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Life is interesting 「縁」の不思議

The trip for Neil and I for this summer was to Macedonia and Bulgaria.  We went to Macedonia for a wedding for a week.  Bulgaria was sort of chosen quite accidentally. We loved both places, and this trip made me think about ‘En’. It is a Japanese word which does not really have an equivalent translation in English.  It means something like ‘connections with people’ or ‘karma between people’ or ‘synchronicity in meeting people’….something like that.

I met Lucy more than ten years ago.  I was still working downtown in the World Trade Centre building.  Lucy was a co-op student from Simon Fraser University working for one of the BC government offices.  We first chatted when we were passing by each other in the corridor. I remember her saying at the time that she was studying Japanese.  I saw her several times either in the corridor or lunch room.  We only chatted for a few minutes.  I was very busy at the time with so many changes happening at work, and did not really notice until one day a memo came from the government office saying she was leaving. “Oh…. so Lucy is finishing her co-op program and going back to school,” I phoned her up and invited her for lunch.  That was the beginning of our friendship.

“So what are you studying when you go back to SFU?” I asked.

“I’m taking a class called Business Strategy,” she said.

“Oh…. oh, really? Who is the professor?”

Then, she looked for a piece of paper down in her purse, picking it out, and said,

“Hm…. Dr. Neil Abramson…” My eyes rolled.

I told her that he is my husband, and we agreed to keep it secret.  So for the whole semester Neil had no idea Lucy and I were friends.  Lucy finished the class with an excellent mark, and Neil had a pleasant surprise afterward.

Lucy kept in touch with us.  She came to visit us, talked about her future studies, work issues, career….  Neil was happy to give her feedback, talk about his own experiences, and became like her mentor.  And one day, we received a phone call from Toronto, that she was getting married in Macedonia!  Life is interesting…..

So that’s how our Macedonia trip happened.  When I was looking for some tour to participate in after the wedding, scrolling up and down my favorite website, responsibletravel.com, I came across this Eight Day Bulgaria Cultural Tour.  Since Europe in August can be so crowded and expensive, wouldn’t it be nice to go to a place where it’s quiet and relatively unknown….  We certainly made the right choice.

I had never dreamed of visiting Macedonia or Bulgaria.  They were simply not on my list of the places I wanted to visit.  Life is indeed interesting. How much I enjoyed being there, learning about their history, religion, politics, culture, exotic villages, traditional houses, arts and crafts…., were totally beyond words.  We certainly had an adventurous time driving ourselves in a rental car from Sofia to Skopje to Lake Ohrid, and back to Sofia.  Above all, I enjoyed the people.  In Macedonia, meeting Lucy’s newly husband, Mitko, and their families and friends was very special. I met Lucy’s mother and sister for the first time and enjoyed talking with them.  I became reacquainted with Neil’s former student, Sarah, and her husband and their little boys. I thought Mitko’s mother was so dynamic.  She was an enthusiastic person, dancing for hours, entertaining and taking care of people.  She looked cheerful, yet I kept wondering how she really was feeling… No doubt she must have been exhausted having had no sleep for days organizing this event.  No doubt she would be feeling ‘lonely‘.  Who wouldn’t?  Her only son is soon moving away to Canada. She had lost her daughter to a car accident, and her husband to some illness.  She lives alone in a small town two hours away from Skopje.  Nevertheless, I was utterly moved by her way of ‘living the moment’. Let’s not worry about the future at ‘this moment’. Let’s not dwell on the past.  Let’s enjoy ‘now’. Let’s live ‘now’ to the fullest.  Let’s provide the best ‘now’ to the guests. I really appreciated her hospitality.

In Bulgaria, we stayed seven nights in a house called “EKO ART” owned and operated by a sculptor, Encho Gankogski and a photographer, Velichka Gankogska. The house was in a small village called Drashkova Polyana, population only 76, situated at the foot of the Balkan mountains.  It is sort of like Minshuku in Japan, or a B&B (with lunch and dinner) in North America.  Not a hotel or inn, but a house, and Vily cooked wonderful meals for us with their home grown vegetables.  Encho taught us pottery.  We went to a nearby town called Troyan (population about 20,000) and learned icon painting.  We went to a small deserted looking village and learned woodcarving.  We were introduced to some traditional instruments, and had fun dancing. For a person like me, who is not so young, interested in different cultures, ….not particularly interested in luxury or expensive shopping or deluxe dining, or relaxing on a beach all day….you get the idea…, this tour was perfect.  Neil and I got to emerge in the village life and got to experience the culture by learning, being taught hands-on by local people. I liked the fact that our visit actually helped to bring income to the village people, not to a mammoth corporation. Our guide and interpreter, Ivan Dinkov, was a brilliant man.  He said he was educated in a Russian school.  He was a truly smart and unique character.  He had interesting views of life and the world, perhaps coming from his upbringing by his communist poet father and actress mother.  He provided us with many many stimulating and interesting conversations for the eight days.

