Archive for May, 2012

From Academia to Video Games and Beyond

by on Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

Ayala Triangle (photo by Bonta Munashi)

In 2011 was looking around for interesting Filipinas to interview, and someone suggested Iris Orpi. Sometime soon I hope to interview both her and her illustrator about their book, The Espresso Effect. But here she tells what you might call a coming-of-age story. Iris kindly supplied all the photographs.

Iris’s Story

Iris in a coffee shop

I was really in love with math. As a student I was always the one in class thinking “really? wow.” My bachelor’s degree took me only three years, which was an accomplishment, so I graduated at nineteen years of age. I applied for the graduate program and for a teaching assistantship, which meant instructing the lower-level freshman courses while I was a graduate student. After I started teaching I realized I was good. I really wanted to impart my own sense of wonder to my students. Also, because I’d had to struggle myself, I was able to understand the problems my students were having. Students were lining up to be in my class. In my first semester of teaching I had three different sections, and of those three sections, eight students from different majors—tourism, education, and other programs—all decided to switch to a major in math. They told me, “It’s because of you. If I hadn’t had you for my first math teacher, I wouldn’t have made this decision.” My students put me among their top five teachers.

But of course I could only keep the job as long as I was a graduate student. I had problems with my master’s thesis. The hitch was that it directly contradicted the results of my advisor’s dissertation. He made me redo the thing over and over. I started over fourteen times. During that time I was enrolling for graduate courses every semester, so I ran out of M.S. candidate courses to take, and I had about eighteen hours of courses for PhD candidates. Then the department told me that at the University of the Philippines there’s a maximum limit to the number of classes you can take before graduation. If you go over it, they penalize you by requiring more classes. This didn’t bother me because I was planning to get a PhD anyway, and the extra classes I took could count for that.

The Institute of Mathematics at the University of the Philippines

The university has a beautiful campus, but it’s very poorly maintained. Even though we’re the major state university, we feel we’re under-subsidized. There are lots of demonstrations. If the President is coming to the Senate to deliver his State of the Nation address, UP students will go there by the thousands to protest. So UP is like the University of California at Berkeley, where people are really outspoken and really want a revolution.

I lived on campus in place called the Chio Shih Lin House. In the 1920s, during the American occupation of the Philippines, it was owned by a Chinese math professor named Lin and his wife, who was also a math professor. They had three kids who were pursuing master’s degrees in math. They were all living there, and they were all teaching. Then a law was passed that nobody could own private property on the campus. So they gave the house to the math department, and they turned it into housing for master’s candidates who were teaching. The rent is cheap. The house is old and crumbly, but it’s really nice. Every Friday we would make a good dinner in the Lin House, and the entire faculty would come to eat and talk about their research. When a new person applied for residency there, the person who’d been there the longest had to leave. It was flexible. You could let your rent accumulate and just pay at Christmas. I lived there with my friends, who were all taking all the same classes and teaching the same classes. We got really close. Then we were all writing our theses. There were times when I got so depressed that I couldn’t either get it right or tell my professor, “Maybe you were wrong. Maybe I’m right.” I was thinking of getting a new advisor and starting over.

Outside the UP Faculty Center

Then there was a big fight. One of my friends in the house did something I thought was unethical. The issue almost went to court. Everyone else was willing to forgive, but I wasn’t. My friends and I stopped trusting one another, and no longer felt like doing things together. I felt as if I’d been kicked out. That’s when I decided to leave, and I was surprised at how little money I had. I’d been giving my entire adult life to this profession. It was a wakeup call. I was twenty-five, living in a house with seven other people. My clothes were all stuffed into a box because I couldn’t afford to buy a cabinet. I had nowhere else to go. I’d lost my friends, I couldn’t finish my thesis and my life was wasting away. They say if you’re in the process of a big change you dream about death. During the entire semester when I was thinking of quitting, I often dreamed that I woke up and went to class and the entire campus was a cemetery.

So going to the question you asked earlier, why I didn’t apply to teach at Ateneo University, I thought about it. I believe the students there are just as bright, and just as promising, and it’s also a beautiful campus. But then I thought about the big fight and the probability that the math people at Ateneo had heard about it. I didn’t want to transfer there and have people saying the same things about me. I decided that one day I’d go back to teaching. Nowadays I see on Facebook that my friends are getting their PhDs in Portugal or Paris.

