Sunday, November 29, 2009

Happy first Advent Sunday!

No, if this is what you are asking yourself...I am not, but in a season of movies like "The Santa Clause" with Tim Allen - whom I love in Home Improvement, btw - and various versions of "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" I also want to spread a word of joy.
Did you know that Tim Allen was arrested for cocaine possession?And for drunk-driving?

Word of joy, excuse me.

Because we are somehow waiting and hoping for the Saviour, even if we are not personally oppressed.
This gets me back on my trail: oppression, that is.
And something I want to share with you, as lately I have seen a parody of Maya Angelou on SNL - very amusing indeed - and she happens to be one of my favorite poets.

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

"Still I Rise"
from AND STILL I RISE by Maya Angelou,
copyright © 1978 by Maya Angelou.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Happy Black Friday!!!

It's great to be in the States for Thanksgiving...although we're not really celebrating with traditional American food - well, we had a chance to do that on Tuesday, as the Lab where Ralph works had organized a feast for all "homeless" employees, i.e. people from abroad or far from their families.

Today is Black Friday, the first shopping day after Thanksgiving and unofficial beginning of the Christmas season.

Why, did the shopping ever had a break?Or were Christmas ornaments not in the stores before Thanksgiving?

Mhhh...mysteries I would never really understand.

Note that in Europe it wouldn't be much different: you might find Christmas items in September and then at the end of November you can start the celebration with the Advent Countdown.

It all makes me feel like the Grinch. And not because I don't like Christmas!
On the contrary: I like neon lights and the tree and those wonderful polish glass balls not to mention the presents and wrappings around presents or my favorite food on a neat table with the best cutlery BUT it would be easier if I could enjoy one thing at a time, if you know what I mean.
I am still eating my pumpkin pie and someone is already feeding me the Xmas lunch, I just can't take it, that's way too much.

Last year I was pregnant and had few energies for my daughter, but I had some time and decided to prepare an Advent Calendar with a small present every day starting December 1st until December 25th. It was nice to wrap small things she might need for the winter, some small toys or just craft bonuses like baking cookies together or making small photo-albums with pictures of her (we usually upload pics and seldom print them).
It was kind of "for her before she realizes mom won't have so much time after Xmas" - baby Bastian was due on January 4th, but I knew he would arrive not much later than Santa.

Anyway, this year I am so tired of Xmas already and she kind of has anything, I can hardly think about 24 presents. Of course I have some, but I never have the time and the privacy to wrap them all. I should have begun with the wrapping in August...
So, let me feel like the Grinch!

The Grinch hated Christmas! The Whole Christmas season!
Now, please don't ask why. No one quite knows the reason.
It could be his head wasn't screwed on just right.
It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.
But I think that the most likely reason of all
May have been that his heart was two sizes too small.

From How The Grinch Stole Christmas © 1957 by Dr. Seuss

You know the story?You want to know how it ends?
This could be, by the way, a nice gift for both children and grown-ups..
Books are always a good option.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Momotarō 桃太郎

Momotarō is the peach-boy of Japanese legends.
These days I am making my own Momotarō story: whenever my daughter asks me "Are you my mom?", I answer "No, I just found you".

Anyway, we found this pretty statue while walking in Okayama, the Vegas of western Japan, a city rising in the middle of nowhere but with one of the most beautiful gardens I've ever visited - the Korakuen.

Yatsuhashi Bridge (八橋)
から衣 きつゝなれにし つましあれば はるばるきぬる たびをしぞ思
Karagoromo / kitsutsu narenishi / tsuma shi areba / harubaru kinuru / tabi o shi zo omou
I have a beloved wife / familiar as the skirt / of a well-worn robe / and so this distant journeying / fills my heart with grief
from Ise Monogatari 伊勢物語

Thursday, November 12, 2009

On the other hand....

This is my ideal of Fall.
Can you order that for me?

Thursday, November 5, 2009


Guess I need to make a pause in my Japan's telling.
Because since we're back many things happened: Carlotta had her fourth birthday, she got back to pre-school and the routine prevented my spleen from narrating more fun stories.
Also, when we got back, our roommate told us he was going back to Italy. I will leave the details, because it's all very personal, but the main motivation was that his family needed him more than ever and to me this a good enough reason to take such decision.
November is a quite depressing month.
If you split from your partner in November you're more likely to be sad than if you'd do that in June...for example. They call it winter blues, in some exclusive circle.
November is the month of the dead: I used to go to the cemetery with my parents and relatives to remember dead family-members.
My father used to be very bored and hung his jacket on one of the wall-tombs - guess this is what you do when you're bored.
After all the praying and saying we would go back home and eat pastries from our local bakery. This is also what you do if you are bored: eat. Or if you are sad.
I don't like November. In spite of chestnuts.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Kiyomizudera 清水寺

Kiyomizudera is one of my favorite temples, because it combines an amazing architecture - I've told you I am a fan of such constructions, maybe I have been an architect in one of my previous lives...- and a spectacular view over Kyoto.

Since it was rainy just before we got to the terrace of the temple, we got the next illumination with sun piercing the clouds - isn't it inspiring?

(Japanese for awesome)

no single nail was used to build this temple

Kyoto and the Nishiki Market

Nishiki Market stand

From Teramachidori

If you are a temple freak - like I was and still partly am - Kyoto is the place to be.
The first time in Kyoto, nine years ago, I was desperately craving for illumination, so this time I decided to take it easy - it is part of that illumination to know that you don't enjoy temples while your kids are complaining and crying because they are tired or hungry - or just because to them torii - the gate in front of shinto shrines - all look alike and Buddha is only a fat man (I try to see through the eyes of a child, of course to me THERE ARE substantial differences!!!).

Kobe is a convenient location for a day trip to Japan's ancient capital, so I took this opportunity and got on the local trains to reach Kyoto and stroll around, visit the Nishiki Market and, as part of the deal, walk through Teramachi Street (寺町通 teramachidōri) a shopping arcade surrounded by temples - or the other way round.

Not long ago I had read about anko (red-bean paste) kit-kat and I was struggling to find it in supermarkets or combini (convenient stores), instead I found this....

For a new kind of tea-ceremony.