Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Loneliness Can Kill

These days, almost every day, when I wake up, anxiety attacks. It feels like my wrists are swollen with blood circulation. And an article in The Economist, How Does It Really Feel to Be Lonely, expresses many things that I also feel.


“’I’m lonely, and I want to have a family’, and there’s a kind of shame in that.”

“if I were to write the truth [to a dating site] – that I’m lonely and worried I might not have a family – it would be just the most off-putting thing.”

“The greatest suffering is being lonely, feeling unloved, just having no one,” Mother Teresa wrote.

“They feel ashamed or embarrassed, as though feeling lonely isn’t something serious.”

“I think it is very likely”, [the psychologist Adam Phillips] says, “that people who are lonely as adults were lonely as children.”

Looking back, James explains, he reckons he had begun to distance himself from his parents and their bitterly unhappy marriage when he was about six. By the time they divorced, when he was nine, he was “completely separate” from them: “I was living in the same house as my mother and sister, but I probably wouldn’t spend more than 15 minutes a day in their company. I routinely had meals alone, then went back up to my room and stayed there, alone.”

“Loneliness is worthlessness. You feel you don’t fit in, that people don’t understand you. You feel terrible about yourself, you feel rejected. Everyone goes to the pub, but they don’t invite you. Why? Because there’s something wrong with you.”

“Like being surrounded by a dark void that you have no way of crossing.”

“Mental-health problems and depression are quite fashionable now, but loneliness is not fashionable. There’s something shameful about it – ‘it’s my fault, there’s something wrong with me, I’m a horrible person.’”

For 91-year-old Robbie, living in Kent and a widower since 2012, “loneliness is not having somebody to do nothing with.”

After three books by Kaiko, I’m now reading The Sacred Willow by Mai Eliott. Yesterday, another book by Tim O’brien, If I Die in a Combat Zone, arrived and Tanizawa Eiichi’s book on Kaiko should be on its way here.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Ridiculous Foreign Language Learning in Japan

This afternoon, interpretation. Only for a few hours, but I had to follow speakers who never stopped for me.

And tonight, I finished Kaiko Takeshi’s autobiography, Torn Cocoon (破れた繭). The book covers many of the same things I’ve read about in Blue Monday, but there are several differences. For example, a maid working at a US military dormitory (Blue Monday), who asked about the pronunciation of “water,” becomes an “airline stewardess” (Torn Cocoon), who asked if he had been to Korea, the questions he had to handle at an English conversation school he was working. And the man who asked for private lessons for his upcoming trip to the US. In Blue Monday, he is the company president of a pharmacy chain in Osaka and in Torn Cocoon he is the company president of a confectionary manufacturer.

航空会社のスチュワーデス「韓国へ行ったことがありますか」(破れた繭 耳の物語1)
「菓子会社の社長」(破れた繭 耳の物語1)

But, a passage in Torn Cocoon, where my eyes stopped flowing, roughly says, “I was made to feel the pleasure of a sailor who is approaching a desert island by deconstructing long, complicated English sentences and reconstructing them in Japanese.”

「長くて複雑な英語の文章を分解したり日本文に組立てなおしたりする仕事には無人島に近づいていく水夫の愉しみをおぼえさせられた」 (開高健:破れた繭 耳の物語1)

Later, Kaiko laments his own lack of understanding of English in The Cross of Saigon. That’s not surprising at all. He tried to learn English by deconstructing English sentences and reconstructing them in Japanese. That is how it still is in Japan, I guess. Understanding English as and in Japanese… It doesn’t work. It never will. Deconstructing and reconstructing is just like adding numbers and symbols to Chinese texts to make them appear Japanese sentences! That’s not the way to learn Chinese, though I know those “Chinese” classes are not intended to teach students to learn the Chinese language. But what a waste… People still don’t seem to understand it, and teachers only follow the way given by the Ministry of Education that probably knows nothing about language learning. The maid’s question about the “water” pronunciation is stupid, and the teacher, Kaiko, didn’t know how to handle it.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Against the Flood by Ma Van Khang and Kaiko Takeshi

Now I remember on August 2 at CC, I said, “I can be very irritable when I’m busy and depressed when I have no business.” He said, “Then, you’re alive.” True, but tough.

On Saturday (21st), I woke up early. And I even thought about having bak ku the as breakfast in the neighborhood, but moved to the sofa and, lying down on it, began reading the remaining pages of Against the Flood by Ma Van Khang and, after the last page of it, started to read Aoi Getsuyobi (Blue Monday) by Kaiko. Against the Flood had an unexpected turn, with the beautiful “Hoan,” dealing with opium trade to get rich to shame those cowards and schemers who had acted against a man, “Khiem,” she so loved, being put in prison and mysteriously being freed by her “Network.” We don’t know if Hoan and Khiem ever met again. And it seems to me the story is rather forced, leaving me to think, “Oh no. Don’t stop there.” I wish I could read Vietnamese.

Reading Aoi Getsuyobi explains, and helps me understand, parts of Kaiko’s later works that I’ve read, Into a Black Sun and Darkness in Summer.

I still have Mai Elliot’s The Sacred Willow to read, whom I’ve met in PBS’s The Vietnamese War by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, and Kaiko’s two volumes of his autobiography.

Surprisingly, Kaiko Takeshi describes in Blue Monday most of the countless “English conversation schools” sprouted up right after the war’s end “indecent.” “Indecent” is the adjective I always use for the “English conversation industry” where I had worked from the late 1980s to the early 1990.

