Hellooo.. 27! Taking Stock

It is my 27th Birthday, if Facebook, Skype or some other app has not informed you already. I like the sound of 27, it is far enough from 30 for me to causally say I am in my 20s (I will still say this when I am 29.x years!). Although I worry about becoming old (70 and beyond really scares me), I realize I am still far away from that and I need to live in the moment. I am going to do one of those “taking stock posts” so bear with me!

27 years old

This is the dilemma I am dealing with!

Making: Research plans for the next 3 years, a PhD doesn’t come easy. In spite of how impressive that might sound, it is more like I am in a long, dark tunnel of research papers and there is still no end to the said tunnel, no light in the distance. It has been 3 weeks at JAIST, I love it here.

I am also making plans to bring J over by the time the October (autumn) semester starts. So far, the nearby pre-school has accepted the application ūüôā

Cooking: random recipes I google from the internet. They require some spices and ingredients I am never sure where to buy from especially when everything is in Japanese. Sometimes it turns out great, sometimes it is hardly edible. I live to learn.
Drinking: Kenyan masala tea. Ahhh..
Reading: Research papers. Random articles on various topics saved on the Pocket app. A new novel I got from a friend.
Wanting: September to come quickly, I am ready to book my ticket home for a holiday and to come back with J! Also, the Samsung S6 could come in handy. A birthday present, anyone?
Looking:¬†at the mountains behind my apartment¬†every morning as the sun comes up, I live up in the mountains in the university student housing. The university itself is up in the mountains. In the evening, I see Kanazawa City twinkling below me from the front veranda. There couldn’t be ¬†a more ideal location. Just type JAIST into Google maps and use street view to see a piece of my world ūüôā
Playing: nothing. No physical, no computer games. I have become a boring person.
Wasting: time watching series online instead of carrying out a series of “projects” I had set out for myself this year.
Wishing: for the time-space continuum to be conquered so I can teleport instantly to my family in Nairobi.
Enjoying: driving around in a friend’s Mercedes Benz (friends let their friends drive their expensive cars)
Waiting: for this Saturday to arrive so I can go see the snow wall in Tateyama with my friends.

Snow Wall at Tateyama

Snow Wall at Tateyama

Liking: that the weather is getting warmer and warmer. On some days, the temperature rises up to 23deg and I can pretend I am in Nairobi. Nairobi just has the perfect weather.
Wondering: if life would be much simpler if the people we liked also liked us back with the exact same intensity, of course the reverse is also true
Loving: that I am getting used to life in Japan so much, and loving it here. Especially the JAIST environment, a high tech research center in the middle of nowhere. Like it could be in a sci-fi movie. Of course the disadvantage is that there is nothing around, transport is not so convenient and the only convenience store closes at 9 or is it 10pm!

JAIST in the mountains

JAIST in the mountains

Hoping: to get a car very soon, I am starting to feel as if I am taking advantage of my friends! A girl needs her own wheels especially if I will be bringing J here.

Marveling: at my son who is now speaking, and singing. His second birthday was just under a month ago.

Needing: a car very soon, oh I already said that. Okay, needing the Golden Week (a week long series of holidays here in Japan) to quickly arrive so I can take off to see Kobe with friends.
Smelling: Fresh mountain air, every morning, and practically every day I am outdoors at JAIST.
Wearing: shorts with more confidence ūüôā

Spring in Kenrokuen Garden

Spring in Kenrokuen Garden

Following: my self-imposed schedule has proved impossible. I have 2 hours scheduled for exercise each day and I haven’t done any in the last two weeks.
Noticing: just how everything has become green .. Spring is truly a time of rejuvenation.
Knowing: and accepting my limits
Thinking: about my family and wishing my little brother all the best as he embarks on the road to becoming a certified doctor. He just started his internship year.
Feeling: happy. Sleeping well lately. In spite of the lack of exercise.
Bookmarking: How to dye your hair wiki page. I learned that to get the best results for vibrant colours, you first need to bleach black hair. That is why I am currently sporting a bleached blonde look. Purple coming soon. Wait, I could be going through some late quarter-life crisis or something. But as long as I am a career student, I still have some freedom to express myself ūüôā
Opening: 10 to 15 tabs on my browser and watching as my laptop gets the blue screen of death after Chrome has “eaten” all the 4GB RAM.

Google Chrom Vs RAM

Google Chrom Vs RAM

Giggling: whenever I watch/read Cyanide and Happiness comics. I don’t get always get the dark humour but when I do.. some are downright hilarious.
Feeling: grateful to be alive, in a world full of suffering notwithstanding. Happy birthday to me!

 

Four Women, Four Books: The Book Review Post

It has been four books since I wrote the last book review on this blog. Coincidentally the four books I read were all by women: I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, Jazz by Toni Morrison, An Autobiography of My Mother by Jamaica Kincaid and The Diving Pool by Yoko Ogawa. By combining all four reviews into one, I am admitting my laziness; but by writing the reviews at all I hope I am doing justice to fellow book readers searching for their next read. It is quite random how I pick what I read, why do you read the books you do?

