

For example, I know in fourth form we got two new teachers who made me imagine myself as an adult woman for the first time.

When I was about 17, I wanted to be somebody’s girlfriend. Not just anybody. There was a particular boy in school. I didn’t even know what being somebody’s girlfriend entailed. I just knew that I wanted to talk to him all the time.

Here are the  things I remember effortlessly  from that time:

  1. I wanted that boy’s attention.
  2. I was always late for school.
  3. I felt very comfortable at school.
  4. I wanted to stop being so nervous in debating matches.

My whole life was centred on school. I hardly thought of what the next big thing would be after school. Perhaps I am not unique in that respect. You knew you had to be at school. That was that. At school, I could do just the things I wanted to do, which was pretty much everything except Maths. The friends, the ‘studying for exams’ gatherings over long weekends at my house, the clubs, Literature class. I was really into it.

Better yet, I could sum up those teen years by saying I was so into myself. Nothing else mattered. In the good way. I was lost in myself, my pursuits. It was great. Then I went to university.

Here’s the lesson I recall effortlessly  from that first year:

  1. Attractiveness is a thing.

There was a boy. We got on. He met my friend later. They got on much better. My friend was more attractive than I was. That was the first time I had thought about my attractiveness, and the first time I had thought about it in relation to somebody else’s.

I now realise that this was just a continuation of the spirit of those latter high school years.

Not quite fit for LinkedIn, but when I was ‘15’, my eyes started to see.

 

 

 

Baby-waiting in Japan

Thirty-four weeks pregnant with my first child in a foreign country. I don’t know how different the experience would have been in Jamaica. But I have read many things in English about foreigners’ experiences being pregnant in Japan. And in terms of procedures, etc., a lot of it has been the same for me.

Nevertheless, I am feeling now, for the first time since being pregnant, a need to document something of this experience. Anything. For memory can be so unreliable.

I want to remember the father-to-be in our hospital prenatal  class who listened closely to my less than perfect Japanese, and filled in the gaps when I couldn’t come up with the right words fast enough. I want to remember how amused I was by the silence in a roomful of expecting mothers just before the start of the maternity classes offered by the city. I don’t know why I was amused.

I want to remember some the things I found interesting or were grateful to Japan for having. Like these classes. Or my six weeks of leave before the birth, eight weeks after and up to a year of childcare leave thereafter.

On a personal level, I want to remember things like the baby’s first fluttery movements or my overwhelming desire to just sleep on my belly. And I want to remember my life before a baby. But I’m 34, so that might not be so hard to remember.

PROCEDURES

I went to a clinic about nine weeks in to confirm my pregnancy. The doctor gave me a bit of paper to present at the city office. There I received a mother child handbook in which all details of doctor’s visits are to be recorded until the child is about six years old, I believe. I also received some vouchers to be used at each doctor’s visit, and a bag with all kinds of baby related literature and some baby goodies.

At about ten or eleven weeks, I started going to the hospital where I intend to give birth for my appointments. It’s called Kyorin Daigaku Byouin. Large hospital. On my first visit, the doctor spoke to me in Japanese. The second time, English. I was surprised. Since then, it has been a mixture of both.

I’ve attended two sets of prenatal classes that cover everything from changes in your body to how to bathe a newborn to how to know when you’re in labour. At the most recent hospital class, we got a tour of the maternity ward. Everyone oohed and aahed in front of a big glass window of the room with the newborns. Soon one of those little things will belong to us, we might have been thinking.

I’ve been going to the hospital every two weeks. Most times, the appointment is with the doctor. The last two times it’s been with midwives. My weight gain came up early on in these visits. The last time I was told that I’m ‘over’. I have gained about 12 kilograms so far. The recommended upper limit is 15 kilograms. The midwife repeatedly said I shouldn’t diet, though I should be careful. Short of dieting, I don’t know what else to do. So I will carry on for the next six weeks. I am not sure this is something I want to remember, but I feel I won’t forget anyway.

I’ve finished shopping, my hospital bag is packed, and the baby’s bed is made. We are just  waiting. I really want to remember this waiting feeling.

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