I should also say that for the entire five years I was teaching at UP my parents were against it. They thought I was too smart to be settling for such a low salary, which at that time was less than 10,000 pesos [about $222] a month. Right now I’m making several multiples of that amount. When I was teaching, I would also tutor the children of the wealthy Chinese, whose maids and drivers were making more than I was. Every time I went to see my parents, they pressured me to resign. But I’d convinced myself that I was serving the country, that I was doing something noble in teaching kids who have dreams. I still think that the teacher was the best version of myself. There were times when I didn’t have money for lunch. Then I’d tell myself it’s OK, starving was just part of the service I was doing for the country, that the vocation I was called to do, demanded it.

In 2008, I quit. I was jobless for a few months, which I spent writing a novel and looking for a job. At the time Gloria Arroyo was President of the Philippines but Noynoy [Benigno Aquino III] had just been elected. The president’s husband, Mike Arroyo, had established the First Gentleman Foundation, which is basically a scholarship for doctors. If you’re poor and you want to be a doctor, you write to the foundation. The foundation was looking for a writer to write up the life stories of those who had received their help. I sent my portfolio in, and I became the ghost writer for the roughly 180,000-word manuscript, which was entitled 181 Dreams. I used the money to pay off my debts, and part of it went into publishing my novel, The Espresso Effect. The illustrator and I had a contract with Bo’s Coffee, which agreed to sell it for a year. My current boss came into the shop, picked up the book, looked me up and hired me.

Games Services Group started as out as a video outsourcing company serving companies in the United States, Canada and Europe. It’s been really successful having people draw the characters and the environments for video games. But the executive doesn’t hire people to occupy a certain position. He just collects talented people, and says, “We’ll see what we can do with you.” He saw The Espresso Effect and said, “Well, she writes, she has an eye for art.” I hadn’t taken the pictures, but I had picked the ones I liked. I was gutsy enough to put out the money to get the book published. He liked the idea and the characters, so he called me for an interview and hired me on the spot. I was really happy.

Last year a game that the company had worked on, Uncharted II, won Game of the Year. It’s a game with hyper-realistic 3-D art and all the martial arts moves in the animation. We did all of the good art you see in Uncharted. Another high-profile game we recently worked on was Fifa Street. Basically, they’d give us pictures of the streets of say, Brazil or Brooklyn, and we’d have to recreate them in 3-D so the video game characters could walk on them.

In the sixteen months I’ve been with the company, the executive decided to offer an entire service. Our first clients were in the e-learning venture is the U.S. Department of Defense. The e‑learning people at DOD said, “We need a training module for preventing corrosion, like rust.” Their guns rust, their bridges rust, their tanks and their vehicles and the aircraft. So they gave us chemical engineering textbooks which explained the kind of corrosion and how it is prevented. We hired a chemical engineer, and I was the writer and educator. I was the one who was supposed to convert the textbook into something conversational and check to see whether we’d produced an effective learning tool. The chemical engineer checked to see that everything we presented was true. We also worked with some celebrities. LeVar Burton form the old Star Trek was in our first production. A studio in Florida put him against the green screen, and he acted as if he were playing with molecules. “Take two butanes and mix them with one hydrogen.” Our artists created the 3-D environment and added all the graphics. The DOD was really pleased.

Iris at work

Then we got more projects like that one, and now have five of our own full-length online courses under construction. It takes a long time to put it in realistic graphics and make it appear that the actor is holding something he isn’t. I’m in charge of twenty artists and ten programmers. We make simulations so people can do chemistry experiments which are safe. The beaker and the table look so real, and there’s an image of a hand, but if you get your chemicals mixed wrong, the explosion is only video effects on the screen. It’s fun. I’ll tell the art people, “I need a beaker,” and they give me a 3-D model of a beaker that looks so real it seems you could touch it. After sixteen months I’m still amazed at what they can do.

When they first hired me they offered me five times what I got at UP. That still increased as time went on. The artists who have been in the company longer than me can afford Bluetooth-activated earphones that cost 15,000 pesos [$353]. It’s crazy. Or an anatomically correct doll for 20,000 pesos [$470]. So I can only imagine what the big guys make.

I realize I was really naïve, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Once I stepped into a meeting with a client and my bosses, and they’d be rattling off money beyond what I could have imagined when I was teaching in UP. Or the boss might be scolding one group by comparing them with another group. “Look at them. They produce twenty environments in a week, and their project is worth twenty thousand dollars.” He would just spit out all these amounts. I would just sit there awed.

