3 year anniversary

G’day, mates!

Wow has it been a while, or what? I just realized I only published three posts since my last anniversary post. Oops?

To be fair (read: list of excuses), a lot happened, just not writing wise. As you know, I packed up and relocated again, somehow made it halfway through grad school with a minimal two breakdowns and one near all-nighter to receive decent grades (but then again, my standards being what they are, I could really call them “good grades”), while working part time.

The good news, as you can probably guess, is that I survived! Summer was long, and hot, and (mostly) pleasant. One of the most memorable experiences would be learning to dive. I did have to do the course twice, because of reasons (which led to my first panic attack and my first real moment of “omg, should I call an ambulance or get on my next bus to make it to the doctor’s?”). And, perhaps predictably, the second time was better than the first; I more than survived, I sucker punched it in the face!

Except you really don’t do that because marine life will punch you back. But you know what, fish are pretty cool, and so are manta rays, and sharks (it was a wobbegong, relax). Jelly fish though, not so much. Sadly, yet unsurprisingly, the ocean floor is literally littered with trash. Plastic goblets, remnants of plastic bags, gum wrappers. You name it, it’s down there. It’s gross, is what it is. Doesn’t surprise me one bit most divers are environmentally conscious.

One of the surprising outcomes of getting my certification as an open water diver, was my manager saying I’ve inspired her to go diving! I don’t really know how I did that, all I mentioned was self-deprecating about my first experience, but I guess the fact that I went back makes it motivating. So I hope she does learn and maybe one day we’ll go explore the ocean together.

So here we are, on year 3 of my blog, and I’m not talking much about writing. Apologies, I don’t think that’ll happen until mid-June or later. Unless you want me to talk about academic writing, which is much less fun. Good news in that respect would be that I am not doing a dissertation but a special project, like normal people. And while I had four months to think about a topic, I of course “decided” that in less than three days, because why not! (I feel strongly about the actual definition of student being “procrastinator.”)

I do feel the creativity and imagination coming back, slowly but surely, strangely as I grow more confident and at ease with myself. Baby steps. I’ll tackle the procrastination issue, hopefully before the end of the semester, before tackling the black clouds of uncertainty…

All in all, thank you all for sticking around, all 146 of you! I’d apologize for not updating more often, but look at it as less emails you need to read (or “read” if your inbox is overflowing). I’m sure when things get moving again you’ll hear more from me.

Happy anniversary, from me, to myself & you, dearest blog.

Ali J.

P.S: As always, let me take a moment for a more somber anniversary. It’s now been five years since the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and it’s truly fallen out of sight. Sparing thoughts for those lost and those still affected is always appreciated, and if you can give more than thoughts, the Japan Society is still accepting donations, as well as Global Giving, which lists over 28 projects. A fund that I personally contributed to and remains close to my heart is The Taylor Anderson Memorial Fund, in honor of a JET Program participant who lost her life. They are currently matching donations by 50%, so if you can spare even $2, you’d be contributing to a great cause. (And think of the extra 50% of good karma coming your way!)

Never forget.


Obstacle #18: Fear

TGIF, am I right? Although hey, it’s Friday the 13th! As expected, it’s been quite a lucky day!

It’s barely been a week since the semester started again (not like I’m counting the weeks of classes remaining, let’s not mention the exams or grading) and like my students, I wish we’d had a longer break. I told them on Monday “you’re complaining now your break was a mere week, but in May you’ll be complaining your summer break is too long!”

They laughed, but they know I’m right. Who has nearly 5 months of vacation!? France, that’s who.

Anyhoo! (Clever, I know.) This will be my first Obstacle Series post in more than a year!? Woah…

But basically, I think I finally put my finger on that feeling that’s been nagging and nagging at me for months. You know the one:

“I wanna write!” *opens document*
*stares at page for hours, rereads everything*
“… Nope. Nothing to say, too much to work on, ‘kbye!”

That first part is a lie. I have a ton of things to say! Just the week before I’d added a paragraph full of ideas and things to tweak, added details to previous genius ideas and and and–!

So what’s stopping me? Scratch that, why am I so actively stopping myself??

Fear, pretty much. In all its variety.