I wonder…people are like threads.  We live in different parts of the world, live totally different lives having no idea who exists where… and one day we meet. Threads come to be woven together for a period of time, and then part again.

Is Vily picking her tomatoes and cooking those delicious meals now?

Is Encho enjoying his own flavorful apple Raki now?

Is Ivan walking through the mountain pass where a flock of sheep and goats peacefully munch guarded by sheepdogs?

And, I am back in Canada with my own life.

Life is really interesting.



「大学に戻ったら何の勉強するの?」と聞くとビジネスストラテジーのクラスを取るという。「え?あら。。教授は誰?」と聞くとガサガサ、バッグの中から紙を取り出して「うーんと。。。ニール エイブラムソンっていう人」というからびっくり。「ニールは私の夫だけど、お互い私たちが友達だってこと内緒にしとこうね。」ということでニールは何も知らないまま、ルーシーは無事に優秀な成績でクラスを終えた。もちろんあとで実は私たち友達だったときいてニールはびっくり。



ブルガリアではバルカン山脈の麓の小さな小さな人口76人の村で、彫刻家のエンチョと写真家のヴィリーが経営するEKO ART というハウスに7泊した。ペンションとか民宿とかって感じかな?一軒の家で、ヴィリーが朝昼晩、庭で採れた野菜を使ってホームメイドの素晴らしい食事を作ってくれた。エンチョは私たちに陶芸を教えてくれた。Troyanという町(人口約2万人)に行ってアイコンペインテイングを習ったり、さらに寂れた部落で木彫りを教わったり、民族楽器やダンスを習ったり。。。観光客である私たちのお金が直接村に住む人々の収入になる、私たちも村の人たちと直接接して彼らの生活や文化を学ぶ、そんな企画が嬉しかった。ずっとつきっきりで通訳してくれたガイドのイヴァンは共産党の党員だった父親と女優の母親の元に生まれロシア語で教育を受けた人。頭脳明晰、ユニークな思考の持ち主で、話に刺激があり、とても楽しかった。








Organ オルガン

If you want to be proficient in one thing, you must keep at it for at least ten years.  Have you heard that?  I have been studying organ for almost ten years and I am still far away from that level. I am still struggling.

I did play in a concert in May the Chorale No. 3 by Franck.  This Chorale was the last piece Franck wrote.  He was himself an organist and composed many organ pieces.  This is a beautiful piece, indeed, a very cool piece.  Rehearsing on the pipe organ in the large sanctuary of St. Mary’s Kerrisdale with a full organ sound was thrilling.  I loved my solitude.  Giving a concert to myself was overwhelmingly pleasing.  However, a month before the concert I needed to drop everything and fly to my father in Japan.  He was having a kidney operation. When I came back, there was only a week left to the concert. I drove one hour every morning to the Kerrisdale church to practice and by the concert day I got to be pretty confident about my performance.

I don’t really know what happened.  Was I over-excited?  I thought my head was pretty calm….but obviously not.  The beginning of the piece which was like a storm, became uncontrollable.  I started out playing in a killingly fast tempo, and I fell.  Then, slow quiet chorale tune comes.  I breathe.  Thinking in my head, when the next storm comes, I should stay calm and play slower.  The moment later, I began in a killingly fast tempo again.   My head went spinning… uncontrollable. I fell.

I was angry.  I was disappointed at myself.  I was sad that I could not convey the beauty of this wonderful piece.  How I wished I could play it all over again…..

I found myself waking up at 2AM that night, and performing in my head the same piece all over again.  This is just not right…. I cannot stand this any more.  I should stop performing organ.  I don’t dare want to feel this way ever again. Turning right and left, lying on my back, moaning and sighing, I stayed in bed awaken.

Next morning, as I opened my eyes after a bit of dozing, I thought I heard a voice.

“Don’t forget, remember, that what matters is the process, not the result…..”

As my head starting to clear up a little, I thought, yes, that is true.  I really did have a great experience every day of the week rehearsing.  I have not had that level of thrill and passion for a long time.  Sure, if I were much younger, I would have advanced hugely every time I played in a concert.  Now it’s a different story.  However small it was, I had a step forward.   I should be content.

OMG, again, my focus was all on myself, and I had forgotten to feel how blessed I was…..


オルガンを始めてもうかれこれ10年になる。何事も10年は続けなければものにならないというけど、私の場合はまだまだ未だに苦闘を続けている。でも5月末にコンサートでフランクのコラールの3番を弾いた。 オルガニストであり、多くのオルガン曲を作曲したフランクの最後の作品で美しくて何よりとてもカッコイイ曲だ。特に大きな教会で大きなパイプオルガンで大きな音でたった一人で弾きまくったとき、なんとも言えないゾクゾクするようなスリルと満足感がある。何ヶ月も前から練習は続けていたもののコンサートの一ヶ月前から日本に行かなければならなくなって中断。日本から帰国して慌てて、一週間、毎日片道1時間かけてケリスデールの教会に通って練習した。かなり自信があった。絶対うまくいくと思っていた。