Monday, July 25, 2016

Breathtaking, Kind and Timeless Nepal: Kathmandu, Pokhara and Mardi Himal trek

Someday, I will get enough time to transfer the diary entries to the blog, but here is a blurb from my “summary thoughts” on the last day of the trip with the photos. Breathtaking mountains, amazing food and such warm people. 

“First time in Nepal, but I have a feeling it won’t be the last time. It is still very much a developing country, and seeing the effects of the earthquakes was heartbreaking, but the people’s hearts, smiles and eyes are so warm. 

I got such a genuine impression from the Nepali people. Looking straight into one’s eyes when you talk… doing what you can the best you can and with full effort…accepting nature, as is… not to hurry… being kind to people… All these things that seem easy but are difficult to keep doing, Nepali people do without any hesitations, even to strangers. It doesn't matter if a person has money or not, status or not, it’s about one human being caring for another human being. 
You can always “treat” people- with your heart, your words, and your actions, you can show respect, love and thoughtfulness. I feel so grateful to be reminded of these important things.

I also realised that I think I like experiencing “nothingness” , a sense of not being aware of time, that I get from walking in nature. Something that feels like it has no end (or not knowing when the end is) feels a bit scary, but it may be similar to life itself. And having that awareness I think allows me to have a greater capacity to take whatever that happens in life. Trekking made me realise that as people, we are all alone in the end, and that we need to use our own two feet to move forward…! 

Being in Hong Kong, everyday is very much dictated/controlled by keeping time (I know it must be the nature of my profession too), but in the natural, original sense of life of nature and human beings, time is just something that is, and just passes. But in schools, societies, work places, we cut time up into pieces, whether it’s dividing up children to grade levels, or making a timetable… Making nature unnatural, feels so unreasonable. The trip made me realise how much I value “unmeasured” time- I want to be conscious of it more, in the classroom and outside, where I do have some control.”

Special thanks to my two travel musketeers, Adriana and Aaron- you guys have expanded my way of seeing and traveling the world. With you, I have experienced and tried things I never even imagined or had courage to before, and it’s been so cool to know I can actually do these things… when you have friends that make you feel safe, things are not so scary anymore. 

A more detailed account to be followed... 




香港では(仕事柄もあると思うけれど)、時間に振り回されて生きている生活だけれど、人間や自然、本来は時間なんてただながらているものだけなはず。それが、学校とかだと、時間割や学年別に区切ったりする。自然を、不自然にしてしまうなんて、なんて理不尽だろう。 自分のできる範囲内、教室や自分の時間の中では「区切らない時間」を意識したい。」



Walking the streets of Kathmandu

Add caption

Blowing the clouds away!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Mesmerizing, Enchanting, Magical Myanmar

Sunrise in Bagan

In October of 2015, my friends and I timely (it was right before the elections) got to visit an interesting place- Myanmar. It felt a lot like traveling back in time, and in the many places we went, there was a sense of calm and peace. Perhaps because I was searching for that? It was a great time to stop, look inward and reflect. 

The sceneries and the slower flow of time are I think what I will remember the most- the sun setting over behind the mountains, lush greens moving by the wind breeze, the reflections on the surface of the water, and a sky full of sparkling stars in the middle of the lake. And moonshine so strong that the world beneath the sky looks darker... made me feel the universe. 

Silence too. Moving along, floating along in the lake in our boat, I felt silence and serenity. Living with the sun, the moon and the stars, living alongside nature...perhaps that is what I am seeking and wanting more of in my life. Hmmmm. 

There were lots of exciting "1sts"- like eating a bug, seeing a manually operated ferris wheels... a true adventure in a beautiful place. As always, I wish we had more time to see more! 

All of this was such a contrast from the turbulent history we read on Myanmar, and its fight for democracy... we saw NLD stickers and posters/books their heroine, Aung San Suu Kyi, in many places. Hoping that the sense of peace we witnessed in Burmese nature, will reach the people through democracy as well. 

