Night Email

Just a quick post to say I have a story on it’s way – one I promised way back here – the tale of my encounter with the fox spirit statues at the Inari shrine.

Inari foxes

This story was originally a tale in the original sense – told only orally, and never written down. I performed it last year at Vent!, a life-storytelling event here in Barcelona. I recorded that version, which I’m going to listen to again for refinements, but I’ve just written up the tale as I remember it. It is true… but it still sends shivers down my spine. Hope it will for you too!

And, it’s not my greatest work, but I feel I shouldn’t be posting only news, so here’s a little haiku for you to tide you over:

a

my tired eyes squint –

the screen’s glow the only light

left from this long day.

a

(yes, I know, I shouldn’t write in the dark. But sometimes inspiration takes me after I’ve gone to bed, and typing it is the quickest way to get it down.)

Advertisements

Heavy Suit; Gentleman

Time for another update, I feel, and this one has a good bit of Japan about it.

First up is a poem I took to that creative writing group I mentioned last time. This was one of the things that the group as a whole liked, and I’ve made some adjustments, following their advice… and then a few more adjustments that might or might not work.
I wrote it in Japan, when I was first getting used to the concept of getting up at 7am and not getting home ’til 8pm and working the whole time between. I suppose being an English teacher is quite an easy-going career at times. I often get large stretches of a day with nothing to do, and I often get to pick my own timetable. In Japan, it was work work work, 5 days a week, and this poem was the result:

Heavy Suit

My suit is heavy today.

As I shrug it
on to my shoulders,
it pulls them
down into a hunch.

As I slide
my arms down the
cool black sleeves,
they grow tired…

My fresh shower legs
crawl into
stumbling trousers

I yank on socks
suffocating,
restricting,
and bolt my toes down
under leather and laces

In the end,
only my head remains
unclothed, shackled
to this endless suit.

Soon, at work, that
too will sink.

Today, my suit is heavy.

a

a

On Sunday night, I was on stage performing something that I only had about 24 hours to prepare. This was OK, because I wasn’t performing stand up. I was telling a story – a true and personal experience from about this time last year in Japan, when I had a run-in with the fox spirit statues of Ikari Shrine. The event was called VENT! ,  which is all about telling stories from the heart, and I’ve attached a link to the Facebook page for those who are interested.

These are some of the malicious fox spirits

I wasn’t expecting much from it, but it turns out that even though the material (restricted by truth) wasn’t that shocking or gripping, I delivered it very well, and it was an enjoyable listen. At least, that’s what I was told afterwards.
I have a written version of this story that I’m working on now. The problem with that is that now that I don’t have to be entirely truthful, and I can be creative, I’m tempted to tinker with it a lot.
In the end, I’ll probably  publish here a refined version of the truth with a couple of flourishes but no drastic changes, and then use the scenario as a scene in a story I’ve been plotting on and off (mostly off) since November.

I’ll close with a silly haiku:

Gentleman

Remind me why I
live between Spain and Japan
when I prefer blondes?

Throughout the month in 40 hours

Hellooooo!

It’s nearly exactly a yearsince I left Spain for Japan, so I suppose it’s only natural that at this time of year, while I’m living in Spain ago, I’m thinking of Japan.

Of course I’m loving Spain right now. And why shouldn’t I be? The improvised comedy AND stand up comedy groups are just taking off, the weather is amazing (it’s like a sunny English May right now), I’m working a full working week and only 3 hours of that week are really frustrating hard work. Well, it’ll become more briefly for the exam season, but I can hack it. I have a nice flat, I have an established network of crazy people I call friends… it’s all good.

But of course, Japan was a great time of my life too. I stayed quiet on the whole earthquake, tsunami and radiation crisis in Japan because it’s so close to the bone for me… I worked in Fukushima, 55km from the nuclear power plant, for 3 months last year, back when nobody had heard of it, even people living in Japan, and it took 2 minutes to describe where it was… now everyone knows. It was 5 days before I could hear from some friends to even find out that they were alive… others are close enough that they are worried about drinking the water. But despite all of the fears, all I felt was a desire to get out there again. The more I read of how the Japanese were dealing with the crisis, the more characteristics I recognised in people I know there. I miss them, and it. I want to move, to be there again.

My guess is that this feeling is coming as a result of feeling so settled down. The more I feel at home here, the more I feel an urge to travel. I see photos of friends in Japan, I itch to be there. I hear stories of fun times in Madrid, or Sevilla, or London, and I want to jump up and join in.

I often feel like what I really need is a teleporter. I know a lot of people can identify with this, so that they can have more time. But for me, I’d link it between my flat in Barcelona and my friend’s flat in Tokyo, so I could cut out all the stressful, exhausting, expensive flying and jetlag, and just be where I want to be, whenever I want to be there.