At UP, I participated in rallies and criticized the government as if I knew everything. I was looking at solutions offered by political parties and saying this is better than this. I had no idea that this amount of money was changing hands every day. It was an eye-opener. Since then I’ve learned not to be so obvious when I hear how much a twenty-minute video made for the company. I even don’t think about it anymore.

Sometimes I fear that the UP teacher in me who was willing to walk fifteen kilometers because she couldn’t afford a bus would be disappointed if she saw me now and think I was just doing this for the money. For example, quite a number of times I argued with my boss about, say, taking out a certain feature I thought was necessary to make the video an effective teaching tool, which he wanted to scrap because it would save the company man-hours of work—meaning, of course, saving the company money. I’d been adamant about keeping the feature, but of course he was the boss, he was paying me, so in the end I had to concede. And because I was the writer, I had to write the client and explain the changes, and I had to sound like taking that feature out was my personal recommendation, even though it was actually the contrary. Things like that. The company would save money and while earning the good favor of the client, so the boss would tell me, “Good job, Iris” and give me another raise.

Nowadays I come home to a nice condo in Makati, and I have my space and am now experiencing conveniences I couldn’t afford before. I don’t have to keep my clothes in a box. Sometimes the discrepancy from what my life used to be would overwhelm me, so I’ll call one of my friends who’s still teaching, and we’ll meet at some café in the UP campus at night and he’ll let me rant about my job, and the next day I’ll be back at the office. The day job lets me do the other things I want to do, buy the books that I want, nice clothes, and go to Starbucks every day. But the younger version of me would say, “That’s exactly the line you’re not supposed to fall for.” I think it’s good to have a sense of insecurity so you remain vigilant about what your standards are. At this time I’m enjoying being surrounded by people who are talented in other ways than the talented people who used to surround me.

At one time I thought I’d never say I’m working just for the money. I’m still at a junction where I’m coming to terms with maybe I’m not a better person, but maybe I didn’t become a worse person. I’m just different. I’m not protesting that a certain law didn’t get passed, but whenever I choose passwords for email or whatever, it’s always based on a law that did not get passed because my friends at the university and I protested against it, like Senate Bill XX or House Bill XX. I keep repeating the word “corporate,” which was an evil word in the academia. People tell you that what the boss pays you is nothing compared to the money he’s making. Yes, it could be true, but we can still afford the things that we want, and he’s a good person.

I want to believe I’m still making a difference. If they hadn’t had me, the company probably wouldn’t have taken this new path. Now the boss’s kids can grow up knowing that the company is serving the DOD. Without me, the artists would not be making really realistic models of F35 jets. I try to rationalize.

The company takes care of us. One of the artists drew a picture of a beautiful woman which was published in a magazine, and the boss gave him a raise because of the honor he brought to the company.

Nowadays work-related arguments are different than they used to be. At the end of the day you can still have dinner like nothing happened. Once you’re out of the office, you’re done. But on the campus it was so much more personal because if you criticize somebody’s teaching methods you’re not just criticizing the way he does his job. This job is the reason he doesn’t eat good food. It’s the reason he can’t afford to take a bus. Every work-related argument in academe is so much more personal. It shouldn’t be like that. When I was all caught up in it, I really did think that we were the greatest people in the world, like Plato’s ideal world where people care about everything. It was like you had to give your blood in order to teach math.

A reader writes:

“Excellent! I read it and liked it a lot. Iris is looking seriously at capitalism and seeing through the contradictions.”

A reader writes:

All the contradictions of life. Such an unbalanced world. Sometimes the struggle to continue seems too much, even in seeming privilege.

Almost a Japanese Housewife

by on Friday, May 11th, 2012

The wedding procession

The following interview with a friend of mine took place in May, 2012. Ruth kindly provided the photos.

Ruth’s story

An Australian journalist, Sarah Turnbull, wrote a fascinating book called Almost French: Love and a New Life in Paris after she’d a married Frenchman and was navigating her way through the cultural minefield that is France. I could call myself “almost Japanese,” and recently I’ve become a housewife. It took nine years to get here.

When was younger I wanted to be a psychologist, and I had fantasies of living an exotic international lifestyle in Italy or England. But a year out of university I was working at a horrible job. Someone who’d taught English in Japan suggested that I should try that. I said, “I don’t know any Japanese people, I don’t speak Japanese, I don’t even like fish.” I was living in Brisbane, and a company with schools in Japan had an office there. I went to a couple of interviews and took some tests, and I was told, “In eight weeks we’re going to sort out your visa.” Then I found myself on a plane for a place I’d never heard of where I was to teach at a big Japanese conversation school.

