dal niente

Month: June, 2007

The Neverending Story

I like to hear stories.  Not just good ones,  bad ones
too.  But really, are there such things as ‘bad stories’? 
There’s such thing as bad storytelling– but I think a story is a
story, and as long as someone can look back on it with some sense of
accomplishment or at least with some wisdom gained, then any experience
is worth it.  I think the people who I find myself closest with
tends to be the ones with the most stories to tell.  The story
places us in the world, it is the result of our experience– it may
even be the object of our existences.

We are all protagonists in our own stories– it can’t be any other
way.  You might be the antagonist to someone else, but that’s
their story– in your own, you’re the hero, you’re the heroine. 
How good you are at your role is largely determined by how many quests
you’re willing to go on.

But who doesn’t have a story? Everyone does.

-=-=-=-

As I speak, I can hear “Moon River” playing on an accordian outside my window.  Earlier this morning when I was down in the garage cleaning up, I first noticed the white ribbons on rails of one of the houses across the street.  Somebody’s getting married!

Every fifteeen minutes for several hours, cars would be pulling in with people, dressed up in suits and dresses, of all ages and all colors.  The air was thick with laughter and italian accents.  I love italian weddings– I see them all the time during the summer where I live.  I like them more than ‘canadian’ weddings and more than ‘chinese’ weddings– it’s the culture, the attitude, and in large part, the music.

The weather out is perfect for a wedding– sunny and breezy, I don’t think the lucky couple could ask for more.

And so begins their story!

Guerrillas

I’d write more, but frankly, I’m falling asleep so it’ll have to wait.

“Well sure,” I said. And with that, I hit the first note, the second note, then back to the first, then back to the second. A few times of this, then to a third note, and a fourth, repeated, to be that basic blues progression. Ba, ba baaaa, ba, ba baaaaa, naa, na naaaaaa….

He didn’t need me to tell him what I was playing, he was that good– he played a few notes to test the waters, found my key, and matched my notes.

By now, people were looking up to us from their chairs. Doctors passed us by and smiled, thinking it was a small joke or something. The people behind the reception desk, behind their inch think glass, started bobbing their heads for fun.

But it wasn’t over there with just four notes each– then we got into it. Harmonica and guitar, just flinging out the blues in the middle of the hospital’s lobby, among dozens of patients waiting for their turns. We started tapping our feet. In between breaths, my partner’d start singing out random words to lyrics he made up on the spot in a distinct Quebecois patois. When it comes to the harmonica, the man is a genius– it feels as if he’s bleeding his soul through it.

We managed to play for about 10 minutes before one of the doctors came by, and good naturedly told us to quit it and get back to work. “You holigans are creating a ruckuss”

As we were getting back to our departments, all the heads turned away and no one made eye contact.

But I saw one man tapping his foot, looking at the floor, with a smile on his face. To be honest, I looked everywhere, and I found this one guy– he was the only one brave enough to smile.

“Did you see that indian guy?” my partner said to me on the elevator. He’d noticed the same person.

***********

“So, did I sell you on Korea?” she had said. As I walked across the wet streets of Downtown Montreal after having split with the group, I considered her question. She’d spent dinner telling me about her experience there and it was like having information hooked right to your veins– she had so much to tell and I could imagine that’s probably still just the start. She told me about her students, which on more than one occasion she refered to as her “kids” or her “children”, the same way a mother duck would. It was a warm feeling that I sensed when she evoked those memories, and proudly showed me photocopies of her best students’ work, which she had saved from half a world away.

 
I found myself imagining myself– as a teacher. And though I don’t know what that’ll be like– it was a nice thing to imagine. I found myself smiling at the thought.

**************

How long does it take to be inspired? Years of work? A few minutes? Maybe an hour? A moment of repreive, how long does that take?

Every now and then you meet someone who is so passionate about what they do that you can’t help but feel like they understand something about the world. Yeah, people understand different domains of the world– so everyone has their specialties, everyone has their greay areas and everyone has their blindspots. But when someone is willing to show you their specialty? It hits you. Just like that. And when they walk away, you’re left with the feeling, some sort of afterglow.

It’s nice to see people who can tell their stories with total abandon.

The Sound of Silence

 
“I’m going to be about an hour late,” I said.

“Oh? You’re still at work? What time do you finish?”

“Supposed to be a half hour ago.  I should be home by six though. What time are we eating?”

“We’ll wait for you.”

