Sunday, May 16, 2010

My First Experience with Onsen

Oct 2009.

Onsen is every woman’s dream. One will really fall - line, hook, and sinker - with Onsen. I was liberated and blissfully contented with my experience with Onsen.

Alright, Onsen is not a person (although one would really wish it is). It’s the Japanese public bath, with natural, mineral, hot water.

I made a mental decision to try out the Onsen as soon as I learned that I will be staying in Japan for two months. When the opportunity came, however, I was a bit fidgety and was on the verge of backing-out. Hey, I was brought up in a society incubated by Christianity for almost 400 years. The whole educational and socialization process I received taught me that I should only show my body to my partner. Read: Naked body = Malice. Now, that is a lot of baggage to shackle.

Needless to say, I have limited exposure to a naked body. More than that, the only naked body I’ve seen of a woman is myself! Well, of course I’ve seen also lots of pictures from educational and health books, but I don’t think that counts.

Public baths are separated by gender, but there are also common baths – but that is way too much for me to even imagine entering.

D-day comes. Ok, now what should I do. I was asking my Japanese friend and (self-appointed) guide Kaori every single step.

“This area is where we remove our clothes, and put them in lockers. You can bring a small towel to cover parts of your body.” Mmmm, others were doing it nonchalantly, I’d definitely look funny if I appear too prude. Ok, strip away.

Then we entered another door, where the public bath is supposed to be located. Just imagine the image that jumped out on me. So many naked women, walking here and there, no care about the world! I was the one who felt ashamed of their nakedness (as I’ve said, I had a lot of conceptual and cultural baggage).

“This is the public bath, but you have to wash yourself first.” On the side are ‘shower corners’ where you’ll find liquid soap, shampoo, a plastic basin, a plastic stool, and a hand-held shower.
After cleaning myself, I dip in the bath. It was pleasantly hot (40 C) and women were chatting in every corner, while some just enjoy their aloneness. Of course it’s an understatement to say that I observed every single event happening in the Onsen. It was a totally new experience for me and it’s justifiable for me to be curious.

Different women, all shapes, sizes, texture, age, disposition. Women I know, women who are strangers. All naked, all natural in their nakedness. I began to relax about my own. It totally gave me a whole new perspective about one’s body. And I began to celebrate our being women.

Now I appreciate why great painters in the world glorify the woman’s body. The curves, the slopes, the bulges, the voluptuousness …. in a strange way these are exactly what makes a woman’s body beautiful. Now, I am at peace with my own. Liberating is exactly the right word for this experience.

Now you know why I glorify Onsen. My experience with it totally gave me a whole new perspective about myself, the body, and women-solidarity.

And yes, I am totally hooked with Onsen!

(Maybe it's just me. But I really find this curiously amusing: While in the bath, I transferred from the indoor to the outside pool where you'll feel the cold wind that signals the beginning of winter while you soak in the hot mineral water-filled pool. It was really bliss! While walking towards the pool, I gingerly try to cover my private part with my small towel - never mind the breast as I don't really have much. But I noticed that the Japanese women in the bath would cover their breast every time they get out of the pool, not their privates. Mmmm...another case of cultural difference on which part of the body is regarded more important? :)

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Remembering Corazon - our lovable Mom

(Copyright by NicholasNicholas Gordon)

A mother's love determines
How we love ourselves and others.
There is no sky we'll ever see
Not lit by that first love.
Stripped of love, the universe
Would drive us mad with pain;
But we are born into a world
That greets our cries with joy.
How much I owe you for the kiss
That told me who I was!
The greatest gift--a love of life--
Lay laughing in your eyes.
Because of you my world still has
The soft grace of your smile;
And every wind of fortune bears
The scent of your caress

Corazon Coronel Oreta is our mom. What do I remember about my Mommy?
1. HARDWORKING: To proivde us a comfortable life and good education after my Dad passed away, my Mom worked as a pharmacist at the former Basa Air Base, Pampanga and managed a drug store ( I remember watching the store during school breaks) and a small karinderia (restaurant) for the air force men at Basa Air Base. She also travelled to Zamboanga, buying goods (blankets, textiles, etc) and sell them in Manila. She managed a canteen with my cousin, Ate Dina, at a tannery in Guiginto, Bulacan.