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Harsh Criticism of Japanese by "Her" in Darkness in Summer

In Darkness of Summer (夏の闇), “she,” who is Japanese and hates Japanese, harshly and mercilessly criticizes them (ヤマト) for their:

Gait, which is graceless;
Look in the eyes, especially of intellectuals, which is both fearful and arrogant;
Anxiety for being alone and inability of being independent (sitting against the wall at restaurants, sitting together with other Japanese, and eating with Japanese correspondents and academics every day at the same restaurant);
Incapability of being original (similarity of overseas reports from Japanese newspapers because correspondents exchange information among themselves and rehashes of articles of overseas newspapers);
Mutual soothing of correspondents, academics and businessmen by cussing which can be understood only among themselves;
Mutual cussing among correspondents, academics and businessmen as soon as they parted;
Sly behavior of academics who quickly translate academic articles published overseas (“horizontal to vertical”) to become popular if they are consistent with the wave of Japanese media;
Inability of academics of reaching conclusions as a result of serious discussion with overseas peers;
Hopeless attitude of academics who launch overbearing debates with decisive conclusions once back home; and
Wrong, funny and bad translations by academics;

After these, “she” describes a “God-like” Japanese scholar in Kyoto, whose speech in Chinese was not understood at all by Chinese and a very prestigious Japanese scholar of English in Tokyo, whose speech in English at a Shakespeare Association in “London or somewhere” was not comprehended at all. Then, “she” wonders if a Shakespeare scholar should write his diary in the language of Shakespeare.

Her criticism continues.

Members of agricultural associations who walk in hotel corridors wearing only “steteko,” underpants for men that go below the knees, saying that if they have enough money to travel overseas, they should set things in order inside their families and surroundings;
Attitude of trading houses, who with overseas allowances that make them feel bigger than they are, for indulging in shallow luxuries;
Hitchhiking girls who get pregnant by falling to foreign men only with their making a little pass;
Attitude of gentlemen, who begin sex talks with drinks, whose cocks shrinks as soon as they see the naked bodies of White prostitutes and, nonetheless, boast about their experience;
Tourists who give “ukiyoe” postal stamps and “kokeshi” dolls to anybody from hotel porters to tobacco-peddling girls at cabarets;
Cameo sellers in Italy who hawk to Japanese with wide grins, singing an old Japanese song for kids;
Embassy officials who cuss the smell of Limberger cheese while spreading that of pickled white radish and “kusaya” dried fish;
Tokyo with more than 100,000 people and enthusiastic about building highways and skyscrapers for dumping shit of 60-70% of its population into sea by ship;
Reporters, academics and critics who cuss Japan and the Japanese; and
Translators who are also literati, publishing companies, newspapers, right-wingers, left-wingers and everything “she” can think about Japan and the Japanese

I don’t hate Japanese. Nor do I hate being Japanese. And I’m not arrogant being Japanese. Nor am I ashamed of being one. However, I absolutely understand what “she” says here. I think these comments reflect the author’s own experiences and his own inability to be otherwise.

Monday, September 02, 2019

Tough Japanese Sentences to Read and This Sinking Feeling

In Shining Darkness too, there is a scene in Gia Định, where a Buddhist monk wearing a yellow robe recites an open letter addressed to André Malraux. I have no idea if Kaiko really heard such a recitation by such a monk or if this is purely his own creation. Oh, so tough to read.

My feeling keeps sinking. Where is this coming from? I feel people leaving me, moving away from me. A familiar feeling, but I’ve never felt it as strongly as now. I know I have nothing to blame me for. I know I’m not looking for someone. This may be only a backlash of Saigon because I was so excited there. Just like how I often feel after an interpretation job. This week, I have a 3-day interpretation job (Wednesday to Friday) and four days next week (Monday to Thursday). During the days of interpretation, I feel tense and nervous, sometimes extremely, but never down. I hope the people I’ll see this week are nice. (I’ve met and worked before with those who I’ll see next week.)

Sunday, September 01, 2019

Always Fishy: Conversations in Non-Japanese Languages Depircted by Japanese Authors

Yesterday, I received another book by Kaiko, 輝ける闇 (Into a Black Sun).

These days, Vpost is more reliable though using its service costs more. Courier services Amazon uses to send stuff directly to my address is so unreliable and frustrating that I am now fed up with them completely.

The story of the book, set in Việt Nam, is about the experience of a novelist assigned as a temporary newspaper reporter, stationed in the war-torn country. About himself, in short.

In Crucifix of Saigon, he admits that his poor knowledge of foreign languages. But in his works, he still uses French and English words. His translation of interviews of Lieutenant Colonel “Tran Van Duc (チャン・ヴァン・ダック),” who was a political officer of the regular force of the North and defected to the South, is tough to read. It is as if done by a Japanese university kid who knows something about English.

Reading books by Japanese authors about those days during the war, I often encounter scenes where they converse with non-Japanese in a language which is not Japanese. They seem to flow flawlessly. I must wonder how they could have been possible. Even today, this may not be possible, thinking about people I’ve met here for the past almost 20 years.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Having Lost Business?

This has been a quiet business month, mostly because, I guess, Singapore had a long weekend and, of course, Japan had its summer holiday, except last weekend when I rushed to finish a large volume of translation.

For September, work has already been confirmed on 4th, 5th, 6th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th and 25th. All for interpretation. Not too bad. But the job on 25th is from the company I’ve been working for the past two and half years, and in Singapore only for three hours. Back in July, I wasn’t asked to go to Senai, Johor, as it had been the case. This month, no request at all. This is something ominous. It is quite inconceivable nothing is happening there. It seems I’ve lost work there.

Nobody at the company has explained to me why this is happening. My guess is that they are now paying more attention to the expenses required for my interpretation. And not surprisingly at all, they can save much money if they engage an interpreter in Johor. This is what people, who know little about interpretation, do. For me as an interpreter, intangible things like if I know the place and if I know the people there have a significant meaning because I believe, from my own experience, interpretation is not word-replacement work. And in practical terms, working with those people in Singapore is not very easy for me.

I feel the friendship I’ve built with so many people in Senai and a little knowledge I’ve acquired is being wasted. Work with them has always been my priority. This is certainly not only about money, though if this continues (it appears it will), it’ll affect my business considerably. 