I’m afraid of writing more and seeing my ideas collapse, or finding out that my world building isn’t profound enough. I definitely don’t want to hear that my characters aren’t developed enough, that my plot is cliché or that my writing is overall barely above acceptable.

So instead of adding length to what I managed to write, I agonize over what I do have. “The timeline’s wrong, this detail doesn’t match my revised idea, is this really appropriate where it is, there’s so much to fiiiix!” And basically discourage myself from writing because my perfectionist side can’t deal with imperfections.

But who writes a perfect draft on their first try?

Yet I suppose my fear doesn’t stop just at the current dilemma that is finishing my draft (although it’s the most intense for now). I have a habit of projecting into the future (or not living in the present moment, if you will), and I’m fairly certain a part of me is already stressing about polishing the manuscript to send with query letters. Way, way ahead of the tide.

So what am I supposed to do to battle this never ending fear, which so rudely captured me in the eternal abyss? Cower forever by glimpsing and exiting my word processor, or tie myself solidly and climb my way out of this fear-filled abyss?

I view this post as my first step out. I vanquished the blank post, despite the urge to go back and erase everything or just save this draft and leave it to mold in the unpublished folder. Maybe I can’t climb perfectly or quickly, will end up scraping myself and falling a bit, but it doesn’t mean I can’t gradually climb my way out, inch by inch, hold by hold, away from the fear.

Shout out to all daring adventurers, however far out of the abyss you’ve come, or if you’re still struggling with your holds, or if you slipped, skinned your knees and have to start from the bottom again. Let’s take our next step together, reassured that we’re not alone despite facing similar yet unique chasms and that the surrounding fear will be vanquished by the shining light of perseverance and tenacity (or perhaps, a sea of sweat from our efforts will eventually fill the abyss and take us to the top…).

So for all you conquerors and challengers of abysses, how do or did you deal with your fear(s)?

2 Year Anniversary

I can hardly believe my blog is turning 2! (Don’t worry, I’m not a doting parent…)

A lot has happened since I started this back in Japan and a lot more is about to change. I’m happy to report I got admitted to grad school, and will be starting my new adventure in Australia in a few short months!!

In the mean time, same old same old: things to do, people to see, places to go… procrastination…

I haven’t written as much as I’d hoped in this past year, but the brief reflection seems to have inspired me, so be on the lookout for a new post shortly!

A profound and resonating thank you to all my dear followers and readers, you seriously have no idea how giddy I can get when I see my stats page. (What? Someone in [insert country] read my blog!?! Eeee!)

This seemed appropriate as I’m still a teacher.


I hope to grow some more as a writer (thus also hopefully a better blogger) and will encourage you to check your seat belt at this time, just in case of extreme and unpredictable weather storming in and taking us all by surprise. That’s what I’m hoping for anyway, wild writing phases.

Happy Wednesday, and write you later!
Ali J.

P.S: Today also marks a more somber anniversary, that of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan. I can’t believe it’s already been four years. If you’re so inclined, please take a minute to send them warm, encouraging and loving thoughts. (Yahoo! Japan is donating 10 yen (~$0.10) for each user who searches for 3.11 on March 11th Japan time.)



New poem!

Or rather, my first poem?

Well, it’s not actually my first poem, but the first one I’ll be sharing with you here. Poetry is quite a strange land for me, and feedback would be most welcome.

I wrote this quite a while back, nearly four years in fact. I won’t spoil the topic too much, but leave you with a quote instead.

“I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

Read on,
Ali J.

New short story!

Maybe it’s more of a flash fiction than short story, but technically, it’s still short, so… one and the same? Ish. Let’s go with ish.

I just found this again while browsing my writing folder, and lo and behold, it hadn’t made it to the blog yet!

I give you: Bite Me.

Possibly my first attempt at humor: expect the unexpected. (Or don’t, your loss.)

Happy February, may spring hurry up and get us warm and cozy.

Stay warm,
Ali J.

A Survivor’s Voice – Part 2

Another tale from 1945 Hiroshima, retold as understood through the interpreter.

Again, tread carefully, this story is even more potent than Part 1 and contains some graphic descriptions.

Part 2 is the account of Taeko Teramae.

When the bomb went off, Taeko was 15 years old and a mobilized middle school student, 550 meters from the hypocenter. Those students worked at a telephone office, directing calls – back in the day when they had to switch the cables on the board in front of them.

