Sunday, December 15, 2013


Alright guys, this is it, it is THE ANNOUNCEMENT!

Well some of you will know this story, and others may not.  I was raised by a single father whom was an artist for a living, and he was the single greatest influence in my life to everything that I am now.  You'd be hard pressed to meet such a beautiful soul in the world, and I feel so grateful for the time we had together.  He taught me to love, to create, and to share.  Community and art was our life, and with that as my base, I grew.  My father passed away when I was 18 years old... almost 10 years ago but I have not forgotten about him.  

His name was Pete Zawadzki, and I could not have asked for a better parent.  I am where I am and who I am because of him.   He is held dearly in my heart, though I can feel him slipping away from the world in a sense, and I feel that it is time to do something.

I've been living in Japan for five years now, and it is a beautiful life here, and I do so love it.  But there is also something very special about my home town filled with the crazies...   It is a whole 'nother world here and there, but each have their strong points.  Truth be told, I have no idea at all where in the world I want to spend my life at this point.  

What I do know is that back in the United States, I have a storage unit sitting with hundreds of paintings by my father, just gathering dust, and I consider it the saddest story of my life.

I can remember the first time I left America, I felt at such peace to be away.  Then, from the very first time I stepped foot **back on US soil** from a trip abroad, I knew quite clearly that the US was not a place I could stay forever.

And yet, with that said, as time keeps on passing, and thoughts keep on molding... I have found myself in awe of the respect for one's own country that I find here in Japan.  There is something to be proud of in this country, and it has made me yearn for such a feeling.  I've decided I want to spend some more time in the United States, and to give myself something to be proud of where I come from.

Next year will be 10 years since my father's death, and with all this in mind, I have decided that next year I am going to return to the United States for a while.  I'm planning to bicycle through all of the states, and  I intend to put a painting of my father's in a locally owned business in each state.   It is my tribute to my father, and my tribute to home.

I am calling the project American Ongaeshi (恩返し)ー A Tribute to Home.  Ongaeshi is a Japanese word that does not translate very well into English.  It means to repay a favor, and is often used in the case of a parent taking care of a child, and a child doing something to return the favor for that. 

I'll have to admit, I'm both incredibly excited and terrified all at once.  I honestly have no idea at all if this is even possible, but what i have decided is that I have to at least try.  I have to do what I can, and I have to share my father's art with the world -- to keep it alive, to keep him alive in a sense.  And I do so love a good journey!

For now, I still have another 6 months in Japan -- I'm intending to leave in mid May.  I am in Japan, and I want to be in Japan and live life here well.  This is no time for goodbyes!

実はたくさんの理由で、私にとって日本はとても大切な所です。だから、来年のアメリカ帰国は、日本への「GOODBYE」ではなく、「SEE YOU」です。後五ヶ月ぐらいありますので、その時まで、たくさん遊びましょう! 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Cultural Evolution in Japan - Halloween

It's that crazy time of the year again, Halloween!  In my experience as a teacher thus far, I have always put a huge emphasis on holidays, and this year has been no exception.  Halloween is not generally celebrated here in Japan, but is gaining popularity as the years pass and foreigners rise in presence. 

This year for the first time ever, I dressed up for Halloween at one of the kindergartens - as requested by the principal... little did she know!  I pulled my costume together from random scraps around my apartment of things I've collected over the years, and called it a clown costume, which the kids got, so I figure my attempt worked.  It looked like this:

Word got out to the other kindergartens, and I was requested to wear this all week at work, which was awesome.  I felt more like myself than ever, and my coworkers got to see that part of me!  There were a few other interesting things that happened with this costuming escapade.

The most interesting was the complete shock I threw everyone into.  There was a sense of envy from the other teachers, whom grew up not knowing of Halloween, and had never seen a real Halloween costume before.  There was a sense of awe from the students, whom were only learning about Halloween for the very first time, and falling in love with the very idea. There was also a sense of confusion, about "is Halloween coming here a good thing?" from some people around.

Cultural identity is so very important here, so what happens when someone brings something new in full force?  It does throw in a bit of wonder, especially for older generations. "is it good to mix these things?"  I used to be really full force about mixing things, every thing and every one.  I still do think so in a lot of ways.  We can create new and better ideas working together, no doubt about it.

However, as people get older, I get the sense that many people are longing for the past.  That's where this "fear of change" comes from, that we hear so much about.  Obviously I'm speaking pretty hypothetically on this.

I was asked at the kindergarten, "What does one do at a Halloween party?  Do you play games?  We Japanese people really don't have a clue about what goes on at a Halloween party." Which brings me to my next topic:

Halloween party members escorted down the streets of Gifu City

I will try very hard to get a picture of this.  Anyway the event happened about two weeks ago.  Party organizers decided to discuss their Halloween party plans with the local police in Gifu city.  The decision was made that the police would meet the party goers at the station, and do a 20 minute walk to the location, with the members.

Upon first hearing about this, and all the way up until today, I thought this was the most pointless thing I had ever heard.  Why should party goers need police escort?  The event was in the papers before it even happened.  Most of the goers were actually Japanese.  We thought it was silly, and bailed out of the parade.

However, today after hearing my teacher's comments, it struck me:  Japan seriously doesn't understand Halloween.  There are people that of course do, but it's not everyone.  Further more, there could be patriots that are radically against the cultural invasion of Halloween here in Japan.  This is all speculation at this point, but I'm curious if the police escorted the members in order to protect them from any kind of attack.

I'd be interested to learn more about this.

Adventures in Thailand

In the mean time, please enjoy these random pictures from Thailand:
Women playing Go, found in the first place we stayed.  Life felt Fated.

Waterwheel in a park.

Streets of Bangkok, loaded with motorcycles.

A room like this in Thailand will cost you $4.

A room like this will cost you $3. I like it more.

We ran into this Japanese family several times on our adventure.  When I returned to Japan, I actually ran into the father here one more time, playing in a band at a local festival.

Welcome to Cambodia.