Today, it was 4:00 PM when I got out of bed, hoping that the day would never break. I didn’t want to open my eyes, while, with my eyes closed shut, seeing scenes continuously changing, incoherent and disjoined.  This has happened so many times before. But it is rather amazing to see what a short period of two weeks can make. I was so active in Sài Gòn, ain’t I?

I’m sure this financial year, ending next month, makes profit. But the next one may be my final year.

The criminal, probably under a fake identity in Hong Kong, may still be accessing this blog. Pay me back! You’ve managed to escape only because of the incompetence of your country’s enforcement authorities.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Japan Pensions Service -- Very Much Miserable


Day 5 in Sai Gon

Day 5, Thursday (15th): Breakfast of two bananas. I didn’t have much time before I had to leave the hotel to catch a 12:30 SIA flight (SQ177).

I left the hotel at around quarter past ten. The metered taxi took me to Tân Sơn Nhất Airport in time, and the driver started almost shouting at me when I was getting out, saying, “Một cái…” The lady passenger who got into the passenger’s seat before I got out translated for me, “another 10,000.” For what? I guessed this was a tip for handling my small suitcase. I didn’t need any trouble. I handed a 10,000-dong bill to him.

Then, I didn’t have to, but I went to the airport restaurant and ordered a mug of Tiger beer and a US$16 (!) “Hue Beef Noodle Soup (Bun Bo Hue)” and quickly finished it. And almost rushed to Gate 15 (I had to wait for a long time for the noodle soup to come to the table). Unlike SQ184 of last Sunday, this fight was packed. I found an Indian guy had occupied my seat, one row wrong. And this concluded my place-finding trip to Sài Gòn, filled with so many cans of beer and bad sleep and much sweating and blisters. Only walking around with no time to appreciate any scenery.
I had to seek help from so many people to find the places I wanted to see, many of which are certainly not tourist spots. And I still have more to see there. This time, I really didn’t have enough time to visit all, as my time was taken up for walking and more walking. Sincere thanks to all who helped me. And FUCK YOU to those who tried to cheat me.

Day 4 in Sai Gon

Day 4, Wednesday (14th): Breakfast again (!!) with scrambled egg, salad, bread and coffee. Because of my painful blister, I decided not to walk very far. I wanted to find 36 Lê Lợi, where Kaiko lived during his visit in 1973. From the hotel, I started walking down Lý Tự Trọng and before reaching Lê Lợi, one of the largest boulevards in this city, I found the CIA safehouse, crossed the street and went to a small garden adjacent to the building directly facing the safehouse. Now I could see the rooftop of it clearly.
But “36,” was not easy to find, as should be, because the whole street seemed to be a
“36” at an alley corner and, walking into it, an apartment building. Very old and almost dilapidated. I saw a hair salon at the ground floor and walked up the spiral stairs to its fourth or fifth floor, as high as I could go. Was Kaiko, a regular of Hotel Majestic, really staying here for his last visit to Sài Gòn? Kaiko also writes about a noodle shop “聯光酒店” at Pasteur which he seemed to visit frequently. I couldn’t find it.
And walking down the street, I heard someone speaking to me from behind. “Do you speak English?” I turned around and answered, “I do.” The man, a Westerner, said, “I lost my bag two days ago…” I remembered reading an article about “Western beggars” and said, “Go to the police.” “Thank you and have a nice day.”

I went back to the Gingko shop and bought three T-shirts. Walking toward the hotel, I thought about having lunch at the Market but I didn’t, finding a family of rats, busy and voracious there.

Back at the hotel, I read some pages. I took a shower. Out for dinner of seafood spaghetti and lime juice at Café Lamenda, very near the hotel.

Day 3 in Sai Gon

Day 3, Tuesday (13th): After breakfast (!!) of omelet, salad, bread and coffee. I took a “decent” cab to the zoo, though it took several minutes to make the driver understand “zoo” with help from a hotel guy. Really sorry I don’t speak your language. Well, I did want to have a look at the zoo, where Kondo had visited, but my priority was the former US Embassy.

I found the UK Consul General office and asked the security guards there where the US “Embassy” was. They pointed just across the street. I crossed it but saw no sign of the US Consul General. The only sign I saw along Lê Duẩn (Thống Nhứt) Street was the one of French Consul General. I walked around and around, drenched with sweat again and asking people. Still. I thought wrongly that the premises of the former US Embassy were detached from the current Consul General compound, open for the general public, because of a photo I saw on “Wekipedia” about the place.

I asked the security guard at the US Consulate General gate of Mạc Đĩnh Chi. He said, “We destroyed everything,” probably not understanding my question. I turned to Lê Duẩn one more time and asked another security guard, and he pointed to yet another guard at the, supposedly main, entrance.

I said to him,
“I’m looking for the site of the former US Embassy. Is there a garden or park inside.”
He said, “Yes. Where are you from?”
“Japan (not really...)”
“How long have you been in Vietnam?”
“Three days.”
I then asked him if I could go in there.
He asked “Why?” 
“I only want to take a few photos there.”
“Only the employees can go.”

I gave up and crossed Lê Duẩn (an irony that this street is named as such for the US) to the other side and started taking a few photos of the US compound.
After a few photos, I noticed that security guard showing to me an X sign with his arms crossed over his head (no photos, please). He was watching me. I crossed the street again to have a look at the Tet Offensive memorial, built by Vietnamese, and the guard who had directed me to another tried to stop me. Why, I thought. This is a memorial built by the Vietnamese Government. I showed my right index finger without a word to him, telling him I only intended to take a photo of it. He said, “Quickly.”

That’s all about the former US Embassy. So much walk again, to find almost nothing. I went to the zoo, Kondo’s favorite, and saw a sickly bear.
It was a zoo as sickly as the bear. And it started drizzling. With my feet giving away because of the blisters, I took a taxi, parked in front of the zoo entrance, to go to the “War Remnants Museum.”  