Nowadays, I’m in Toyokawa, a regional city which the Japanese call “the country.” There’s no English menu at the restaurant. Nobody at the hospital can help you in English. You can’t speak to anyone in English on the bus or at the train or the shops. It’s not like being in Tokyo and working for a foreign employer, which is America with a Japanese backdrop. But that was how I lived for the first two and a half years. The job called for me to speak English all day. The staff spoke English, I lived in an apartment with other foreigners, and I only went out with people who could speak English. I didn’t need to know about taxation or medicines. Everything was taken care of for me.

But then the company was going bankrupt, and I’d gotten really bored anyway. They’d changed the textbooks so there was no creativity left in the lessons. It was all teaching by the book for eight hours a day to either little children or adults. I only felt I was using my brain when I went to aerobics. Living in this insular community was like having been sucked into a vacuum and not knowing how to get out.

I applied at a private school which contracted teachers out to different schools in the region, even though it was frightening to think of moving into an apartment by myself and traveling to so many places in one week: private cram schools, private junior high schools, smaller private classrooms. Children, adults, everybody. I really needed to speak Japanese. I might only speak to a native speaker of English once a week.

A friend of mine hooked me up with a professional teacher of Japanese. A lot of foreigners learn Japanese from volunteers, but this is probably the best investment I’ve ever made. There was another Australian at a junior high school where I taught, and he could speak Japanese fluently. When he talked with people I had no idea what they were saying. I felt inadequate, but I decided I was going to do this. Fortunately, I came a long way in a short time. It was in this “life’s getting interesting” phase that I started dating Shōichi. He could speak English, but I was trying to speak Japanese, and I started to feel that I really was in Japan.

In Japan foreigners are put in boxes as “a student,” “a person working here for a short time” or “a tourist.” You’re not actually a person. As much as I’ve been irritated by some things, I’ve always been okay with the fact that I will never be considered Japanese. Many of my friends and acquaintances try so hard—not just to fit in because fitting in is different—to be accepted as an equal in Japanese society. For women who’ve had children, dealing with the mothers of their children’s friends seems to be a constant struggle. However, just as I surrendered to the fact the language was going to be difficult, subconsciously I must have accepted the fact that I would not become Japanese.

Most foreign women don’t stay here. Unlike many of the men, those of us who’ve been here for a while don’t think we’re going home. It seems women can see Japan more clearly, and this has informed our decision to stay here. Looking out the train window, you see that the cities all look the same, really concrete and really ugly with patches of nature in-between. But there’s much more beauty inside, in the rhythm of life and in the creation of small things, in manners, in the language and the ways people relate to each other.

A nearby shrine, Toyokawa Inari

I’m a dancer. I started doing ballet as a child, and it’s really in my soul. In Australia the drum beats a really slow rhythm which is always the same. When I get off the plane I feel that life has shifted down three or four or ten gears. In Japan there’s a rhythm to everything, whether it’s the woman at the supermarket putting the stuff in the basket or the cars waiting at the stop light or the people walking their dogs or the announcements at the train station. The various rhythms which should be fighting against each other aren’t. They’re blending together. In Australia there’s nothing beautiful about a formal meeting. Here when visitors come into the workplace everyone snaps to customer routine, and there’s a dance that you do. There’s a bowing here and here and everyone knows their place. It’s all like the choreography of a musical.

My husband Shōichi teaches English at a junior high school in our town. He works sixty to ninety hours a week all year round. In Japan education is a much more honorable, respected and probably a better-paid position than in Australia. Before we were married we found an apartment together, but then I experienced one of the unpleasant things women face here, unwanted sexual attention from strangers. This was not the first time. Once before when I was walking home a man had grabbed me from behind and touched my chest and then unzipped his pants to show me his stuff. I’d just screamed at him and run home.

Being stalked was the most frightening experience of my life. With Shōichi leaving for work early in the morning and coming back late at night, it probably looked like I was living alone. I came home to find a letter addressed to me and sticky-taped to my bicycle. It was written in really bad English, and it said the sender was lonely and could we be friends and please return a letter taped to my bicycle. I threw it in the bin. The next day I got a letter in Japanese with pictures of a sexual nature drawn of me and this person. We went to the police, who took the letters and listened to my story. They didn’t really care. There’s so much of it. I got more letters, and the police came back to our house again and took photographs. I couldn’t sleep or eat, and I missed two days of work, which is something that I’d never allowed myself to do. Every day I was paralyzed with fear. We bought a surveillance camera to stick outside.