I sort of lied a bit. I mean, I gave the impression that I was going to
be an hour late because I would still be at work, but as I called, i
was already outside of the hospital. I trod slowly down the street to
the bus stop.  Though Chinatown
was only a ten minute walk down the hill, I was exhausted and didn’t
feel like doing that today.  Walking felt too slow.  I
couldn’t get away from the hospital quickly enough, it seeemed, and
yet, it was almost as if the days events had made me feel as if I could
stand perfectly still and I’d be buried in it.  It? I don’t know
what it was.  I could guess.  I could try and explain that, but there’s no reason for someone to share it with anyone even if they could.

When I got to the YMCA, I changed quickly, not even heading to the
badminton courts to see who was there. I needed some time alone, or at
least, some quiet– I had my swimming trunks and cap in my pack, so
that’s where I went first.  I did about 10 laps of the pool. 
I wanted it to be a nice round number.  Ten laps isn’t really that
big a deal, and, on top of that, they weren’t continuous– but I’m not
a good swimmer.  Imagine doggy paddling 10 laps.

My mind wandered to what was on my mind throughout the laps– the
heaviness of the water, pressing against my chest.  The feeling,
when your face is under water, that unless you spend more energy to get
your head out of the water first, you won’t even be allowed to
breathe.   Was it fear? No, it wasn’t fear– it’s just that
sensation that was me, sorta hugging the line of helplessness.  I
mean, I can swim– but the point was to feel what it felt like to be
helpless.  Does that make sense?  A controlled experiment in
the sensation of helplessness, to try and understand what might not be
understandable?

When I finished my ten laps, I was completely out of breath. My heart
was beating so hard that if I put my hand in front of my chest
underwater, I could feel the pulse in the water.

Ever since I started working at the hopsital, I’ve seen and been part
of events that have changed my life forever.  Today, I had a
reminder of what it was like to experience those events, and I was
reminded of a fear that I’d had since the first few days when I was
given the responsability of managing operations independantly. That
fear was simple: I was afraid, and always have been, that through my
actions I might get a patient killed.

Today, Mr. [X] was transfered my hospital, the MCI, to the RVH for what
was a routine echocardiogram procedure.  I had booked the
transport, made the arrangements with the RVH.  The medicar
arrived to pick him up at 8:00 in the morning.  He began his test
at the RVH at 9.  He was done by 9:30am.

But something happened– and his transport to bring him back to the MCI didn’t arrive.

I work in administration– I don’t get to clamp down bleeding arteries
or cut someone open.  I don’t shout “clear!” and then jolt someone
with a difribulator.  I don’t even put the gloves on the surgeon,
or cut open a person’s shirt with scissors.  I don’t even get to
put bandaids on a person after he’s had a needle prick.  That’s
not my job. 

My domain is the paperwork– the hundreds of little gears in the
machine hidding behind or between the big gears of the actual medical
practice of the hospital.  That is my domain– and I take it
seriously.  A little paranoia doesn’t hurt.  But nothing’s
gone wrong for so long a time, and as a result, I was mentally
complacent to take the brunt of what happened this afternoon.

I got a phone call at about 11:30 at my desk.

“is [Jinryu]?”

“Yeah,” I said.  I was about to ask the person to speak louder,
when I recognized the voice.  “Mr. [X]?  Are you done your
test?” I asked.

“i be done since 9:30,” he says with a heavy accent.  “i don not
know if I don something wrong, they leaveft me here.  how i get
back?”

“There’s no transport?  Did they call for a transport?”

“I here since 9:30, no one come see me!  Did I forget?”

Mr. [X] thinks it’s something that he did– he thinks maybe he forgot
something, that’s why the people at the RVH didn’t book him passage
back to my hospital.

“Mr. [X], don’t hang up okay? I’m going to use the other phone and find out what’s going on.”

“is very hot here. very hard to breathe.  i am very tired.”

I’m not sure if Mr. X even had breakfast this morning, because his test
was so early.  I call up the RVH, keeping my ear on two phones at
once to make sure Mr. [X] isn’t trying to say anything.

After ten minutes, Mr. [X]’s transport is booked, and he’s on his way
back to us. I didn’t think much of it from that point on, and that’s
later one of the things that would haunt me– that it was
routine.  Even the error in itself on the part of RVH or
transport, that was semi-routine.   I went about my tasks without
much more thought.  The hospital’s been a warzone for the past
week, ever since my tour of duties started up on tuesday.  The
smoggy weather has been really wrecking some havoc, with all
departments strained to the limits.  I thought it was bullshit
that I’d be booked to work an entire week with only a few days notice–
I was replacing someone who was on vacation, and I think it’s retarded
if the HR secretary thinks that she can leave a week of administrative
staffing empty until the last minute.  Top off the chaos because
of that virus that’s crippled a lot of systems.  Even if my unit
has internet back, a lot of sites are still blocked and we’re being
basically intravenously dripped access to what we need to get our jobs
done. 