In 2008, I visited the museum. I learned from Nothing Ever Dies by Viet Thanh Nguyen that the museum had been renovated. It was. Better presented, at least visually maybe, with Bob Kerry panels added.  I remember back then in 2008 finding plastic benches outside, which were marked “Donated by the Japanese Communist Party.” They were gone. Those “tiger cage (chuồng cọp)” exhibits were new, which didn’t impress me because of their rather shabby design, reminding me of some show tent of old days in Japan, “exhibiting” a wolf girl, an octopus girl or a cow man. Instead, I found young “V sign” girls who were taking turns being taken photos in front of those weapons. Depressing. And the camera battery went dead.. Those weapons had fresh paint. I was wondering if those US weapons are regularly repainted for public view by Vietnamese.

I asked a security guard of the museum for the direction to Nam Kỳ Khởi Nghĩa (Công Ly) Street. Walking more, I passed a Japanese language school with the name of Murayama Tomiichi (ha!!), and after I found the street, I had a very late lunch of grilled salmon and lime juice at Café RuNam along the street and got a few mosquito bites there. 194 Công Ly, where the farewell party for Edward Lansdale was held from “4 p.m. on June 8, 1968, the early start necessitated by the curfew in post
-Tet Saigon, Three hundred guests packed the second floor.” (p. 528. The Road Not Taken) Now, the building standing there seems to belong to Petro Viet. As I left there after two photos, a man came out of the guard house, and from his hand gesture with the thumb rubbing the tips of other fingers, I knew he was demanding money for my photo taking, though I didn’t understand a word he was saying. I said, “Someone I knew was living here many years ago,” I don’t think he understood me, and I ignored him.
Walking down Nam Kỳ Khởi Nghĩa to the direction from which I came, I passed Café RuNam, reached the Palace and turned to Hàn Thuyên, seeing the old Time-Life office again. Ahead was the Cathedral being now renovated. I was trying to find the Central Post Office only to have a look at it. Going around the behind of the Cathedral, I didn’t know where I was again, and entered Intercontinental Hotel for a tourist map. Still not sure because the map was not very helpful, I asked the same hotel man who had given me the map for the direction to the Central Post Office. He, as any hotel man should, went out of the entrance and explained it to me. “Cross the street and go through the bookstore alley and turn to the left.” Just recently, I had read a VnExpress article about these bookstores. Then, easy to find there. Outside and inside, I took a few photos. And that was it.

I thought about taking a taxi. But I walked back to the hotel. One of my blisters, covered with two platers, was bleeding.

After a rest, I, limping because of the pain of the bleeding blister, walked around the Market. Rather reluctantly, I settled down for dinner at the izakaya at the intersection with Trương Định. This izakaya seemed quite popular and I noticed not only Japanese but Vietnamese and Westerners as its customers.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Day 2 in Sai Gon

Day 2, Monday (12th): My first full day. Woke up with a nightmare. I had breakfast at the hotel dining area, open for guests from 6:30 to 9:30. It was not superb but certainly acceptable, though I stopped “Singapore fried noodles” only after a bite because I felt the taste was funny. A surprise is that I had breakfast!

I started walking. Westward straight from the hotel, toward the city center. Though I had a few printed Google maps, my knowledge of places was very unreliable. After a while, I realized Lý Tự Trọng, where the hotel stood, was the former Gia Long and found the “CIA safehouse”/USAID building,” from the rooftop of which the last US military chopper left Sài Gòn on April 30, 1975, rather easily. I crossed the street, but I couldn’t see the rooftop structure because of the height of the building.
Then I came across the Cathedral and moved on to the Independence Palace (Dinh Độc Lập). I lost the sense of direction almost completely as I somehow thought the Palace was facing south to the river when actually the main gain was on the western side to the direction to Saigon Zoo. It seems I walked the entire perimeter of the place.

After a few photos and only a few blocks away, I managed to find 7 Hàn Thuyên, where Time-Life had its office and Robert Sam Anson worked before she was sent to Cambodia.
Next. Continental Hotel and its restaurants, Le Bourgiois (Radio Catinat) and Le Dolce Vita. And Union Square, formerly Eden Building, a corner of which Givral used to occupy. Each of all these places has a significant meaning for the life of Pham Xuan An. Nearby were Opera House and Caravelle Hotel. I walked down Đồng Khởi, looking for 104. Along the way, I found a sign that indicated probably a temporary location of Brodard, which some authors mention, including Morley Safer. 104 Đồng Khởi (rue Catinat, back then) was the address Graham Greene “borrowed” for The Quiet American from a couple who lived there. I found 103 Đồng Khởi and 105 Đồng Khởi, not 104 Đồng Khởi.
Down to Saigon River, I turned to the right toward Hotel Majestic and found a statue of Trần Hưng Đạo, about whom I have no idea. Anyway, I took a photo of him as a good tourist. Then, I took a photo of another Singapore establishment, Jumbo Seafood. I climbed up to the 8th-floor of the hotel to the bar, M Bar, where I saw only a couple sitting outside. Already so much walking, I also took a seat outside and ordered a can of “333” and felt relaxed, looking at the opposite side of the river and wondering where all those large “Heineken” billboards had gone. And much surprised seeing all those skyscrapers going up across the river. After 40 minutes or so, I left the bar, and in the elevator lobby was a framed photo of Kaiko Takeshi.
I walked to Nguyễn Huệ from Hotel Majestic, a short distance. One of the few areas I walked around three years ago. There stood an old-looking building which might be the area, where the former Japanese Embassy stood.

At the other end of Nguyễn Huệ was Rex Hotel, whose rooftop sign advertised it as the place of “Five O’clock Follies.” Ha!!
Completely drenched with sweat, I returned to Sunrise Central Hotel and found my feet got a few blisters after this much of walk. I took a shower, read some pages of The Crucifix of Saigon by Kaiko (I had read it a few times already) and had a short nap.

