2008-11-09

soul-searching november 9


i received the bad news first on wednesday. it was a sad day. i learned that the result on my brother’s medical tests was not as good at all as i’d hoped. when i talked to him on the phone, he was in good spirits as usual, though. he’s got to be ready for a long fight against cancer. my brother’s always a gentle soul, but i detected a bit of irritation in his voice. i know very well how he feels. he must be angry about himself having neglected to have check-ups even when he noticed some symptoms. maybe, all i can do now for him is care for him as his only sister.


on the previous night, an expat friend of mine phoned me from london. we had a long chat, exchanging gossips and updating information about our own lives. naturally, who’d be the next american president was among our topics. she said she didn’t want barack obama to be elected because his grandmother (step-grand mother to be precise), sisters and brothers (half-siblings) live in the slums of kenya and fellow african people’s high hopes would be big trouble for his future as president. -- how? i couldn’t help feeling sad as i heard her making such remarks. she was very generous friend of mine who was always there for me when i lived in london. but, yes, i remember our own world views were different.
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the good news followed the bad one, though. barack obama (a brief but pretty lengthy biography of him on the guardian here) was elected as the new american president. if i were a voter i’d unconditionally stand by him: mostly because he seems to be scrupulously fair with everyone and, unlike usual fat cats, he shows a great deal of respect even for those who disagree with him; partly because i’m interested in his mix-raced and multi-cultural background and, needless to say, he is one of black (half) americans who were born to fight for unreasonable discrimination even in this 21st century. his, and all the unprejudiced americans’ triumph pleased and relieved me no end.


at the same time, it worried me over his safety. i already begun to fear that he should be the highest-profiled target for some crazy white-supremacists, as i watched the video of his impressive victory speech on the election night in chicago. anyway, he stood still before the sea of his ecstatic supporters, including emotional jesse jackson with tears in his eyes. barack obama’s inner equilibrium was incredible. it was the most beautiful and moving speech i’ve ever heard in my life. directly or indirectly, we all did share his victory. the scene of his speech became “a night to remember” for us. i was glued to the video on my pc for some 17 minutes. i was touched. i played it over and over again. what a historic night!


when barack obama visited berlin in july, he was cordially welcomed by berliners and 200,000 people turned up to hear his speech in tiergarten. and i noticed that in his victory speech he quoted the fall of the berlin wall. that was certainly a night to remember, too. on the 9th of november, 1989, when the wall came down, i was in london with my little kids. we were watching live tv news captured the euphoria of all berliners. then, the tension of the cold war faded out. meanwhile, my family eventually fell apart and my life, going back and forth between london and tokyo, changed a lot. and 10 years later, i was alone in berlin. i was there to share and celebrate the 10th anniversary of the fall of the berlin wall with berliners.

why? because i was a simpleton, like those local residents of a japanese city, obama 小浜 (means “tiny beach”) of which pronunciation happens to be the same as american president-elect, who gatherd to celebrate his victory with hula dance (what a joke!). in early september, 1999, i flew to berlin from tokyo and for 3 months i lodged with marianne, who was a costume designer, in her spacious apartment near savignyplatz, belonging to the posh neighbourhood. to tell you the truth, celebrating the anniversary was a pretext for my berlin trip. although i genuinely had sentiment towards the fall of the berlin wall, i wanted to leave tokyo, or rather, just wanted to change my spiritless tokyo life, feeling that everything i did came to naught.
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in berlin, marianne’s apartment was full of inspirations. i roamed around the city day after day. i loved galleries in mitte. i loved tiergarten. i loved taking #129 buses and s-bahn between savignyplatz and hackescher markt. i truly loved berlin. i met new people. i went to see exhibitions, operas and concerts with them or alone as much as i could afford. before flying back to tokyo, my sentimental journey was supposed to culminate with the special night of november 9th. actually, it was a bit of disappointment – i was there only to find berliners’ indifference to the celebration. they had to deal with reality first. the whole city stayed normal, except for the people hired to work for the celebration, well, for celebration’s sake.


marienne didn’t even mention the berlin wall that day. one of americans i met at the goethe insititute, pete, who lamented over his country’s unpopularity among germans (already in 1999!), flew home before the anniversary. it was drizzling but unseasonably a mild night. i went out alone to see what was happening at the brandenburg gate. when i got there, the celebration was officially over and the crowds already started to disperse. berlin’s symbol of freedom looked a little fragile in the misty rain. what a night... i’d never imagined the 10th anniversary of the fall of the berlin wall would turn out like that. but yet, no matter how things went, no matter what my motivation was, berlin provided me time and space for soul-searching. i needed to look back at my past 10 years in order to see where i was standing and where i was going.


19 years passed. the world has become more complicated than ever since the berlin wall came down. i really hope barack obama’s new america will regain its popularity from the rest of the world. and 9 years have raced by since i bade good bye to berlin. i’m reflecting on my personal life -- how many times have i started over since then? did i go wrong somewhere? are my children happy about me now? is my mother contented with her life much involving me? and, oh, my brother, when he came here last week for his cancer confession to make, did he expect me to cry? (i didn’t, in front of him) – november 9th has become, somehow, a day to search soul and heart for me.



wow. i's so nice to find your comments on my last post. thank you so much for kind words, which mean a lot to me. my brother is as strong as me ;) i'm sure he will win his fight!

1 comment:

needfulfriendsundkoboldkinder said...

dear keiko,

I am so very sorry to hear about your brother. wish I could help...I have you both in my thoughts and prayers...hope it helps.

hugs anja