I can’t even get on any internet radio sites, so I kept myself alive
the whole day by listening to the Greatest Hits of Lionel Ritchie on
loop.  I now know almost all the lyrics to the CD.

I ate my lunch during my 15 minute break so I could spend my one hour lunch  taking a nap in the break room.

I had taken about 50 minutes out of my 60 when the doctor came in
through the door, waking me up without introductions.  She’s a
nice doctor, so I don’t mind– I told her I’d be sleeping and that she
could wake me in emergencies.  Which has never happened before; I
usually just say that as a formality.  But well– something was
up, that I couldn’t be given my last ten minutes.

“It’s crazy in there, [Jinryu].  I need you to get the
cardiologist on the line stat, and I need archives to get me Mr. [X]’s
old ECGs.  Stat.”

“What’s going on?” I say, struggling to get out of the impossibly angled reclining chair.

“Mr. [X] had a heart attack.”

Mr. [X] is alright and stable at the moment.  But somewhere,
waiting in the hallways of the RVH after his test, hungry, on a day
so  humid and hot (hich is the reason why we’re so overloaded at
the MCI that we had to send him to the RVH for his test)– somewhere
there, between the time when he was finished his test and got back to
the MCI, Mr. [X] had a heart attack.

He might have even been having it while I was on the phone with him.

Why did this happen?  How did this happen?

Maybe it would have been different if I’d had the foresight to order
his breakfast early, so I could be sure he’d at least had something to
eat since supper the previous day.  Maybe it would have been
different if the RVH hadn’t fucked up by not ordering his return
passage.  Maybe it would have been different if transport wasn’t
so slow. 

Maybe it would have been different if it weren’t for global warming.
Maybe the hospitals could have used more air conditioning. Or heart
disease. Or myabe Mr. [X] should never have gotten chronic obstructive
pulmonary disease in the first place.

Maybe this, maybe that– but the bottom line is that what happened
happened.  I was on the phone with someone who was put in
conditions that taxed his system from every end, and who, as a result,
had a heart attack.  I might’ve been on the phone with someone as
he died.  He showed up at my hospital, apparently with a pain in
his arm, and looking a bit blue in the face, and being even more softt
spoken than he usually is.

For the next 3 hours, staff and I scrambled not to get done what needed
done, like a good bunch of worker bees.  Mr. [X] is okay. 
He’s scared, but he’s out of the woods for the moment.

I’ve known people to die at the hospital before.  I’ve even been
to a eulogy for a patient, before the patient died– the patient wanted
to gather everyone he cared about for one last party in his palliative
care room, and he guaranteed on the invitations that he wouldn’t kick
off until he’d shaken each hand at least twice.  Him– he’s still
alive.

And I know that nobody lives for ever.  But Mr. [X] is a special
person who I know personally– when it’s personal, fuck
professionalism.  I’m no robot– I care.  And frankly, when I
left work, I switching on my MP3 player, and when the tune (that’s the
background for my Xanga) came up, I found that I couldn’t breathe, I
had to stop walking because I was choking on the air itself or
something.  I didn’t cry– and you should beleive me when i say
that I felt that I wanted to– I just felt something, through my whole
body.  In the same way that I would expect electricity to run
through a body as it is being electrocuted, that’s what it was like,
except the only thing coursing through my body was cement, and my lungs
were filling with lead.  I felt so heavy that I almost wanted to
just sit down on the sidewalk, and not just rest, but be consumed by it.

I didn’t get anyone killed today; Mr [X] is stable.  But how close
had we come?  No matter how insifnificant my part in all this–
this is a reminder of the true nature of our workplace.  This shit
is real.

While I was underwater in the YMCA pool, I let it all out.  I
screamed, I shouted, as hard as I wanted to– nobody would hear with my
head underwater.  I turned the poison in my mind into a secondary
concern by working my body to exhaustion, to give myself something else
to think about.  At least, that was the plan.  I couldn’t
quite shake the sensation of dread out.  When my body was
exhausted, barely able to make the 10 laps, and refusing to take any
more, I went to the sauna.  I spent 15 minutes in there, just
trying to focus on my breathing, to feel the sensation of it leaving my body with the sweat.  Then I went to the hot tub, and just soaked, not saying a thing, trying to drown it.

It felt good to have a shower after it all– as clean as a hospital is
when you’re careful, there’s still some sort of mental acknowledgement
when you go through the motions of an actual shower after working all
day.  I slept off most of the dark thoughts on the bus ride home,
though I had to suffer through most of it while I was on the metro
since it was too crowded to sit.

I had dinner with my folks, not contributing much to the dinner conversation.