I went west to the direction of Phạm Ngũ Lão, where Kondo Koichi lived with his wife and her family. Some people were playing dá cầu (shuttlecock) very skillfully in Công viên 23 tháng 9 (September 23rd Park). No photo remained from my previous visit here three years ago because my Nikon had got broken. Back then, if I’m not mistaken, “ABC Bakery” was still in business. Though I found the place again this time, closed now with the “ABC” shutter painted over with black but with “ABC” still visible. Kondo writes that his “ghost house” on Phạm Ngũ Lão was adjacent to a bakery which made unbearable noises from 2:00 am.
Already so much walk… At the corner of Phạm Ngũ Lão and Tôn Thất Tùng, I had very late lunch (early evening, still bright) of soup noodles of beef and tendon and lime juice. The place is called “Phở Quỳnh,” which a Japanese website described “Neither good nor bad.” Good enough for me.

Now, my quest for the temple, “Chùa An Lạc,” “Q Café” and the guesthouse where I spent three weeks, none of which I could locate three years ago even though I walked into this alley and that while asking many people, especially superbly kind ladies of massage parlors. Nobody knew where the temple was then. And it was already dark, and I was “mentally sick.” This time again, I had to ask someone standing in front of a Bùi Viện bar, showing her a printed Google map, for the direction to the temple.

With her help. I found Chùa An Lạc. The alley was decorated with red lanterns. As I remember, the temple was, well, like a temple, with a gate, and behind it was small space of soil to the temple itself. But Chùa An Lạc I saw this time had a living space right behind the gate with people inside. They seemed to be living there. It was the temple, no doubt, but it was not as I remembered it.
And Q Café of so many memories… I thought it was on the same alley. The area looked still familiar to me after 10 years. After a little hesitation, I hopped into a bar, “Restaurant Phuong.” Several Westerners having beer outside. Just like Q Café. Inside, I saw a woman and a young teenager of the bar having dinner and customers, probably a family, a man and a woman and their little daughter. After a small bottle of Saigon Bia Special, I asked the woman who should be the master of the place.

“How old is this place?”
“25 years.”
“Do you remember “Q Café?”
“Q Café… finished.”

I got confused again. I thought Q Café was on this alley and even this bar was Q Café. In any case, Q Café was no more. After a second bottle of Saigon Bia Special, I left the bar. The woman smiled at me, maybe because I remembered that old Q Café. And the guesthouse was gone too, I believe.
Back at the hotel, I found a few blisters on my feet after a 6-hour walk.

Day 1 in Sai Gon

And Sài Gòn… I thought I would never come to this city again after my last visit in 2016. But there I was and came back to Singapore with several mosquito bites and blisters in my soles.

Day 1, Sunday (11th): Unsure of any on-board meal, I ordered a bowl of plain noodles at the T2 food court and couldn’t finish it. No appetite in Singapore. I took SIA’s SQ184, leaving Changi at 13:30 as scheduled. The flight was half-empty, something I’d probably never experienced on a SIA flight for many years! Some turbulence over Singapore, but it went smoothly all the way to Sai Gon. A meal was served but I couldn’t finish this either.

Tân Sơn Nhất Airport seemed to be the same, more or less. The immigration officer of the line looked tired with so many people he had to process. But at the arrival hall, there were counters for taxi booking. I should’ve booked one there, but I didn’t because I thought it would be easy to take a “Grab” taxi. Then, I found out Grab offered only motorbike-riding services, not suitable for someone who had a suitcase, no matter how small that was. Or so I thought. I really should’ve booked a taxi at one of the counters as the driver I ended up with was one of those taxi robbers, just like the one who had stolen my 4,000 yen from my wallet three years ago. For the money for (perhaps) the parking fee and while I was trying to find the correct bank notes, he tried to grab my wallet. I resisted hard because that was exactly how I was robbed last time. As I resisted so hard, he gave up and asked me to get out of his car. I was happy to do so. I took another to go to the hotel and paid 250,000 dong. Too much maybe, but I was safe.

I had never stayed at a place (guesthouses and cheap hotels) with a window in Saigon. This time, just the same. Little wonder Sunrise Central Hotel was so cheap especially when its location is considered (along Ly Tu Trong, near Chợ Bến Thành), which was probably an ideal to walk around District 1 of Sai Gon. The size of the bedroom was fine, and its bathroom, partly because of the bathtub, was quite large. A problem of this window-less room was that it was either all bright with the lights on or all dark with them off, confusing me about what time it was.

I had let my friend in Saigon know about my trip, and she set the time for our meeting for dinner at 6:00 pm, giving me some time for settling down at the hotel. And she postponed the time to 6:30. No problem with me. The Vietnamese restaurant, “Bếp Mẹ Ỉn,” which she had chosen for dinner, was near the hotel and I had no trouble finding it. She was already there when I reached the place. We shook hands and had a gentle hug. Her friend joined us perhaps 15 minutes later. We all had a good time. Or so I hope. And something astonishing to learn is that my friend, now married, sees her husband, working in New Mexico, only once a year. After her friend left on a Grab motorbike, we walked around the night market before we said good night to each other at the hotel. Did I talk to her about enough of what’s been happening to me, or not happening to me? Thanks to her and her friend.

At the intersection of Lý Tự Trọng and Trương Định, to the west side from the hotel, I found three Japanese restaurants, a ramen shop (Ringer Hut), an udon shop (Marukame Udon) and an izakaya (Maruman) and a Singaporean sushi restaurant (Sushi Tei). Sài Gòn being contaminated.