2. LOVES READING AND MOVIES: It was through her that I developed the hobby of reading pocket books and novels. I read almost all the books she read like Airport, Lust for Life, etc. She also loves watching movies just like my Daddy. I remember the last movie she watched with me and my sister, Cosette, at Recto, "The Deer Hunter" starring Robert De Niro and Meryl Streep.

3. VERY PATIENT AND PERSISTENT: Despite her sickness (cancer), she never complained about the pain. I remember she wrote in one of her memoirs, "this pain is so small compared to what Jesus experienced during his crucifixion ..."

4. HER LIFE WAS FOR HER CHILDREN: She is a selfless mother. All her actions were for the good of her children - five of us (Rose, Lou, Jun, Andy and Cosette). She was not capable of giving us the luxuries of life, but she gave us our life, education and values which we cherish to this day. Our Mom died young - only 48 years old - I wonder how she will feel if ever she lived longer. We now have our own families and we owe our comfortable lives to Mom and Dad.

As a tribute to our mom and my children's lola, I named our daughter, Julia CORAZON.

Kids love your Moms!

*The poem above comes from the ff site: - Copyright by Nicholas Gordon

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Nurture Shock - New Thinking About Children

Based on researches conducted in the US about the science of children, Nurture Shock by Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman reveals that many of our assumptions about kids can no longer be counted on. This book reveals that “many of modern society's strategies for nurturing children are in fact backfiring.” Many of the assumptions about child development have actually “distorted parenting habits, school programs and social policies. “ With evidence revealed by researches (mostly in the US) on various aspects related to kids, the book teaches us “to think differently – more deeply and clearly – about children.” Here are some insights I got from the book:

The Inverse Power of Praise:
> Giving always the label that your kids are “smart” might cause them to under-perform. Some of these “smart” kids will tend to discount the importance of effort because they think that they already have the natural gift of intelligence.

> Excessive praise may distort the children's motivation; the kids may begin to do things merely to hear the praise, losing sight of intrinsic enjoyment.

> Excessivley praised kids by parents feel so much pressure and tend to focus only on the grade or achievement and not on the effort. Sometimes they may resort to cheating because they come to believe that failure is something so terrible that their parents won't accept.

> Praise the “process” more than the “outcome.” Praise your child for his/her effort, time and persistence to improve not only the achievement.

The Lost Hour:
> When kids grow and go to school, the number of hours of sleeping decreases from the usual 8 hours to 7 hours. At least one hour of sleeping time is lost. The loss hour has many impacts on the kids.

> A loss hour of sleep is equivalent to the loss of two years of cognitive maturation and development affecting the kid's IQ and academic performance.
> The lack of sleep weakens a child capacity to learn during the day.

> Recognizing the impact of the lack of sleep in kids, some schools in the US moved the school time start from 7:25 AM to 8:30 AM and found positive changes especially the brightest kids.

> School here in the Manila (e.g. Ateneo Grade School) starts at 7:30 AM. Kids have to wake up as early as 5:00 AM to be able to come to school on time because of the traffic during rush hours. To have at least 8 hours of sleep, kids should sleep at 9:00 PM. After reading this book, I ordered my son, Geof to sleep at 9:00 PM, but often this is not followed because he got used to waiting for us who sleep late (usually 10:30 PM). So parents must sleep early also to make their kids sleep early.

Why kids lie:
> Kids lie to avoid punishment and to get praise.
> Kids lie to increase their social power and sense of control.
> Kids lie as a coping mechanism – to get attention from peers.
> Kids learn to lie from us, adults also..
> Parents need to teach kids the worth of honesty just as much as they need to say lying is wrong. The more kids hear the message, the more quickly they will take this lesson to heart.

Other interesting topics in the book:
The Sibling Effect – Why siblings fight
The Science of Teen Rebellion – Why arguing with adults is a sign of respect and constructive.
Why Hannah Talks and Alyssa Doesn't – What's the right way to accomplish the goal of jump-starting infant's language skills.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Tools for the Digitally Creative

Apple and I are educators and we need to improve our teaching and learning skills by using advanced technology. With the advance digital tools available - some are free and some commercially available at reasonable price - we can create creative presentations and materials that can enhance teaching and learning in the classroom. Through the blog painless technology, I found this slide presentation - 70 Tools 70 Minutes - which is about various digital tools that you may use in creating digital outputs - images, audio, movies, blogs, etc. I have used some of the tools already and found them useful and simple to use. Try the links to these useful resources and explore what you can do with the various digital resources that are available in the internet - most of them are free!