It was only after dinner with the acoustic guitar that I broke the
silence.  I started strumming out random chords at first… and
finally, got into it.  I sat out on the balcony, under the setting
sun and the cool breeze– that same, slightly wet and cool breeze that
only half a day ago had nearly ended someone’s life. And without words,
I just kept playing– an hour later, I was able to breathe naturally
again.

The sunshine was once again some symbol of hope, and not a death star
of heat and ruin.  The humidity was a nice smell, instead of a
weight in my lungs. 

The slience, the space between notes,  complemented the music, instead of being moments of  it.

I feel better now.

Adventure

There’s probably more situations than I’d like to admit where the simple truth is that there probably isn’t any universal truth, and that no matter how right I think I am, that’s just me and my values.  Yet, even if I’m wrong– even if we’re ALL wrong– about something, anything, or maybe even everything– mustn’t we still move forward?

Actually, that’s just it: we don’t have to move forward. We can stay exactly where we are.  We can get comfortable.  And some people do– and that’s great.  Well, I mean, it’s great if it works out for them.  Me? Depends on the day.

I’ve never used the word ‘adventure’ very much, but I can’t think of anything more apt at the moment.

And so how would you describe adventure?

So if I had to just come up with an idea of just what it is, then maybe this would be it: adventure is not knowing what’s ahead of you, and still pushing forward as if you knew what you were doing.

Is adventure about confidence?  No, I don’t think so.  I know plenty of people who go on the adventures of their lives and they are shy people, they seem like the sorts who would have difficulty raising their voices, much less raising a fist at anything.  Is it about fearlessness? No, I don’t think so.  I know people who go on the adventures of their lives and they are scared shitless every step of the way.

Weather the potential for pain is physical, mental or spiritual, the adventure comes from that risk, that gamble– and no greater a gamble, no more senless a risk is there, than not knowing that you’re going to succeed.

The double edged sword of the idea “you can do it” is that it allows for “you won’t do it”.  “Can”, is, after all, a possibility– it isn’t a statement of what is to be, it is only a possibility among many.  Otherwise, one would have said “you will do it”.  But if it was all pre-determined– who would care?

I’m not sure where I’m going with this.  But to string it all together in a totally random way, we’ll just jump into this idea: my life feels like it’s an adventure.  It’s funny, that dialectic between confidence and fear.

In that sense– adventure in a sense has nothing to do with you are, and by that, I mean your strengths or your weaknesses of character. It has to do with that simple descision– to submit yourself to the unknown, and to navigate that unknown with nothing but a persistence for growth, and adversity with comfort.

And everyone needs adventure!

And yet, real adventure isn’t to be taken lightly.  There are responabilities– there’s a method to navigate it all, a bushido almost, a personal way to do it.

You know when you’re doing it right.

You know when you’re doing it wrong.

So the question is, knowing all this intrinsically, what makes it so difficult at times for me to do it right?

Why would you do that?

Yesterday (Monday) was a national holiday so most things were closed, or running on reduced capacity. I wouldn’t have normally expected a hospital to follow in that step as well, but apparently, today (tuesday) was monday so I had a shitload of work to do.

My workday started at 7:30 am, went on until 4pm, and I didn’t have any breaks or my lunch. I sorta scrafed down my meal in between steps.

It was a challenging day to say the least– It’s been a long time since I worked during the day shift. This one day shift was equivalent in workload to about 10 quiet evening shifts, easily.

What’s worse is that the workplace doesn’t have internet– that virus that wrecked the hospital network still hasn’t been totally contained, so for the time being, technicians are still working crazy ass hours to bring services back online.

How does not having the internet affect my job? Well, there are a few considerations– first of all, and foremost, that means that time I would normally spend writing or reading is greatly diminished. When I can’t entertain myself at work at least every now and then, my production drops a bit because my morale is a bit lower.

But on a less selfish note– this electronic seige plaguing the network is going to be costly to the already strained IT department of the MUHC network. I mean, we’re still using paper records, while many hospitals in the US and even Canada have switched and had significan success in the integration of electronic recordkeeping.

This attack points out the vulnerabilities of the system– on one hand, it tells us that if we’re going to move forward, we must do so carefully and ready to guard our flanks at all times; on the other hand, it creates mistrust of a prototype system that needs space to grow if it is ever to be truly useful and effective at improving patient care.

I wonder why sometimes someone would do a thing like that– create a virus, i mean– and of all places to unleash it, doing so in such a way that it cripples a public service intranet seems to be a pretty particular thing to do. Was there are reason? If there was one, I didn’t hear the manifesto…

For what reason would someone endanger lives?

Grammar Nazis

I was just rereading my last post and man, there are so many grammar and spelling mistakes… and I’m supposed to be teaching english?