At the end of the week Shōichi said, “Ruth, I talked to my parents, and they said we should move in with them.” In twelve hours we packed up, and that night we went to his parents’ house in Toyokawa. We’d only been in the apartment for two months, and we couldn’t get out of the lease. One day our landlady saw the man taping a letter to my bicycle. She tried to call, but she couldn’t reach us. Anyway, in Shōichi’s parents’ house I was safe. I bought a car and got a driver’s license. It’s much safer in a car than in public transport, around train stations and in apartments, where there are lots of sexually repressed loners.

We lived with his parents for six months, and I got to see how to live in Japan. I loved it. I’d come home from work and not have to cook dinner. They really liked me, and I liked them. We moved out because Shōichi and his mother argued a lot—although not about me. When we got married, it was Christmas Day, but just another day in Japan. We did the city hall thing, just filling out documents and handing them in. The procedure was happier and more wonderful than the wedding. We had the biggest smiles on our faces, and everyone in the office was smiling. I count our marriage as starting from that day because it was just us—no family and no ceremony and no need to be nervous or have expectations.

Salt in the corner

Salt in a corner

Our wedding ceremony came eight months later. Nowadays Japanese brides have the big cream-puff ball gown and the pretend church. I wanted to get married in a Shinto shrine. Shōichi’s parents are pretty traditional, and they observe a lot more of the Japanese religious traditions than most people do. They practice a Japanese version of feng shui. When a change in life happens—changing a job or building our house or naming a child—we go to a place that looks like a Shinto-Buddhist garden and ask for advice. Even today we keep a little container of salt at the four corners of our house and in the four corners of our land.

His parents were really surprised that I wanted to have a Shinto wedding and wear kimono and a heavy wig. As you probably know, for death rituals the Japanese go to Buddhism, but for birth and marriage and stages in life they go to the Shinto traditions. We had the wedding in the shrine and the reception banquet in a building in the compound. It was hot, and I was sick with tonsillitis, and my period came during the kimono changes, but still it was the best thing I’ve ever done. I don’t look beautiful in the wedding photos because of how sick I was, but I did have the white makeup on my face. My mother and two friends came from Australia. Everything was amazing to them, the heavy clothes and walking in little steps, having a woman to hold my kimono and all those words they couldn’t understand. For the first half of the reception I stayed in the white kimono. I made a speech in Japanese. In Japan it’s unusual to reveal your emotions, but I wanted to say what I felt about my husband and our relationship. All the Japanese speakers cried. Then Shōichi gave a speech in English, and all the English speakers cried. The Japanese don’t often talk about being moved, but they were. An older woman told my mother, “I didn’t even cry at my son’s wedding.” I felt so proud. Even though I’d wanted this for myself, one of the rewards was having young and old relive a traditional wedding. Watching Shōichi’s school friends cry in our ceremony was really special.

I continued working for the English school. The money was good, and the hours were light enough so that I could start teaching ballet. Learning Japanese, having to be on my own at work, having a driver’s license and cooking Japanese food gave me the feeling that I was living in the real Japan. I joke that Shōichi has three household chores—taking out the garbage, picking his socks up off the floor and complimenting me at mealtime. The division of domestic labor is 100% a woman’s job. You need to get along with the neighbors, be part of the neighborhood association, pay the bills and learn how to take care of the house. In Australia we don’t worry about airing the mattress or bring the washing in on time or buying particular foods at particular times of the year. Until I quit my job, I always felt tremendous guilt. Once the next-door neighbor came over and said, “It’s going to rain. You need to pull your washing inside.” I felt like a failure as a woman with the people on our street checking whether I raked the leaves out of our front garden and whether I got my washing in before sundown.

Visiting Toyokawa Inari

A year after we were married we went to Italy for our honeymoon. Then we had our house built, and life began to change again. I took a job which because I was a woman I really had to fight for. In Japan if you’re a man people assume you’re responsible and hard-working, despite the stereotype of Westerners as fat, lazy and late for everything. I was hired by the board of education in another town. There were other foreigners with this job too, but I seemed to be doing better, whether because of my teaching experience or my Japanese language skills or because I’d learned how to behave Japanese.