You’ll notice there’s no teleporter to England for me. Well, England is just a 3-hour flight away from Barcelona, and for me, that’s fine. I see more and more that, while England is beautiful in a way that really speaks to me… the 21 years I lived there are enough. I have great memories. I only need to visit it to see and spend time with all my friends and family.

SO clearly the only solution is to become a rich and famous writer who lives in both countries.

To that end, I’ve started my own personal writing challenge this month. Rather than the NaNoWriMo, which rewards a massive word output, I’m going for a “time spent” scheme. I have to write, in a non-work-related way, for 40 hours in 30 days. This started on the 24th. So that includes making a blog post. It’s obviously about poetry and short stories and flash fiction. But it also includes any writing I do in Spanish, and any Spanish homework I have. Because for a “permanent” Spanish resident, my Spanish has a LOT of holes, and a low level of grammar, and I need to push myself (and be pushed pretty hard by a private teacher) to get to a level where I can spend the whole evening in Spanish without feeling lost.

So far, so good, and I expect you’ll be seeing some of the (non-Spanish) results of this new project pretty soon.

Breath


a
Merry Christmas y’all!

As I predicted, I’ve been jolly busy doing busy things at home. When I’ve not been busy, I seem to have been ill, twice. Still, I promised a more substantial post in December, so here it is.

A New Year is about to hit us, and for me, it’s a strange mix of old and new. I’m going back to Barcelona, a step that has surprised a few friends and family. They’ve seen me as Matt; International Traveller (I especially like the semi-colon),

Japan

so they find it odd that I’m planning on spending a year or more somewhere I’ve already been. Well, when I was about to go to Japan, a friend asked me, “Where next after Japan?” and I came to the realisation that I only really wanted to visit Japan. I also only really wanted to learn Spanish and Japanese. “Well, there’s other Spanish speaking countries…” Yes, there are, and one day I’ll probably go, but for now, I want a life in Barcelona.

Continue reading “Breath”

Prayer Hands

Through bright maple cliffs
we hear the white water rush;
Mist hides those dark falls.

Kegon Falls Mountainside

I decided this month that attempting the NaNoWriMo while working a full day and a full week would be a little bit too hard for me, not to mention cutting into valuable recuperation / exploration time. Instead, I’ve set a more reasonable goal – 4 posts minimum in this fine month of November. And each post must have at least one haiku as well as its other content. Hence the above haiku, constructed (I believe that’s the correct verb) while visiting Nikko last weekend. I did eventually see the waterfalls (one of Japan’s Top Three, like almost everything in Japan) when the clouds parted, but while that’s poetic, it wouldn’t fit into 3 lines.

Continue reading “Prayer Hands”

Red (and talk of Peace)

I wanted to talk a bit about a few things I learnt in Japan before I get on to my spooky story below. And I use “spooky” in a very broad sense.

Japan and Peace

While I was teaching in Japan, the Prime Minister resigned. Why? One of his election promises had been that he would remove, or at least move, the American military base from an Okinawan Japanese island to the south of Japan. The fact that his failure to do so led to his resignation says as much about honouring your word in Japanese culture and politics as it does about how important an issue this is to many people.

A lot of Japanese people dislike having an American military presence in Japan at all. I thought I understood this at first – it seemed like a hangover from the Second World War, with the Americans “keeping an eye” on them. Probably that’s how they got the land to build a base on in the first place.

But then I found out from recruitment posters in the university that Japan has no standing army as such. They have a “Self-Defense Force”, but everyone working in it is technically a civilian. 3% of the national budget goes to them. Japan, despite being a world economic power, isn’t even slightly a military power.

Continue reading “Red (and talk of Peace)”

“Exotic” Things

So, my time in Koriyama, Fukushima, Japan is nearly up. I have one week left in my teeny room-and-a-corridor flat, and then I’m off on a two-week holiday. During that holiday, I’ve decided I’ll leave my computer safe with the rest of my luggage, and just take books and cards to entertain myself in the evenings.

Also, this morning, a big blue envelope popped through my letter box (onto the huge pile of spam that’s get posted through my door about 1 every 6 hours). Inside, I’m presuming, is the contract and instructor handbook for my next contract in Japan – starting on the 22nd of September. So, to sum up the timeline here:
18th July – leave flat for 2 and a half weeks of Japanese adventures
5th August – fly back to England
22nd September – fly back here again,
this time to work in the  “Tokyo area”, though I’m given to understand that this doesn’t mean Tokyo, or even the Tokyo suburbs, but probably an hour’s train away in Chiba or Shizuoka.

The still thoroughly mind-boggling world of Pachinko

For now, the envelope stays sealed. I’m reminiscing a bit, looking back, as I always seem to do just before I up-end myself and trek off somewhere else.

Continue reading ““Exotic” Things”