I blame it on the lack of sleep.  I’m having a hard time sleeping because my mind is so wired nowadays, thinking about all the possibilities– it’s insane how many choices are in front of me…

Speaking English

Saturday morning, I did indeed prepare to perform my mock class.

First thing’s first though: I showed up at the wrong building. As a result of the combination of events that I described in yesterday’s post, I showed up, half in a daze, at the Mariott Inn Residence for the TESL class– only to remember when I got to the penthouse conference room that we don’t have seminars there on saturdays.  The Mariott is our SUNDAY location– on saturdays, we were supposed to be at Dawson College.

So made my way down those 20 or so floors, got back on my bike, and bike to Dawson instead. Oops.

My presentation went well, but it was different from the experience of the first one.  Somehow, because this was supposed to be a longer presentation, I was extra nervous– and surprisingly, once I got started, that all went away.  I mean, about a minute into me describing basically what I wrote in my previous post to my class, all that nervousness was gone– and suddenly, it felt as if my class were really just all friends with whom I was having a casual chat.  It felt natural from that point on, and I found that I actually was able to incorporate more of myself into the lesson.

I mean, the first time I did a lesson, I did it almost purely about grammer– it was about my subject goals, and that was it.  There was no ‘me’ in there.

But that felt like work.

For the major presentation, or the ‘practicum’ as it was called by the seminar instructor, was different though. I don’t know why it happened like that, or how, but I just felt natural on saturday to be myself.  That meant, with slightly difficult to follow trains of thought, but at ease and genuine in my intensity.  It was great.  The feeling was great.  The class was great.

My presentation began and ended without a stitch– I volunteered to be the first presenter on the first day, so from then on, it was just a question of me sitting back and enjoying the rest of the presentations.

Today I went to the last class, to see the second and final set of presentations.  During the lunch break, Brodie, Kendal, Frank and I went to Hurley’s for lunch and had some burgers with beer.  Frank, whom had a presentation to do this afternoon, had perhaps a bit too much to drink and when we got back to the conference room, his face, ears and eyes were all red, and it looked as if he was going to pass out.  He did survive though, even if there were times when he really looked a bit more than just tipsy.  It was great for laughs.

When it was all over and the last of the presentations was done, we were given our certifications to applause by our peers who had endured the class with us.  After that, it was over to brutopia for some more beer and some final words– some of us would not see eachother again after this day, not easily anyhow, as most of us would be shipping out to different countries.

In a way, I’m sad that this course is all over. I’m going to miss having to work with a lot of these folks– but then again, this is where the advernture begins, and so we scatter ourselves to the four winds with the best of intentions and the highest of hopes.

“What the hell are you on”

I am indeed still awake at 1 in the morning because I was so busy with my day’s events that I totally forgot that I have to prepare my lesson plan for tomorrow morning, 9am.  That is what I’m working on now (or at the very least, in this posting, procrastinating from).

My day today began at about 7– I woke up, as per usual, and forced myself to go back to sleep really feeling that I had to sleep the shit out of my bed since I’d been up until something like 3 the previous morning, doing a whole lot of nothing.  At about 10:30am, finally got my act together to accompany my relatives (who had been visiting Montreal from Philipines for the past few days) to the airport.

The plan was to give Chuck his piano lesson at something like 11am, and Liz’s lesson was supposed to be something later in the afternoon around 4:30.  Liz had other plans, so the second lesson was scrapped, and in calling Chuck, I was informed that he had an urgent appointment with his hair stylist at 1pm– so, that kind of threw a monkey wrench in a morning lesson.  Amazingly enough, his hair thing went on until 2:30 in the afternoon, at which point he called me and told me that he also had to go home to wait for an important phone call which he’d forgotten about.

Well, okay… I didn’t really mind. I ate lunch on my own instead.  I spent about an hour wrestling with a seatpost, one of my bikes, a crowbar and a monkey wrench (don’t ask: suffice it to say, I was trying to FIX something) and took a few hours nap in the afternoon until Chuck called me up at something like 4:00.

But see, here’s the funny part of the schedule– I already had dinner plans with Kazuma and company, for 6:30 pm.  Yet, I’d promised to take Chuck out to lunch– it was, after all, his birthday– so we ended up going to a fancy Indian restaurant at about 5:00pm. If I say I’m going to take someone out for their birthday for lunch, well, goddamit if it’s 4 hours late: I’m a man of my word and I’m gonna buy you a damn lunch.

From the time that it took us to park, look at the menus and order and all that– we finished our meal at about 6:15pm.

We were in NDG, somewhere, I don’t have a clue where (my sense of direction is pretty bad) and I had about 15 minutes to get from THERE to the Keg back downtown, which is where I would be meeting Kazuma and mystery guests for dinner.  I’m told this is physically impossible.