I’d found it easy to copy my mother-in-law’s mannerisms, speech patterns and posture, which stood me in good stead. People said, “Oh, you have Japanese atmosphere.” While I was never accepted as Japanese, I was never treated like a guest either. In the staff room I answered the phone, and I stood up and sat down at the right times. I did all the things people don’t like to do that foreigners can get out of. I went to all the events outside of work and paid the money. This helped me fit in better even though it cost me personally. I found it difficult to do the housework, finish my Japanese homework, teach ballet, and teach English in elementary school and junior high with an hour-long daily commute in heavy traffic. That board of education really pushed English, requiring perhaps double what other Japanese kids receive. I didn’t just show up at school and hear, “We’re going to do this today. Ruth, please read this passage.” I was doing the lessons by myself and disciplining the children in Japanese.

This had great benefits because I learned how to speak to people above me and below me. Rank and level are very important, and they’re reflected in the way that you speak to people. My colleagues were forgiving of my mistakes. Every day I felt nervous, but I did well. I was the one picked—above the male foreigners—to be part of lectures to teachers renewing their license. My lessons were studied and videotaped and taken into other prefectures as models. So in this very small circle I had become a superstar, but I didn’t want people to think I’d been asked because I was a pretty girl with a nice smile who could be very entertaining. I was pleased to get praise from the people who hadn’t wanted to give me the job in the first place.

After three years, the government employees’ compulsory health check revealed that I had very high blood pressure. So now I’m a full-time housewife teaching ballet once a week and studying Japanese. I go to hospital every month for tests, but no one ever asks about stress. When I think of when I wanted to be a psychologist and I wanted to be in Europe, it’s almost as if I’ve let myself down. The funny thing is, only four days after I left the job, my boss drove out to collect my health insurance card, and he said, “Ruth, the woman that’s replaced you is pregnant. Do you think you can come back in November?” So I don’t think this is the end of the story.

Shōichi doesn’t expect me to be Japanese like the social rules do, or not-Japanese, like the people I meet on the street. The only time we argue is when I insist on knowing why something is like it is or why I have to wait. The Japanese accept what they’re told because people better than they are have decided this and it makes everything run smoother. When I have something which is really bothering me, like taxation or insurance documents, I talk to him about it, and he doesn’t seem to be irritated or defensive. I’m not sure whether that’s because we’re in love or because he’s broadminded or because he spent eighteen months in New Zealand.

He’s also a very handsome man, which is nice. I can’t believe I met someone who would fulfill all my requirements. Shōichi and I tell each other everything, perhaps because we would have misunderstandings otherwise. We can’t read each other the way an Australian couple can read moods or glances or body language. Everything has to be said because you can’t guess.

I don’t really have words to describe it, but gradually something inside has shifted. I’m proud to be an Australian, but when I go back I’m just visiting. This must be more evident than I think because my mother sends me books about Australia and goes out of her way to remind me of who I am and where I came from. But here, if somebody asks, “Ruth, when are you going home?” without thinking I’ll say, “Oh, at five o’clock.” Home isn’t over there. It’s in this great foreign land that is Japan. That happens quite a lot.

A reader who once lived in Japan writes:

A great read Carol.  Very interesting and very well written!  It brought me back to 1980.

Another reader writes:

I am grateful to have read this post. I, too, am about to get married and travel thousands of miles away to be (more or less) a housewife in a foreign country, with the hopes of being able to teach again. Ruth says, “We lived with his parents for six months, and I got to see how to live in Japan. I loved it. I’d come home from work and not have to cook dinner. They really liked me, and I liked them. We moved out because Shōichi and his mother argued a lot—although not about me. When we got married, it was Christmas Day, but just another day in Japan. We did the city hall thing, just filling out documents and handing them in. The procedure was happier and more wonderful than the wedding. We had the biggest smiles on our faces, and everyone in the office was smiling. I count our marriage as starting from that day because it was just us—no family and no ceremony and no need to be nervous or have expectations.” This
hit me personally. I’ve been whining and ranting like a brat over the past few days because I may have to get married in a city where everyone is a stranger and insisting that a girl’s wedding is probably the most important part of her life and it should be as she had envisioned it while growing up. Ruth’s take on it, spoken so simply yet eloquently, poked my brain and made me realize it’s all about how I look at it and the constraints can also make it beautiful. Thanks, Carol.