Saturday, February 21, 2015

Searching for Ideas

These girls are happy. They live together at the Barathi Girls Hostel (ages 13+ years) and the KGBV Primary School (ages 8 - 12 years). They are part of the the girls education strategy delivered by ODAM, the Organisation for Development, Aid and Maintenance, in Tamil Nadu  India. They are happy to be at school and love being taught. Many of the girls would not have had the opportunity to do this without the help of ODAM.

This is the charity I support. I see these girls as my girls. I am so very proud to see them growing up, moving through primary school to secondary school and some of them go on to vocational training. Check this out to hear their stories....

In Australia I am part of a group of ODAM Supporters. We undertake to raise money for the school and hostel each year. This year we're looking for some new ideas for fund raising.... We traditionally hold a very successful trivia night and have held fun and fruitful movie nights. We'll do these again I'm sure. However, we'd like to consider new ideas.... have you got any? I would love to hear your thoughts....

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Decluttering and sharing

I am conscious that I am blessed. I am also conscious that I have been supported by special friends in the past, and that I too have the capacity to support others. Last weekend I had the opportunity to help out a friend. After a divorce, and a period of boarding while she studied, my girl friend has moved into her own apartment. She hasn't had a steady income for a while, and I wanted to help her get the new abode started off a little cheaper.

I went through the cupboards and found duplicates of items - so many duplicates. I can't imagine why I ever needed three manual orange juicers! We had a cutlery set we've never used in 20 years, sets of glasses we didn't remember we had, and multiple tea pots, cups, mugs, bowls, cake tins.....

All packed up into a couple of boxes, along with our spare microwave (who needs two of those!) and the spare bed, a couple of chairs and lamps......

You know what? I'm ashamed to say, with all of these things gone, you can hardly notice the gaps they leave.

Decluttering is mentioned in many books about the simply life, as having both a physical and mental benefit. Physically, there are alot of things in our homes we just don't ever use, need or like. These things could have a more productive life with other people. Once the house and living space is decluttered, one finds that there is more space in your mind for creativity, compassion, and genuineness. Another philosophy that promotes declutering is that of mindfulness.

I've recently read a chapter about interdependence, relationships, and community. I was reminded that in todays world, objects are used to define us - the car we drive, the shoes we wear, the handbag that matches... these objects are used by others to put us in  relatable boxes. We then build relationships with those objects because we know they help define us. So what happens if you don't have objects to relate to.... you find out more about who you are. And what if we remind ourselves that many objects are purposeful - they have a function - and that's why we have them.

The function of squeezing oranges is not improved because I had three objects, all the same, to do that with... Tea will not be incredibly different because I gave a teapot away..... in fact someone else will enjoy some tea too.

I started last year to focus more on simplicity in my life - and the challenge continues this year. I have much more decluttering to do, and some big decisions to make about purchasing items - life sofa's, a new car, bikes etc.... hopefully the principles of simplicity, community, and mindfulness will play a big part in those decisions. 

Update from the recipient: I've just been to see my friend settled into her lovely little place. She still needs a table and chairs, but she's settled in and all those unwated things from here have a new home and new jobs. (21.2.15)

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Japanese Literature Challenge No 8 - Summary

 I just love this challenge and every year I find myself feeling quite proud of myself for achieving what I do. Before I started blogging, I was a very poor reader. Dyslexia. I had a wonderful friend who invited me to a book club in those early days. I really enjoyed that experience, but like with many small groups like that, things change and people move on. So I was introduced to book blogging, and enter Japanese Literature. My first love in Japanese Literature is Murakami. Every year in the challenge, I read another Murakami - this year I read Colourless Tzukuru Tazaki. My review here.
My second love in literature is Crime and Forensics - and in the Japanese literature I have really enjoyed these two this year. 
My review of Salvation of a Saint is here....

  • Devotion of Suspect X, Keigo Higashina, was an easy and capturing story. 
Yasuko Hanaoka is a divorced, single mother who thought she had finally escaped her abusive ex-husband Togashi. When he shows up one day to extort money from her, threatening both her and her teenaged daughter Misato, the situation quickly escalates into violence and Togashi ends up dead on her apartment floor. Overhearing the commotion, Yasuko’s next door neighbor, middle-aged high school mathematics teacher Ishigami, offers his help, disposing not only of the body but plotting the cover-up step-by-step.

This book was so good - It sold more than two million copies in Keigo Higashino's native Japan, becoming what the English translation blurbs as a "national obsession".
  •   In the Miso Soup - was another crime/bizare book
This one was challenging for me.....
It is just before New Year's. Frank, an overweight American tourist, has hired Kenji to take him on a guided tour of Tokyo's sleazy nightlife on three successive evenings. But Frank's behavior is so strange that Kenji begins to entertain a horrible suspicion: that his new client is in fact the serial killer currently terrorizing the city. It isn't until the second night, however, in a scene that will shock you and make you laugh and make you hate yourself for laughing, that Kenji learns exactly how much he has to fear and how irrevocably his encounter with this great white whale of an American will change his life.