Ken Burns's "The Vietnam War," "The English Patient," and "Paco's Story"

On 15th (Thursday), I collected “The Vietnam War (DVD)” by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, “The English Patient (DVD)” and Paco’s Story by Larry Heinemann at the “POP Station” at Thomson Plaza. “The Vietnam War” taught me more about the war. It mentioned John Paul Vann in the battle of Ap Bac, but not Edward Lansdale, though I saw him in some footage with Ngo Dinh Diem. “The English Patient” was a huge disappointment. I had read the original novel. The movie completely omitted Kip’s thoughts about the bomb on Hiroshima. Paco’s Story required to read through much effort because of the way people speak in the novel. Powerful and sad.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Water Leak from Bathroom Ceiling, Second Time in 4+ Years

At around 4 pm today, I noticed dripping sounds somewhere and I thought some work was going on at the swimming pool of the next condo which faces this unit. Then I felt the sounds were coming from some place much nearer. I found the bathroom ceiling was leaking in a big way. Again! This happened a few years ago and the water heater had to be replaced then. I immediately contacted the owner and agent and the plumber the agent arranged came within two hours. He said, “heater spoiled.” Oh no. Believing he is an honest guy, it means the heater lasted only for less than 4 years! The man will come again tomorrow, bringing his cutter to make an opening to the ceiling and a new heater.

Saturday, August 03, 2019

A's Return

Last night at CC (I was there because it was F’s anniversary of passing), I heard from Boss that A had come back to Singapore and is working here. Boss himself has not seen A (he learned of his return from another person who had accidentally met him) and it seems A has not contacted any of those people who encouraged, criticized or helped him back then. Even S, a fellow country guy of A who was drinking with his friends at CC last night and one of those who definitely helped him, didn’t know he had come back. He asked me, “how’s A doing?” Or did he pretend he didn’t know?

I’m not angry with A. Not at all. It’s just this cloudy feeling that I have when I consider how miserable he was then and how he disappeared (absolutely no word to his friends) and how he came back this time (absolutely no word to his friends). I don’t even think I’d like to see him now. It’s all up to him to mind his own business. I don’t care. But still, I can't erase this cloudy feeling that we, or at least a few of us who were closest to him, deserve better.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Feeling Like Strangling Someone

Last Monday in Singapore: I attended a few meetings as interpreter. In one of them, I was looking at a material written in English, projected onto the screen of the room. I really didn’t understand much of it because it was so badly written. Why can anybody be happy writing and reading something like this? The author is someone I’ve been working with since February 2017 and he is a division manager. I felt disappointed.

Last Tuesday in Singapore: I almost felt like strangling someone. She, manager of another division, simply did not stop talking and went on almost two hours without a break. (And it was not the first time I felt this way with the person.) How can anybody expect me to be able to follow someone like her. (She is a very nice person, though.) And the PPT material she had prepared was incomprehensible to me in many places.

It does seem to me the mistrust that has been shown by their UK sister company may be because of bad writing by these people in managerial positions in Singapore and Malaysia (and possibly Japan too). How are they communicating with each other, I wonder?

With no respect to language, they make no effort to make their writings grammatically correct and succinct. They do not have to be beautiful.

A few morning ago, my mother appeared in a dream. It was a nightmare.

Sometimes, the power button of this Acer PC, bought only a year and five months ago, does not work…

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Today's Work, Old Dreams and Family Story

Today, I participated as interpreter in two Skype meetings linking Singapore and Tokyo (almost 3 hours in total) today. I got so nervous before the first meeting started with my palms wet with sweat and I kept smoking to suppress the nervousness. Strange because I’ve worked with one of them once in Tokyo and the other two many times in Tokyo and Singapore. This nervousness because of something like stage fright never goes away.



Tuesday, June 25, 2019

EP Renewal Process Complete

Yesterday afternoon, I went to the EP Center at Riverwalk to finalize my EP renewal process. It took only about 10 minutes. I was told that I could apply for another renewal four months before the expiry date, if I wish to renew it, and it could all be done online next year.Yesterday afternoon, I went to the EP Center at Riverwalk to finalize my EP renewal process. It took only about 10 minutes. I was told that I could apply for another renewal four months before the expiry date, if I wish to renew it, and it could all be done online next year.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

"Kokumin Nenkin" Paid by Credit Card

Last night (or the night before?), I checked my credit-card use for the past month and found a sum had been deducted for “KOKUMIN NENKIN.” Yes. when I returned to Japan last April, I applied for an auto payment by credit card. But I was told at the local “nenkin” office in Kyoto that this auto payment would start in October, if my application was approved. I have no idea as to which month this particular payment refers. The “nenkin” website does not reflect real-time payments. It takes them a month to update data. And the “nenkin” agency does not accept inquiries by e-mail because of the information leak incident that happened a few years ago, instead of improving their computer system. They seem to assume every Japanese living abroad has someone back there who can take care of “nenkin” matters. How inconvenient!

Sunday, June 09, 2019

Family (Un)Feeling and Linguistic Negligence

I think it was early morning yesterday. In a dream, I saw dreams I’d seen I don’t know when. Vivid images. Clear stories. Immediately I thought about writing them down. No pen. No paper. In less than a moment, I forgot them all. This had happened to me more than a few times before. Or so it seems.

Reading about families is not easy. In many stories, they are depicted as a reassuring presence or institution. Parents loving their kids, and vice versa. I simply cannot empathize with it, though it is a kind of love I probably long for. My family was always confusing, disturbing, destabilizing, irritating me, affecting my attitude toward my parents and brother certainly and profoundly. My mother almost always scolded me for pranks and deceptions any child can come up with. My elder brother was always the boy I should’ve emulate. I remember the kind of feeling I had when, one day after such scolding, she tugged me on her laps, showing her love. It was one of the most uncomfortable experiences I’ve ever experienced. On her laps, I was saying to myself, “Let me go. Let me go.” But I could say nothing to her. Out of respect? Maybe. Out of politeness? Maybe. I was a kindergarten baby, playing hooky on the day.

I’d feel less uncomfortable, or even comfortable. with my father. I enjoyed watching him mending here and there about the house, which I suspect made my mother rather harsh on me.

Grown up, working part-time at a downtown department store while in college, I often saw families shopping together and going to restaurants together. I found those scenes nothing but disgusting.

