Monday, May 29, 2006

A time for work, play and family

Life is moving very fast these days and I feel exhausted! The deadline for four of our textbooks is Wednesday and I'm hoping we meet it. I'm writing three of the books and the project manager is writing one, plus doing all the graphics. She's really got a huge responsibility with these kinds of projects and works way too many hours.

Of course, I'm also working way too many hours, but I don't work at this pace all the time the way she does. There's something about Japanese companies that chews people up and spits them out. It's really a shame that it has to work this way.

It seems that more and more companies try harder and harder to increase their profits at the expense of their employees. I read that in the U.S. employees are actually making less money--figuring in inflation--than they were making four or five years ago. Just doesn't seem fair, does it? And, especially at a time when companies (oil, pharmaceutical, etc.) are reporting record profits.

If I ran a company, I would treat my employees as my most valuable asset and wouldn't be so greedy about filling my own pockets at their expense. As an example, my company (Japanese) is part of a much larger mega-corporation. Last year they forced all the teachers to forego their annual raises because the company "wasn't doing well." Not surprisingly, all the executives of the large parent company received their usual enormous annual bonuses and raises. Teacher's salaries are a pittance compared to what the corporation pays to their top executives, yet we had to wait over a year to get our tiny raises. At the annual stockholders meeting, management declared that their biggest dilemma for the new year was figuring out what to do with all the money they had made! This didn't sit well with all the hundreds of teachers who had to forego their annual raise due to "financial difficulties."

It's that kind of behavior that makes people feel cynical about their jobs. It's also working the many, unpaid overtime hours, like my project manager does, that makes me wonder how people can care about their jobs.

I dream of a day when all the hardworking people of the world receive fair and just wages and benefits, where they're treated with dignity and respect, and where they have enough hours left at the end of the day to spend with their families, eating dinner together. Somewhere along the way, things got very, very screwed up, and there needs to come a time when it's set right. There's nothing wrong with working hard, but everyone needs balance in their lives. Time for work, time for play, and time for family. What's wrong with that?

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Forerunners to the Da Vinci Code

A couple of friends and I headed over to Roppongi Hills tonight to catch the opening of The Da Vinci Code, but we were out of luck. It was sold out! We were taking a chance trying to see it on its opening weekend, but we were all so anxious to see it. Didn't matter that the reviews have been lukewarm. The book was a real page turner, even though the writing is not even remotely literary. I don't think it was meant to be literary--just entertaining.

Back in the late 80s I had read one of the "inspirations" for The Da Vinci Code, The Holy Blood, Holy Grail , and found it fascinating. After reading it, I kept looking for more information and then read The Chalice and the Blade.

Then I attended a workshop in the Seattle area in the mid-1990s where I had the privilege of meeting Margaret Starbird, the author of Woman With the Alabaster Jar . She was a fascinating woman and spoke at length about what had inspired her to write her book about Mary Magdalene and her possible marriage to Jesus. She hadn't taken her research lightly, and had actually set out to dispell the claims made in The Holy Blood, Holy Grail .

She was a devout Catholic and had considered such a relationship between Mary Magdalene and Jesus not only ludicrous, but heretical as well. She spent several years completing her research--and discovered, to her horror, that there was compelling evidence supporting the liaison between Mary Magdalene and Jesus. She also revealed that her research had led her to believe that Mary Magdalene was not the prostitute we have been told she was, but was in fact one of the early deciples. To learn more about Margaret Starbird's books, look here.

Apparently, Mary Magdalene was also the apostle Thomas' nemesis. If my memory serves, according to passages in Starbird's book that she found in the Bible, it was Thomas who said to Jesus, "Why do you always kiss her on the mouth? Why do you love her more than us?" Sounded like jealousy to me. Could it have been possible that he wished to expunge Mary Magdalene's importance to Jesus and to sully her reputation as well in his gospels?

In Starbird's book, she suggests that the wedding ceremony, so prominent in the Bible, where Jesus performed the miracle of turning water into wine, was actually his own wedding. There are enough remaining clues in the Bible to lead a person with an open mind to the conclusion that it was, in fact, Jesus' own marriage ceremony. In that story, Mary "anoints" Jesus with the costly sacred nard from her alabaster jar. Nard was typically part of a dowry that the bride gave to her husband on their wedding night. It has an explicit sexual connotation. This was a ceremony that was only done by a wife with her husband. For a wedding "guest" to have done such a thing to another "guest" would have been completely illogical and shocking.

Also, from what I've read, it would have been unheard of for a man calling himself a Jew (Jesus) to preach the word of God if he were not married. Jesus was a Jew, and would most likely have followed the conventions of his time and married.

The controversy about such a possible relationship will never end, I'm sure, but I'm glad that The Da Vinci Code has sparked some interest in looking at "facts" from a new perspective. The "conquerors" always write the history, and in a sense, Thomas was one of the conquerors as one of the deciples. If he had an ax to grind about Mary Magdalene's relationship with Jesus, it makes sense that he might have wanted to portray her as the sinful prostitute.