They were divided into three groups: a 7:00, 8:00 and 9:00 group. Thankfully, she was in the 7:00 group. Why thankfully? Because when the bomb hit at 8:15, the group working died instantly due to the fire which ignited the electrical circuits (that group was wearing headphones with microphones), and the 9:00 group was on its way to the building, out in the open. They all died.

Taeko, on the other hand, was resting somewhere inside the building on the second floor when she saw something shining as it dropped through the sky. Then a flash blinded her and knocked her unconscious. She woke up and tried to get out of the building. There were many bodies in the hallway and even more on the stairs; people were falling on top of each other.

Since she couldn’t use the stairs, she decided to jump out the window. Once she jumped, she saw that a fire was roaring around them and she started walking away, going east. Ten years later, when she went to the museum and saw the molten glass bottles, she realized why she hadn’t been cut by jumping out of a broken window onto a ton of broken glass: the heat rays had melted them together smoothly.

Taeko kept losing consciousness, she didn’t know she was badly injured, but her school teacher helped her up and encouraged her. The teacher then helped her cross the river since the bridge had fallen.Many people were crowding the river, and many drowned. If it hadn’t been for her teacher, she probably would’ve drowned too.

On the other side of the river were soldiers, and when they saw the extent of her injuries, they helped her to a hospital where she stayed for a week. Her father came for her, though she never expected him to find her since he was a soldier himself. Soldiers from Hiroshima had been given permission to go home after they’d been told what had happened. So he brought her home and she learned that her younger sister had died. They’d brought the body back the day before Taeko came back.

When she came home, her two younger brothers (one a first grader, the other a sixth grader) told her “you look like a monster!” The wounds on her face had barely closed, but she got a high fever of around 40℃ (or 104 Fahrenheit) just from hearing those words and her scars opened. She said the scars looked like two mountain ridges crossing her face, and her left eye was popped out of its socket, leaving a gaping fist-sized hole.

Because of the shock and ensuing fever, her parents pulled out maggots breeding in her wounds until late October. In that time, she wanted to see what she looked like, but her family said she didn’t need to know and hid all the mirrors in the house. She did find one though, and when she saw herself she wondered why her teacher had helped her. She thought she should be better off dead with her friends. Later, she learned her teacher had died on August 30.

Taeko endured though, and went back to school in April with a patch over her eye. When she got off the train at the station, middle school kids threw stones at them (the hibakusha, survivors of the bombs) and called them monsters. Those kids were themselves victims and orphans of the war. Outside of school was hell, but she said inside the classroom was like heaven because everyone was so nice.

She kept on living, fearing that she would get cataract from the bomb and then become completely blind, or get cancer and just die. She did get cancer, and more than one. Uterus, breast, and thyroid. She was hospitalized for seven months and made it through now that she had a family to go back to.

When she got home though, she saw weeds in the garden – as the rest of the house were men, they didn’t take care of the garden. The doctors told her not to do anything physically strenuous, but she thought this would be okay. It wasn’t. She got another high fever and went back to the hospital.

This woman had such strength and endurance, I almost cried (again) during her really moving speech. I had to ask for a hug, which I got. She felt so frail! She will always be a source of inspiration for me.

“… [A]s long as I am alive, I want to convey to the future generation the terrifying consequences of an atomic bomb.*

Atomic bomb survivor, amazing woman.
Atomic bomb survivor, amazing woman.

If you’d like a more detailed account, check out this article* from the Asahi Shimbun.

The hibakusha and their children were (and still are) heavily discriminated against, mainly due to the public’s ignorance and fear of radiation sickness. People thought that hibakusha couldn’t have children, were contagious or that radiation was hereditary.

I hope these accounts brought you a new perspective or insight. While the bombings defined a catastrophic moment of our past, we can affect how to define our future.


Ali J.

New short story!

May has come, time still moves forward.

I bring you another short story, Unseen. I must have written it in August last year, but for some reason completely forgot of its existence until this week. Surprise!

I can’t say anymore for fear of spoiling you, so I’ll leave you with a quote by Flannery O’Connor instead:

I write to discover what I know.

Read on,
Ali J.