My brother, whose example I was supposed to follow, did nothing to preserve any sense of family. He’s even tried to preserve it. He abandoned his wife after her battle of cancer for another woman. And this new woman is to me like, “who are you?” I understand she was nice to my mother but only after she was in a very advanced stage of dementia, when she didn’t recognize who from who. My mother had complained to me about him for not introducing this new girlfriend of him to her.

In every dream wherein any of my parents or brother appears, it is a nightmare.

With both my parents gone and brother no longer to be emulated, my thought was, “Finally my time has come.” Freed from emotional obligations, I thought I could and should go my way, hopefully making my “own” family. That’s not easy. I’m aged.

One of the English grammar things emphasized again and again to the Japanese students is “s.” “S” for the plural form and “s” for the verbs of third person, singular and present tense. They are almost obsessed with these “s’s,” they can’t say a word afraid of making mistakes. Ha! Working in Southeast Asia, I’ve met an uncountable number of people who just ignore the rules or don’t know them. In Chinese, Malay, Indonesian, or Tagalog, they may not have these rules. That cannot be an excuse. The Japanese language does not have them either. What must be followed must be followed. Poor Japanese. They are still struggling with them. This negligence and ignorance makes my work troublesome. And this makes them sound stupid.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Successful EP Renewal

This morning, I received an e-mail from MOM to inform me that my EP renewal application had been approved. As I expected, I found the renewal was only for another 12 months until early September 2020.

Miss fraudster, I still remember you. Are you in Hong Kong now?

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

My Identity as Japanese and Minor Roles Played by Japanese Journalists in Saigon

On the first of May, my country had a new Emperor. I would have become very emotional if this had happened years before. Now, I’m not feeling anything special. In a practical sense, my identity as a Japanese seems to have been thinner and more obscure. This may be because I’ve never had a solid family ground and also because I do not have to be and behave as a Japanese person here or anywhere else. The only reason I am still holding back from giving up my Japanese passport may be because of administrative processes in my “home” country. In short, this is only inertia.. I feel really strange or even nauseate when I hear someone emphasizing his or her being Japanese.

それにしても不思議なのは、ベトナム戦争当時、サイゴンにいたアメリカ人ジャーナリストたちが、特にPham Xuan Anから情報を得る場所として,必ずと言っていいほど言及している「Givral」(あるいは「Brodard」)に、近藤紘一(サンケイ新聞)、牧久(日本経済新聞)、開高健などの日本人がまったく触れていないことだ。この人たちの情報源は誰だったのだろう。ベトナム戦争後にバンコクに赴任した近藤紘一が「(バンコクの)日本人社会に“所属”してその気楽さにかまけ、しぜん気苦労な一匹狼的生き方を避けている私自身」と『妻と娘の国に行った特派員』で書いているように、サイゴンでも所詮は傍観者としての日本人同士の情報交換が主な情報源だったのだろうか。近藤をはじめとして、また近藤より長くサイゴン陥落後もそこに留まった日本人記者はいたが、ベトナム戦争とその後始まったカンボジア内戦で取材に関わった日本人について触れられているのは、行方不明になった「Tomoharu Ishii(石井誠春、CBSカメラマン)」「Yashihiko” Waku(和久吉彦、NBCサウンドマン)」ぐらいだ。

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Two Japanese Correspondents Learning the Resignation of Nguyen Van Thieu

1975年4月21日、グエン・バン・チュー(Nguyen Van Thieu)大統領の辞任会見。牧久は「サイゴンの火焔樹:もうひとつのベトナム戦争」で「(日本経済新聞)支局内では真ん中にテレビを置き、タイプライターを前にした(支局助手兼通訳の)トアン氏がその前に座り、大統領演説を英文で逐語訳をしていく体制を整える」と書いている(79ページ)。



Monday, April 22, 2019

Japanese Journalists Nowhere To Be Seen - Again

Tonight, I finished reading The Spy Who Loved Us by Thomas A. Bass. Again, there is absolutely no mention about any of Japanese journalists stationed in Sai Gon. And Kondo never mentioned, in his writings as far as I know, the coffee shop which was an information exchange place of reporters, Givral, or Pham Xuan An. It seems that Japanese correspondents were spending their time, while doing their jobs, quite apart from those from the U.S.

My work schedule roller-coastered today. This morning, I was supposed to attend a meeting between the procurement manager and CEO. When I arrived at the office, I was told that there would be a “pre-board meeting” where the board members would prepare what to say and how to say it to the chairman and president of the parent company at the board meeting scheduled tomorrow. The original meeting was pushed down to 4:30 pm and then cancelled. It was rescheduled to tomorrow morning and then pushed down to 3:30 pm. I also was requested to be at the Senai factory tomorrow and the day after. Eventually we settled for me to leave Singapore at 11:00 am for Senai tomorrow. Forget about the meeting between the manager and CEO.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Senai Day Trip and Morley Safer's Drunken Interviews in Vietnam

A day trip to and from Senai today.

After Robert Sam Anson’s War News, I started Flashbacks: On Returning to Vietnam by Morley Safer yesterday. This book by Safer is mentioned in Perfect Spy.

… Anson was incensed by Safer’s admission that he took no notes when speaking with An. Safer, accompanied by his assistant and with [Pham Xuan] An’s help, had polished off a complete bottle of White Horse whiskey during their conversation… Anson applied for an expedited visa and was on the next available flight from Bangkok to Ho Chi Minh City for a meeting with An.