Reflecting back, I find it so valuable that I am getting to experiencing these events/places real time, through my own senses. The words meant so much more as I shared my experience with the children afterwards. We read about Aung San Suu Kyi's life, discussed about what it means to "fight peacefully" for freedom... There are only 6 to 9 years olds, but children can take it all in so naturally and express how they feel about it. Just that makes me hopeful about our future, and also feel like what I am doing is worth something.

Other posts to follow what we did/where we went! 

Shwedagon Pagoda







Cycling around the ruins...

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Philippines: Palawan island フィリピン:パラワン島

In my first year of my life in Hong Kong, I felt very homesick. Despite having lived in 5 different countries so far, starting over and over again, I felt very scared leaving Japan for this new adventure at age 26. Perhaps it was the idea of committing to a full-time job that actually mattered to me: a dream-come-true of becoming a Montessori teacher, perhaps it was the idea of the unknown... any case, I was surprised at myself how "weak" I felt to take the plunge.


Perhaps because of that, I felt very homesick... and I took many of the opportunities I got to go back home to Japan. I went back for our fall break, Christmas break, spring break, and my summer! I know, a bit excessive... but looking back I feel that I must have needed it- it was an intense year and I need to fall back to an environment and people familiar to me, who I knew had my back. It provided the recharging I needed to keep going.


In February however, for the Chinese New Year holidays, I chose to join fellow coworkers to a trip to the Philippines, to Palawan island. Here are the thoughts I jotted down in my Facebook page after coming back.

Island hopping the first day 
Starfish island

”My first trip to the Philippines was to Palawan Island. Words are not enough to describe the peaceful, beautiful, calm place. First time snorkeling, discovering an amazing world down below with its fun creatures and colors, watching fireflies along a river, swimming between rocks to find beaches and lagoons, are only one of the many things we got to experience. 

First time snorkeling!
Monitor Lizard at the Underground river

Above anything, I was touched by the people. People went out of their way to help us have the best experience. The Palaweños, were very humble, but conscious, amazing problem-solvers, advocates and protectors of their own environment and heritage. 

They have a prison without walls, Iwahig Prison where they have prisoners are “free”. The prisoners are given responsibility to govern themselves and be part of a self-sustaining community through farming and fishing, and their families can move and live with them. A local guide mentioned, by giving the opposite of what they usually get, freedom, the prisoners treasure it and therefore do not leave. 

The butterfly garden work extremely hard to conserve the native species of butterflies. People study which plant each butterfly species need for its survival. Instead of the locals cutting down these plants, they ask them to breed butterflies, keep the plants and sell the cocoons/pupas to the garden for educational purposes. A beautiful helping cycle.

The young tricycle driver on our last day, Edgar, shared to me with sparkling eyes, his dreams of one day having a tricycle painted blue, with a stereo attached so he could bring music wherever he took his passengers. He said to us, “Love is what is most important. What is the point of having money if you don’t have love?” 

A truly vivid place that has taken a special place in my heart. Definitely recommend it to people!” 






Underground River

Best meal!

Hiking to a waterfall

Southeast Asia Travels

During my adventures in Hong Kong- living, meeting people, learning to become a better teacher, I am also very lucky to be able to travel and see wonderful places around Asia. I hope that I can update the impressions of these countries and experiences there in this category of the blog.

The world is such a beautiful place!


In the Philippines, Palawan island, February 2015.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

New Chapter- Montessori in Hong Kong: What led me here

After the intensive year of training in Italy, a few major things happened. Life threw many surprises at me... at the time, it was hard to make sense of, but now (2 years after!), I am grateful for the way things happen and when. Because it led to what I am experiencing now.

Towards the end of my training, my next destination was going to be Bangkok, Thailand, to set up an Elementary Montessori program. However, fate/circumstances told me otherwise, just 1 week before I was leaving.