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

When Maya Angelou died, everyone was re-posting her famous quotes on every social network site you have ever heard of, yet if you had asked anyone¬†to name any one of her books you would have been met with a blank stare or a blinking cursor on a pure white background, as it were. I quickly added “read Maya Angelou” to my hastily put together 30 Things to do Before 30 List. In December last year, I was in Tokyo at a bookshop in near Shinjuku Station that probably has¬†the largest collection of English books in Japan. I browsed through many titles in many genres before I found Maya Angelou’s books and picked up this particular one because another friend was also reading it at the same time and I couldn’t borrow his book then.

Maya Angelou's I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

Maya Angelou’s I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

The book is Maya’s childhood biography, I have since learned that she has 6 other biographies! She was brought up by her deeply religious grandmother in the South, and through it you get a glimpse of what life was for many black people in America then. Circumstances radically change in her lifetime duration; consider for instance her reading a poem on the inauguration of the first ever black American president. There is not much I can tell you about her life that you don’t already know; the suffering, the overcoming, her writing and activism career. But¬†to read her story in her own words is to be offered a glimpse into her mind, to be let into her heart. I love it when famous people are also writers and therefore write their own stories in their own words and style. Her storytelling is captivating, her imagery brilliantly clear. She may be more famous for her poetry, but her writing is worth searching for the remaining 6 biographies to add some volumes to¬†my fairly empty bookshelf. This book covers the ages of 3 to 16, when she becomes a teenage mother. What happens after that? I want to know too. But if you ask my why the caged bird sings, I have to reread this book again.

Jazz by Toni Morrison

Jazz is a portrait of New York in 1926. Jazz is the story of one woman who falls through the cracks of time and space, stubborn, determined Violet. Her husband Joe Trace had an affair with a young woman; Joe later kills her¬†because he is jealous ¬†and at her funeral Violet tries to disfigure the corpse’s face. But the story is so much more than the small but significant funeral incident, the background story of all the characters is provided to show how they eventually all end up in New York. The music to their story is naturally, jazz. Harlem in 1926 embodied freedom for workers coming from the South. The book is not an easy read, I must warn you but it is worth it. Long after I finished reading this book, I still remember Violet and Joe Trace, Dorcas who stood with toes pointed inwards and a not-so-smooth face, Golden Gray a boy with golden curls who believed he was white but grows up to the realization of his black father. It is a book about race, history, life in Harlem in the¬†1920s, and the undertones of jazz, which I get sometimes.

Toni Morrison's Jazz

Toni Morrison’s Jazz

I got this book from a classmate in my former Japanese class; she said it is her favorite Toni Morrison book. I exchanged with her the Maya Angelou Book for this one and it was a worthy read, thank you Chrissi!

An Autobiography of My Mother by Jamaica Kincaid

This book is also borrowed from a friend! My bookshelf now has about 5 novels, 3 of which are borrowed! I seem to have read Jamaica Kincaid before, but I can’t remember if I read a short story or a novel (whose title I cannot recall).

An autobiography of My Mother by Jamaica Kincaid

An autobiography of My Mother by Jamaica Kincaid

There is a melancholic tone underlying this book, a longing for a mother who died on¬†the day the author of the book was born. Xuela is a deeply troubled young woman, and as one of the reviewers on google books said, “this book is emotionally exhausting”. I don’t think she ever experiences any happiness in her entire book, but it offers a rich insight into life in the Dominican Island. Kincaid has a beautiful style of writing, it is poetry weaved into prose and yet simple and flowing. You can easily read the book in a day or two. Xuela spends her life self-sabotaging potential happy moments, her life is high sensual and she emerges herself in it, she feels little but she hurts deeply, she is a solitary character who never lets anyone know what she is thinking. Her character is haunting.

The Diving Pool by Yoko Ogawa

What can I say about this book? I got it from a local bookshop and Yoko is the first Japanese author I am reading. At first I thought it was a novel with the three stories introduced on the back cover (The Diving Pool, Pregnancy Diary and The Dormitory) intersecting at some point, but it turned out to be 3 short stories sold together as one book.

The Diving Pool by Yoko Ogawa

The Diving Pool by Yoko Ogawa

In the Diving Pool, a lonely teenager is secretly in love with her adopted brother, who is a diver. She is growing up in an orphanage that her parents run, but she feels ignored by her parents because she is treated just like the rest of the kids. In the Pregnancy Diary, a young woman living with her sister keeps a diary of her sister’s pregnancy. She may appear loving on the outside but her true nature is¬†revealed in her diary, just like the underlying cruel streak¬†of the teenager in the first story is revealed in her interactions with the younger orphans. In the Dormitory story, a woman helps her younger cousin settle into her former dormitory, but the place is haunted by a disappearance of a¬†student who lived there, a crippled caretaker and an unexplained decay.

The stories don’t dwell in the “normal” world, they push at¬†the boundary of realism and yet they are not unbelievable. My favorite was The Dormitory, it is beautifully written (or should I say beautifully translated), the story never quite ends but just like in real life there are many unsolved mysteries. The Pregnancy Diary is also a good read, but the Diving Pool is downright weird, perhaps it is a better read in the original language. I hope I can master enough Japanese to read the book in the next 3 years.

Well, there you have it. Four diverse reads from four different women.