Luckily for me, other friends were also in the area to meet up with Chuck.  One such friend who had a car and ninja driving abilities drove me from NDG to Downtown in 14 minutes.  FOURTEEN MINUTES.  Through traffic that’s moving at about 10kmph, you must understand that I was pretty frikking on the edge of my seat that we were doing about 40 and cutting across lanes. 

At 6:29 I was crossing the street, and at 6:30pm, I was ontime and spot on where I was supposed to be.

But something … shall we say… “interesting”… happened somewhere between the Indian food and the Keg.  I don’t know what the hell it was, but when I got to the Keg, I had the distinct feeling that my brain was feeling a bit loopy.   At first, I figured it was because I was tired, or maybe suffering from the effects of having just had supper and now, having supper again.

But man, that was some WEIRD shit– I mostly kept my mouth shut at the dinner table at the Keg because I was, frankly, struggling to keep my brain’s thoughts aligned.  I really thought it was sleep deprivation.  But after we started walking around after the Keg, whatever it was that was going on with my brain got worse. 

By the time I met up with Chili, I was just chatty to the point where he was asking me “My God, I neve want to see you high again, you just don’t shut up!”

Was I high on something? I didn’t realize I’d been talking so much.  There were a few other strange things, like this hazy sort of mist/fog thing in the distance that NOBODY but me seemed to see.  So what the hell was that? I don’t know.  But for a while, it was like some odd out of body experience.  In some ways, it was frankly hilarious because there were just no restraints on what I was saying.  There were times though where I made boo boos, and said things that I would rather have kept to myself.  In some ways it was frustrating (although mildly, and in a somewhat comical desperation) because it was as if I had lost the ability to string together coherent thoughts.

So what the hell was I on?  I don’t have a clue.  I don’t do drugs, I’m about as clean as they come in that sense– yet somehow, I wasn’t exactly my usual self… though really, the interesting idea that occured to me is that whatever was going on with me was still me.  I had just loosened up and, all things considered, if I did somehow inhale something second hand along the way, or if someone at the Keg slipped something in my water, yeah, I guess it was still all me, wasn’t it?

I was thinking about something that I spontaneously said at dinner, about how the TESL class broke people to the brink of crying.  Catharsis and all that, you know?  Where all the expectations are what make it so hard, all that image that is built up like a shield is what causes the fall to be harder.  Tina did mention that one of the things she noticed was that the older folks who were experienced in teaching were the ones who had the most problems in teaching overseas, because they were less open to adapting to the local systems and their expectations.   Basically what I’m getting at is this: that awkwardness or insecurity that comes from situations out of our control, it’s not because of the situation per se– it’s because of our need for control on our terms.  But, if you can let go of that need for a stranglehold, then you can just flow with it.

People who break down and who are voided completely are the ones who can start again– the restraints are gone, the kid gloves and all that political correctness and mumbo jumbo are off.  That’s why I say that through the tears, and all those people who are just sodomized by the class criticism, that’s why I say that it’s good for them, and they know it– because their bluff, all that facade about “this is the way it is”, gets called, and you’re down to your basics.  You only survive if you’re honest with yourself, otherwise, you frankly have nothing to show anybody.

Being under the influence of something is probably in the same vein.  I mean, if people run into problems when they’re under the influence of something, it’s probably on a social level because they say or do things that they normally want to say or do, but which they normally hold in.  And so, when they do do these things, everyone around them is shocked; it’s not because they did anything ‘outside’ of themselves, but rather, because the image the person has been projecting up until that moment is so different from who they really are.

But if the person is honest with himself, herself, whatever, then what’s there to be afraid of?

I guess what I’m getting at is that though I could definately feel that something was wrong, nothing that I said or did felt unnatural to me– I mean, I was still saying things that  I would normally say or carrying myself the way that I normally would.  Um… at least I think so anyhow.

If it had been the old me, that college drama queen with all my secrets back from then, it might’ve been a very different story.  But now, it seems to me that things are where they should be, and the night was a happy revelation of sorts for me, it was sort of a reality check to see if I was keeping it real.

Maybe I was high– maybe I wasn’t, who knows why it happened. But it did, and even now I still feel some sort of strange buzz on the edge of my consciousness,. It was good to know on some level that I’m for the major part mostly the same person inside as outside.  Well, at least, from my perspective. Might’ve been different to the outside world, and, as Chili mentioned, there were times when I just wasn’t making any fucking sense.  I think there were a few jokes I made that really seemed awkward and odd, even to me, and I wondered moments later “what the hell was I thinking?”  but other than that, the day was a success.