And told me that he thought the conversation with Safer was off the record; that is they were two friends catching up and drinking a bottle of whiskey. “I never thought he would publish our conversation. I was just so happy to have colleagues to speak with again,” said An…

Safer’s book was scheduled for publication by Random House, where Anson had recently published Best Intentions: The Education and Killing of Edmund Perry. Anson called his publisher. “I beseeched them via a phone call or three or eight and a detailed exegesis of Morley’s reporting method,” says Anson. He told them the story of his recent visit with An and asked that Random House and Safer edit the attributions before publication, which they agreed to do. (Larry Berman, pp. 251-252, Perfect Spy)

And I’ve just read this passage:
We (Safer and Professor Nguyen Ngoc Hung) are sitting in a corner of my room [at the Thong Nhat Hotel in Hanoi] sipping scotch and chasing it with Heineken. (Morley Safer, p. 43, Flashbacks)

Monday, March 25, 2019

His Meditation Habit and Three Grab Rides Today

Worked only in the afternoon today. Went to the Yishun office by Grab. After work, I went to a courier service company by Grab to pick up two books that were never successfully delivered. I had tried to arrange the delivery time with the company’s drivers but they had never replied to me.

Another Grab ride home. The driver, who appears an Indian Singaporean, used to work for SIA and shared with me his experience in Japan. While he was working for SIA, he told me he liked to visit many places and he’s visited Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka. He likes “tonkatsu.” In Tokyo, he and his friend decided to try a “night club” to see some “Japanese girls.” But they were refused entry only because they were not Japanese. Well, as he was not interested in “prostitution,” he left the place because he didn’t want to waste his time. He also talked about his daily meditation habit. He used to be drinking with friends but quit it as for his meditation he of course needs to concentrate his mind. And he wondered which was more important, drinking or meditation. He chose meditation. He meditates to remember his God who he will meet upon his death. So he should remember Him.

Three Grab rides today.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Supreme Leader of Annam Independence Movement Who Was Studying at Tohoku University


Cuong De Is Nobody in Vietnam and Tonight's Dinner and Drink

15日、仕事は午前中で終わった。うちに帰って「安南王国の夢」を読み終え、司馬遼太郎の「人間の集団について」を始めた。どうやら、Cường Để」はベトナムでは触れてはいけない名前のようだ。

Tonight, I had dinner again with the engineer with whom I’ve worked for the past two weeks. But not in the Orchard area, but in my neighborhood. After dinner, we went to Sara’s. Ooo, I haven’t been there for ages. I recognized only one person working there. And after a few glasses of whisky soda, the man sitting next to me started talking to us. “Japanese?” He was someone who has worked with Japanese for Disneyland projects in China. He offered me some advice about PR application (I don’t know if I’d like to try again though…) and even took the engineer to the hotel he was staying at. Appreciation to him though I don’t know much about him.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Yukimoto Yokoyama or Masayuki Yokoyama?

牧久著の「安南王国の夢」の298ページに記載されている「(日本文化館)館長の仏印駐在公使、横山幸元」とは、Monique Brinson DemeryFinding the Dragon Ladyにも書かれており、昭和331121日に開かれた第33回国会衆議院外務委員会に参考人として招致された「横山正幸」ではないのか?なぜ名前が違うのか?

Monday, March 11, 2019

Cường Để and Phan Bội Châu in Japan

「『安南王国』の夢」の読後、Ben Kiernanが「Việt Nam」で「Cường Để」と「Phan Bội Châu」について書いている部分を読もうと思う。大隈重信、犬養毅、東京義塾、そしての安藤安正の東京振武学校について書かれていたことは記憶している。

Miss Criminal may be back in the Philippines. Good luck to you!!

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Karayuki-san's Area: Middle Road, North Bridge Road, Malay Street, Hylam Street and Malabar Street


Middle Road」と「North Bridge Road」に挟まれた一角とは、今の「Bugis Junction」や「Intercontinental Hotel」の周辺であり、山崎朋子が「観光案内所の主」の「太田良一」に取材して、「サンダカン八番娼館」で記している「マレー街(Malay Street」「ハイラム街(Hylam Street」「マラバー街(Malabar Street」と符合する。ただ、山崎はこの界隈も「チャイナ・タウン」の一部にしている。 

Sunday, March 03, 2019

Radical Change of Schedule and It's Ominous

Original Schedule

Feb. 13 (Wed.): Senai (stay at DT)

Feb. 14 (Thu.): Senai (stay at DT)

Feb. 15 (Fri.): Senai (return to Singapore)

Feb. 18 (Mon.): Yishun

Feb. 19 (Tue.): Senai (stay at DT)

Feb. 20 (Wed.): Senai (stay at DT)

Feb. 21 (Thu.): Senai (stay at DT)

Feb. 22 (Fri.): Senai (stay at DT)

Feb. 23 (Sat.): Senai (stay at DT) 

Feb. 24 (Sun.): stay at DT

Feb. 25 (Mon.): Senai (stay at DT)

Feb. 26 (Tue.): Senai (stay at DT)

Feb. 27 (Wed.): Senai (stay at DT)

Feb. 28 (Thu.): Senai (return to Singapore)

Mar. 1 (Fri.): Yishun

Actual Schedule

Feb. 13 (Wed.): Senai (stay at DT)

Feb. 14 (Thu.): Senai (stay at DT)

Feb. 15 (Fri.): Senai (return to Singapore)

Feb. 18 (Mon.): Senai (return to Singapore)

Feb. 19 (Tue.): Yishun

Feb. 20 (Wed.): Senai (stay at DT)

Feb. 21 (Thu.): Senai (stay at DT)

Feb. 22 (Fri.): Senai (return to Singapore)

Feb. 25 (Mon.): Cancelled

Feb. 26 (Tue.): Cancelled

Feb. 27 (Wed.): Cancelled

Feb. 28 (Thu.): Cancelled

Mar. 1 (Fri.): Cancelled

The reason given to me about the cancellation of March 1 work is that the team had to remain in Senai, which sounds ominous not personally to me but to the team and its company. I may witness more complication of the situation later this month. And this afternoon, I received an inquiry about interpretation for tomorrow afternoon. I had to turn it down because I’m already booked from March 4 to 15 by another client.

During the past few days, War News and The Spy Who Loved Us arrived. But an SMBC cheque book I had requested last Tuesday has not arrived yet. That’s strange as it’s never taken this long for me to receive a cheque book.