My reaction to all that was just blank... my mind was so focused on passing the exam and to get my certification- all my energy was put to that that I felt like I had nothing left in me once it was over... even to react. I realized for the first time then and there, that I needed a break. As much as I loved my overseas experiences after graduating university (Peace Boat, Guatemala and Italy), my mind and body felt a desperate need to be stationary at one place, to reconnect with my home base (in terms of both place and people), and to digest, reflect and reconnect within myself. I decided to go back to Japan... to see what I really wanted, see where I really wanted to be, what I really wanted for myself in the future.

The months that followed were one of the hardest I have experienced in my life. But necessary. I had to stop, slow down- after years of absorbing languages, educational philosophies, different countries and cultures, it was as if my body and mind was desperate to look inwards. I needed to digest, organize, reflect within, all those experiences, and figure out what what next.
I faced a dilemma of wanting to stay in a place I love, Japan, versus, wanting to pursue what I love to do, Montessori. The two could not merge at the time... and after a few months, in my heart Montessori won over. I decided to go to Hong Kong to pursue being a Montessori teacher.



Thursday, May 7, 2015

Place #10- Hiroshima 10カ所目:広島

2nd time in Hiroshima. It wasn't in our plan to visit, but after being in Nagasaki and spending hours at the A-Bomb museum there, we told one another that we need to make a trip to visit the one in Hiroshima. It meant a lot to us that we could visit both, it made the learning that much more meaningful- because we wanted to be there and know what happened.


The museum in Hiroshima was much much extensive, with more artifacts that were painful to see. Even people's hair and skin... we could spend ages and ages watching the testimonies but were cut off yet again by the train time.


Our next destination was Kurashiki. We spent hours trying to figure out and plan our remaining trip the night before, asking people, youth hostel staff etc, and after the popular mention of Kurashiki (which we hadn't included in our initial plan) by seasoned travelers, we were on the train headed there...
aaand we enjoyed our first eki-ben, eki bentou, literally translated to "station lunchbox". Every train station has various lunch boxes that travelers can buy, that are made of local gourmet food. 


電車でのビッグイベントは、初めての駅弁!いつも色々な駅で、その土地特有の駅弁が売られていたのはもちろん見ていたけれど、やっと食べられて、上機嫌 :)

Saturday, September 14, 2013

A 10 Month Chapter

From September 2012 to the end of June 2013, i lived and studied in a unique little town called Bergamo. A 40 minute train ride from Milan, this is a beautiful city, with 2 cities inside it: Citta Alta (the ”high” city, aka the old town), and Citta Bassa (the ”Lower” city, aka the more modern town).
How did I end up in such a place? Just like my time in Guatemala was triggered by Peace Boat, so was this opportunity. On Peace Boat, I was fortunate to encounter and learn about Montessori education (read more about it here: - a child-centered approach to education that follows the child and that aids their process of development.
I had come to learn about this approach to education and life- in Italy.  Every year in Bergamo, the international montessori teacher training course for teaching elementary children of ages 6-12 is being held. Students from all over the world, from different countries, background and ages, meets in this small town, to share an intense year together. 


A shot of Bergamo from Citta Bassa, Citta Alta visible at the top
I learned so much in these 10 months- combined with Peace Boat and Guatemala, it almost feels like I did more learning these past 2 years than all my years in school combined. Yet, the feeling we were left with after this year, was that there is so much more that we dont know about… and that is an exciting feeling on its own.
I met warm, interesting, and inspiring, individuals during this chapter too- coming from the U.S., Finland, New Zealand, Mexico, Romania, Japan, Korea. Almost all new to the Italian life, we became a bit of a family- sharing the good times, perhaps more the tough times…


Although the Montessori studying took up literally almost all the time, there were other aspects making up my life in italy too: living at a boarding house run by a convent. The life there was a chapter on its own- of sometimes confusion, sometimes angry voices and screaming, but mostly of yummy smelling food, laughter and lots and lots of love.
I hope to share in the blog, even just a taste of what my year was like… including what i learned about the Montessori approach, daily life and weird incidences at the convent, food, places, people…  all the while, trying to finish the unfinished posts for my time in Guatemala and the Japan Trip.