The original plan was two piano lessons (which I was bartering for food), video games, a birthday lunch for Chuck and dinner with Kazuma and the mystery company.

The actual result was zero piano lessons (no work!), a nice long nap, a BIT of video gaming (while I was waiting for Chuck’s phone call), a lupper (a cross between lunch and supper)  at an excellent Indian restaurant (which you guys should tell me if you’re interested in, and we can grab a bite to eat there) and dinner with Kazuma, Sandy, Stephanie, Tina and Chili, coupled with some sympthoms described to me as being drugged, concluded with desert at Garcon.  I mention all these separate names because previous to today, I had no idea who was on the confirmed guest list for dinner.

The Keg’s steak, incidentally, is amazing– it’s a bit pricey, especially for a mostly self-employed (read: mostly unemployed) bloke like myself, and I guess it’s hard for me to judge portions because frankly, I had just finished dinner 15 minutes before starting my Keg dinner– but it’s definately on my list.

It was funny. I really felt I had trouble shutting up. I mean, I say that in retrospect now– but at the time, I think it’s just that I had all these ideas popping up in my head and I just wanted to speak them out because they were getting crowded up there.  I think I was just so caught up with the idea of getting my ideas out of my cluttered brain that I really wasn’t paying attention to how it was coming out, or, for that matter, how fast.   It’s like verbal diarrhea. Yes, that sounds insane– for a while, I might actually have been insane.

On the other hand, I did manage to shut up long enough to listen to quite a few cool stories about peoples’ travels and plans to travel.  It just galvanizes me and makes me look even more forward to my own my own trek to Asia .

…Oh shittles, it’s 2AM. I should get started working on that lesson plan, I have to be teaching in like… shittles, 7 hours…

You can tell I’m going to be a great teacher– procrastinators, I think, make the best teachers, because they can work miracles on the fly.

My Forearms Hurt

… because of overexertion.


Both of them.


From playing guitar.  Not anything else.



It’s kinda funny like that, how good the humans are at adapting to things that really aren’t intuitive.  That’s why we can invent all sorts of stupid things and activities, like unicycles, juggling, skydiving and yes, guitar, and actually get good at them even though when you first try it, you’d figure that it’s not something we were meant to do.

I FINALLY figured out how to play some basic blues on the guitar — turns out the problem from last week was that I was starting on the wrong fret. I was supposed to be starting on the 2nd fret, wheras I thought it was the 5th or 7th, which means I was about 3 or 5 steps off from playing the correct notes (oops).

I’m really quite pleased with how it’s turning out.  Yesterday when I stopped by at the YMCA, I had my guitar on my back, having left from Mark’s house for a guitar lesson.  On my way into the gym, one of employee struck up a conversation with me about the guitar. On my way out, another employee also started chatting it up with me.

We’d never really exchanged more than smalltalk before, even though I’ve known them by face for something like 3 years, but suddenly having a guitar on my back performs the function of the ‘peacock feathers’ that Chili talked about, and so I’m suddenly in a different category from the other 248959 lean, black haired Chinese males at the YMCA who also play badminton.

I even got her number.

BUT. Being the idiot that I am, I don’t know her name, and wouldn’t you know it, the new uniforms don’t have nametags clearly visible. It’s just that we’d been small talking for years that I always just took it forgranted, and in any case, even if I did know it, I find those kinds of things REALLY hard to remember.

Anyway, I just thought that this whole situation is hilarious. Yeah, go me, you’re one smooth operator.

All for One, and One for All

It’s not that I’m not afraid of being in front of the room.  It’s just that I’ve practiced it– to the point where I can move in spite of that fear.

Fear is a very interesting word when you look at it. When you think about it, it’s very similar to what we feel when we’re excited.  Our temperature goes up, our adrenaline starts leaking into our bloodstream, our heart speeds up and there is this sense of urgency and anticipation.

Well, if the Inuit people have 16+ different ways of saying “snow”, maybe that just means we have at least two ways for describing this emotion we face– this fear/excitement.

There are other things that seem to have the same sympthoms– ecstasy, bliss, etc.  Yet we’ve somehow managed to tune ourselves and practice those emotions and feelings so that, despite largely the same indicators as fear, we like these things. In fact, we usually seek them out.

I’m of the opinion that any strong emotions are really moments when we allow ourselves out– where we let go of our restraints and just do what we probably really want to do.  That’s why if you’re too serious, you can’t laugh for real.

When you see someone who is a good crowd pleaser, do you really think he’s not afraid?  There are, in fact, some people who are mentally unable to feel that fear– but for the rest of us, the truth is that we’re always afraid. We’re always anxious.  It has a lot to do with us being social animals that people don’t have to be holding spears to us– the mere gaze of other humans makes us self conscious and imposes upon us a feeling of supression.

