What if we gave a party and no body showed up?

This is kind of what's happening at work lately.

I admit that my enthusiasm for planning events at our Free School, I CAN, has, well, been curbed somewhat in the preceding months.

When I announce, "Let's plant a vegetable garden!"
I hear, "How long will THAT take?"

When I prepare an adventure-based field trip, "Let's go rafting in Gunma!"
I get, "Not interested."

So I try to turn the tables: "So, what do YOU guys want to do??"

It is sometimes hard to stay motivated when your surrounding environment is so, well, unmotivated.

Here are some thoughts: Maybe I should just LET the freeschoolers have their relax time. Don't pressure them to do the things that I think are good for them. Like I tell the parents: You don't have to hold expectations.

The question that has been with me since I CAN started is this: How much of a "kick in the ass" is good for kids, and how much is too much?

Okuchi Keiko and the Tokyo Shure gang seem to think that kids programs should be 100% kid-centered, with no adult curriculum set, no expectations, no pressure.

While this appeals to the lazy side of myself, I am not sure kids do their best with NO expectations.

This topic needs more thought and more discussion. Feel free to comment.


When the Earth Quakes...

Man, that was a big one!

Growing up in California got me kind of used to earthquakes. I was in San Francisco in '89, walking home in the weird, electicity-less twilight.

Almost 20 years later and patterns repeat, the earth still moves. This time, right under the largest nuclear reactor in Japan. While the TV cameras showed the black smoke billowing from the nuclear energy plant, the on air announcer assured us that the media had been assured that there was no unseemly damage.

More than a week later, and inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (I think) have had their inspections delayed because the damage is unexpectedly bad. Kudos to the government of Niigata, though, for shutting them down. Should get interesting in August, when energy demands skyrocket.

Immediate fallout? Well, figuratively speaking, I had a beach barbeque cancelled because the managers of the participating free school thought their may be some radioactive waste flowing into the ocean water.

Radioactive, human, industrial. The beaches here don't discriminate on waste.

Have a great summer!


A hero talks about kids

My job in Japan is working at I CAN, which is a non-profit Free School which offers a place of caring and socialization for kids who are not in traditional schools. Here, Deepak Chopra tells about what kids need and want, and how adults can improve their relationships with kids.


From my new friend Regi, who came up to Noh:

So, I sit here on a seemingly Friday (but its Thursday) afternoon, planning my next trip overseas. One thing I have learnt over the past year is that I earn enough money in this job to take me anywhere I want to go, physically. It just can’t take me there for a long time. Which makes the decision to travel even harder!

This week has kind of come by as a relaxing, and yet totally present-minded week. Last weekend I headed to my favourite village around this area called Nou, which is situated on the coast. The reason I like this area is that it has that coastal feel to it. Relaxed, breezy and great seafood. What brought me to this place was an email off a stranger, suggesting a weekend of ‘yoga, massage, meditation and micro-biotic food’. After talking on the phone about the weekend a couple of times, it was brought to light that no-one else could come, so it was just us two, heading to the seaside village to visit a lady who like yoga and cooking.

Starting off the weekend with ‘meet and greet’, re-discovering that to trust of all people, as opposed to people having to earn your trust, can make all the difference to your perception of others and the perception of yourself by others. I remembered a friend I had, who for one reason or another, always used to say ‘you have to earn my trust’. The worst thing about this is that you never really fully ‘earn’ it as they are always holding you at arms length. Charlie, who has lived in Japan for 17 years and Akai-san who lives in Nou. This is our story (‘This is you Life’… teehee)

I was greeted by Akai-san at her beautiful timbre house which is out of town, alongside the river in a valley surrounded by lush green tree. We enentered her house and she greeted us with a hug; something, which was common in Ausland as a greeting, but I had since forgotten about as it is just not done in Japan. It was an amazing start to the weekend; to feel not just physically welcome in the house, but to be immediately trusted and welcomed as a spirit into someone’s life. The power of the hug!

Following an amazing lunch of salads, soup and brown rice (which apparently is readily available in Japan. Stupid me for believing otherwise and sub sequentially not looking) we headed to do some group yoga and shiatsu (finger-pressure) massaging. All relaxed and sharing deep breathing (it was nice to do yoga with others instead of just in my living room with a TV) we headed off to a local onsen for a soaking before an amazing dinner featuring a WHOLE fresh crab and seafood that I had never had before like Sazae (turban shell?).

A couple of drinks and we three like-minded/spirited people sat and discussed a range of topics, then headed off outside to view fireflies. I had never seen them before and watching them in the rice fields and the tress, with the hot air, reminded me of Christmas time at my grandparents house. It was such a wonderful, child-like feeling, running up and down the road, finding the glint of one, or watching as the jumped around.

Sunday we went on a 4km run and then 4km walk around the village. Being able to run 4km without stopping, made me feel awesome, followed by a BBQ with a friendly bunch of friends of Akai’s then off for a last onsen.

The events of the weekend were totally complimentary to the experience, but they weren’t what made this a weekend that affected me. It was the attitude, caring, sharing that occurred between three people that have made me feel so free, appreciative and appreciated. The whole feel of Akai and her house, and the company of Charlie and his level thoughts are what I have and will carry with me.

Thank you.


Rainy Day Rejuvenation Retreat

Yes, a (small) group will be going up to Akai Nobue's Lodge and home this weekend to celebrate TANABATA, or the "Sky Weaver's Festival." I have written about the project before, here, but Akai san's place must be experienced. On our menu is Rejuvenation: Lots of Yoga, Healthy Dining, Onsening (Hot Spring Bathing) and good talk. Cost is ¥9,999, or less than you'd spend for a night drinking on the town here. And as I've said, you will feel much better the next morning spending the weekend with us.

You can still email or call me if you want to attend, up to Friday the 6th! email to charlie3@joetsu.ne.jp or comment right here.

Thanks. Be healthy.