Unfortuntely, along the way, we have all paid the price with the loss of the Sacred Feminine. What would our world look like today if a woman had been acknowledged as the dearly beloved wife of one of the world's greatest avatars?

Monday, May 15, 2006

Protein heaven

Two friends and I headed out to Omotesando Sunday night for an incredible dinner at Barbacoa Grill, a Brazilian restaurant that serves all-you-can-eat churrasco (grilled beef and other meats). There are at least 15 cuts of meats to choose from and they arrive at your table on long skewers where they are sliced and served by the wait staff known as Passador. There's also an amazing salad bar where even vegetarians can experience gustatorial delight. Dinners are Y4000 (about $36) and worth every yen!

There's also a bottomless drinks menu for an additional Y2200 (about $20) and up, depending on what you want to drink. There's a two-hour limit on these drinks. We ordered the Caipirinha, which is some kind of Brazilian drink that has to be the nectar of the gods!

Be forewarned, however. This kind of protein binging, if you're not used to eating so much meat, can leave you feeling a bit sluggish the next day. Or maybe it was the Caipirinha. . .

Lucky to be a mom!

Saturday I got a surprise delivery at work and the gals at the front desk were so excited to see what it was. They couldn't wait for me to open the box, but Saturdays are our super-busy days at the school, so I had to do a very rushed opening. Inside were these gorgeous roses in a darling little cut-work silver basket with a silver ribbon on top. We oohed and aahed over it several times during the day until it was time to take them home that evening.

My ever-thoughtful daugher had sent them to me from the U.S. for a Mother's Day gift!

Every time I think about my daughter, which is all the time, I never seem to get over the fact that I'm so lucky to have her at all! Things were not easy with my pregnancies, and I eventually had several miscarriages. There was nothing I wanted more than a daughter, and my wish came true! My relationship with my own mother was fraught with difficulties and we were never close. I vowed that if I had a daughter some day, I would do everything I could to forge a strong and loving relationship, and now that's exactly what I have with Jenn. She is my heart, and always will be. I'm so incredibly lucky!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Baseball Ballet

I came across this awesome baseball ballet from "TV in Japan" that was fascinating to watch.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Harsh reality

My heart felt like it would break this morning when I came across two little dead birds that had fallen out of their nest. It was startling to see their little bodies lying on the side of the street as I walked to the station. At first, my mind refused to grasp what it was I was looking at, and then the reality hit me.

I heard birds chirping loudly in the tree above the little bodies, so it was probably the parents trying to make me go away. I just stood there, frozen in my tracks, not knowing what to do. Then I decided that I couldn't just leave them there in the road, to be stepped on by passersby, so I picked them up one by one and set them next to each other in a little patch of grass and weeds, covering them as best I could.

An old man who had been walking behind me passed by as I knelt on the ground and glanced back to see what I was doing. He stopped and just stood there silently as I picked up the cold, stiff little bodies and hid them in the grass. As I slowly got up to walk away, he still stood there looking at me. Our eyes met for a second and I saw a glimmer of sadness reflected in his eyes, too. All I could manage to say was, "babies." He nodded, turned, and walked away.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Food theme

It's Golden Week here in Japan, which means that people have several days off in a row. It's a holiday that most people look forward to because they finally get a rest. I, on the other hand, have opted to work during Golden Week. What was I thinking? I've been working much too much lately, and could have used a few days to catch my breath and relax.

Anyway, I did manage to go out with a friend last night and had a fabulous dinner in Shibuya. I have no idea what the name of the place was. Fortunately, my friend speaks fluent Japanese, so she was able to read the menu to me. That's the area where I have the most difficulty in "assimilating" as one person commented in my blog.

Even though my camera doesn't take such great closeups, I'm posting a couple of pictures just to give you an idea of some of the yummy stuff we ate.

While the food was quite delicious, the service was, um, OK, I'll go ahead and say it: strange! We were seated at an ultra-tiny table, yet the staff brought almost everything we ordered at the same time! It presented a balancing act. Why would a restaurant do that?

Despite this minor problem, we managed to enjoy our meal of wonderfully fresh sushi, including scallops, which I've never eaten raw before. They were quite delicate, and the lemon slices between the pieces gave a beautiful lemony taste. We also had a Nicoise salad--although it wasn't anything like a real Nicoise salad, except that it did have tuna in it. Just so-so on that one because the dressing was very nondescript.

We also ate very delicious little salmon rolls, wrapped in paper-thin tofu "skins" and filled with cream cheese. They were very tasty.

So, it was nice to get out and play for a few hours. I've recently worked a couple of 18-hour days, trying to finish up a book writing project. In the past four months, I've been involved in seven book projects, and the pace is sometimes crazy! This is work I do in my "spare" time when I'm not teaching.

I think it's been a little too much for me recently because I seem to have developed asthma. I rarely ever get sick, so it's kind of annoying, and I've never had asthma before! It's probably due to being extra tired, and to all the crud in the air here. I've read that asthma has become a real problem in Japan lately. Some people tell me I should wear a mask--seen all too often here in Tokyo--but there's just something about wearing a mask that seems too strange to my Western mind.

So, instead, I use my inhalers and try to keep going. I should have taken Golden Week off!