But really– those who still operate in front of the class do so in spite of their fear.

Fear has three elements– the physical, the mental, and the spiritual.  When you’re afraid, your body clams up.  Muscle tension goes haywire– so either when you’re called from your seat to take the podium, your legs don’t respond to get you off your chair, or when you do stand up, you’re so tense that your muscles are fighting eachother with antagonistic contractions and you’re shaking.

On the mental front, fear complicates your thoughts by making you think of what can go wrong.  This takes away from what you’re supposed to be doing in front of everyone because when you’re supposed to be thinking about your subject, you’re instead thinking about how you look or what the people in front of you expect.  While those things are important to a certain degree, the problems arise because of a lack of moderation.

On the ‘spirit’ side, it has to do with restraint.  A lack of confidence, in my opinion, is actually just too strong a restraint.  There’s nothing wrong with giving a speech– and yet, the reasons why people clam up in terms of willpower and charisma are largely because they’re experiencing something that feels a lot like shame.  When the restraints are on, your physical and mental game suffers because the spirit, your force of will, isn’t giving them the fuel, it isn’t giving them the electricity you need.

Now, there are three domains (at least, you could probably think up more) that you can go wrong with.  Any one of these domains that I’m weak in on a particular day can cause poinson damage– a lack of willpower (maybe translating to a lack of interest in what I’m presenting) could leak into other domains, making my body language sluggish or my verbal responses less sharp (assuming the scenario of public speaking).  You could always go wrong in a billion ways.

But there is hope! You can go RIGHT in a number of ways too.

You hear sometimes in a boxing  where the coach says “Don’t think! Don’t be fancy!  You’ve pumped more iron than he has, and you’ve been through a lot more shit worse than this. Just go in there and show him what you’re made of!”  What does that mean? It means that the person’s mental game is breaking down– intelligence in tactical choice and cunning is breaking down.  So what is the boxer told to do?  The boxer is told to brandish his physical condition and spirit, 110% to make up for that dip.  Maybe the mental will wake up.  The point is, when in an opressive situation, you work with your strengths to try and compensate or bring to par your weaknesses.

Conversely, when a boxer is hurt, the coach tells him: “You’re going to have to outbox him– be smart, and show no fear!  Let him gas himself out, but hang in there until the end of the round!” To take the shift away from the physical damage someone has suffered, the gameplan is shifted to the available tools– smarts and willpower.

And I think that this is a problem that we all face, myself included– that when we have a problem, we dwell on it too much.

I mean, it is useful for me to know what the problem is.  But I need to fix it– and some problems really don’t fix themselves.   I need to fix it with other tools at my disposal.

Or, I need to stall and keep moving forward, carrying the problem forward, to see if a change in scenario makes a solution available in the future.

If we are composed of a physical, mental and spiritual game, you can think of our forward moving ability as being equipped with redundant backup systems.  If your car pops a tire, you put on a spare– it’s handicapped, sure, but in the meantime, the other tires will pull the lame one through, and offer a chance to change the scenario so a previously unfixable problem (you don’t have an extra, fullsize tire) might become fixable.

Strengths aren’t just specialties, is my point.  People say they’re good at this and bad at this– but in reality, what’s the difference?  Why is there this distinct divide between our weaknesses and our strengths?  Why do we compartmentalize things like that?

We should NEVER be content to disconnect ourselves from ourselves.  Being myself is a ‘team effort’.  If one of my three guys is not pulling his weight, then the others have to help him– no man gets left behind.  We take the wounded forward and hope that we run into a positive change of scenario– the metaphorical field medic just over the next hill.

But we should never stop going forward.  Take a rest, sure– but keep your eyes on the ball.  If you’re in trouble, you have to press forward with momentum if nothing else and see if your failing systems can come online.

This is why ’emergency procedures’ of various sorts are invented, like, for example, a fire drill.  If you feel the building shake suddenly, and you hear a loud boom, there’s a fire in your building, you don’t know mentally what to do– what do you know about fighting fires? You probably don’t even know WHERE the fire is.  Willpower?  Willpower for what? You don’t know what’s going on, how could you direct any willpower at it? You’re probably scared shitless.

So you have the signs.  The fire drill procedurs written on the maps and whatnots– to give you a physical means of changing your scenario and giving you something concrete to operate on in spite of your fear.

That’s what dealing with fear really is– it doesn’t mean crushing it. It means attempting to use what you have to operate under scary conditions.

And you know what? When you think about it, the difference between us and firemen is that they have the physical, mental and spiritual toughness that we don’t– they weren’t born with it, they trained for it.  They made themselves tools.