Kenji's intimate knowledge of Tokyo's sex industry, his thoughtful observations and wisecracks about the emptiness and hypocrisy of contemporary Japan, and his insights into the shockingly widespread phenomena of "compensated dating" and "selling it" among Japanese schoolgirls, give us plenty to think about on every page. Kenji is our likable, if far from innocent, guide to the inferno of violence and evil into which he unwillingly descends-and from which only Jun, his sixteen-year-old girlfriend, can possibly save him. . . .

I found this book crossed some boundaries for me - violence, murder - pretty grotesque scenes - but again, the author kept me interested - what was Kenji going to do with all the informaiton he had? 

Following my first two loves in literature, I like to challenge myself to read something different, a new author, an award winning novel or something noted for it's style. This year I read
  • After the Banquet by Yukio Mishima

NYTimes reports: Twelve novels and fourteen years ago Yukio Mishima was a boy wonder in the Japanese literary world. Now, at the age of 38, he counts as an established international genius. Few writers boast so intense a readership--near-idolatrous in the home country and ardent and zealous, if smaller, abroad. With "After the Banquet," in master-translator Donald Keene's translucent English, Mishima cinches his champion's belt. 

Kazu, the flawed heroine, owns a fashionable restaurant frequented by high-ranking officials of the government. She is 50 and sworn to a voluntary and uneasy lovelessness. Her strength and efficiency carry her. Noguchi, an ex-cabinet minister, full of quiet and intelligence, attends a banquet of older men where ambassadors and gentlemen of politics recall the past. When Noguchi finally speaks, it is only this: "Why don't we drop all this talk about the old days? We're still young after all." Kazu is caught by the statement, for Noguchi can express difficult sentiments with grace. 

In this world of elegance and quality, where a touch of the hand between man and woman can seem "shallow in a lover and profanatory in a friend," Kazu and Noguchi reach depths in each other. Kazu and Noguchi marry for reasons which sew seeds of inner and inter-destruction.

My thoughts - loved this story - it was a great insight into the older Japanese women, experienced politicians, Japanese culture and it's influence on decisions. Kazu was primarily motivated to marry Noguchi for a grave site. It was a great study into relationships, decisions, and motivations.

  • Hotel Iris - another bizarre Japanese read... 

"Hotel Iris" is a short but very compelling first person novel. I think that its distinctive voice makes it so good - lonely, overworked and generally neglected teenager Mari whose widow mother uses as unpaid labor to run their hotel Iris in a Japanese holiday resort by the sea. [Good Reads]

So not only was Mari forced to drop out of school a few years back, but she basically has very little time or money for herself and while her mother likes to groom her - after all an attractive face behind the counter brings is better for business than an ugly or unkempt one - she otherwise treats Mari mostly as "property". 

In a crumbling seaside hotel on the coast of Japan, quiet seventeen-year-old Mari works the front desk as her mother tends to the off-season customers.  When one night they are forced to expel a middle-aged man and a prostitute from their room, Mari finds herself drawn to the man's voice, in what will become the first gesture of a single long seduction. In spite of her provincial surroundings, and her cool but controlling mother, Mari is a sophisticated observer of human desire, and she sees in this man something she has long been looking for. The man is a proud if threadbare translator living on an island off the coast. A widower, there are whispers around town that he may have murdered his wife.  Mari begins to visit him on his island, and he soon initiates her into a dark realm of both pain and pleasure, a place in which she finds herself more at ease even than the translator. [another blogger wrote this]

My thoughts - difficult to read coming from my past social workers eyes... child protection policies are very much challenged here. This was also a bit more 'risque' than my usual read - so I had to close my eyes as I moved through this story. Still, the author wrote the personalities in a captivating style that kept me intrigued. I was brave to continue reading this, and I'm glad I did.

My unfinished read this year was 'The Sound of the Mountain' by Kawabata. I choose this one because Kawabata won a Nobel Prize. I didn't finish this book because I didn't want to rush it - not because I couldn't stand it. In fact I love it. It's poetic, and again, a wonderful study of human character, and..... it provides insight into Japanese Culture.

Our Japanese Literature Challenge Host, Dolce Bellezza also read this one - her review is here. I thought DB's quote was quite telling....
In a way I have come to expect from Japanese novels, there is no resolution at the last page. We come into his life in the middle of his 60’s, we leave many years later, not seeing anything change in Shingo’s family. We are left with the impression that life will carry on as it always has for them: troubled, ineffective, ungrounded.
So that's it from me for Japanese Literature Challenge no 8! I am again, proud to have read all these books in the past few months, and I'm more aware of the Japanese culture, and how it embues in the stories Japanese Authors write. Thanks DB for hosting this great experience again!