Kurt Bell

A life of courage, joy and independence.

The Americanization of Emily

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On May 1st, 2015 I met my wife and daughter at Los Angeles International airport after they arrived to join me in starting our new lives in the United States. I’m an American citizen, born and raised in Southern California. My wife Yumiko is Japanese and from the seaside city of Shizuoka, which is very near Mt. Fuji. Our daughter Emily is a mixed race child which Japanese people refer to as “hafu” meaning half Japanese. In 2003, two years after her birth, my family and I relocated to Shizuoka after selling our home and belongings in California. We gave up everything, including a promising career in the technology industry, to take a gamble on Japan. We went for each of us, for the adventure, and the change, and the chance to raise Emily through her small years in the same small tea farming community where Yumiko grew up. Twelve years later we came back. And this blog post is about the experience returning had on our daughter, recording the changes made since arrival. Capturing glimpses of the process of transforming a girl who was raised in Japan, speaking Japanese as her first language, and thinking like a Japanese teen, into an American living in the quite unique culture of Southern California. A transformation from homogeneity to diversity. The Americanization of Emily.

May 1st, 2015 Emily and Yumiko Bell arrive in the USA

May 1st, 2015 Emily and Yumiko Bell arrive in the USA

What’s below are simply snippets of thought and observation along the way. Most entries are nothing more than Facebook posts or pages from my journal. In a few cases the observations made their way into my main blog, in which case a link is provided.


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10-04-15
I took some time off from Facebook to facilitate my family’s arrival in the USA and the difficult job of getting settled and our new lives begun. Here’s a status report video for anyone curious how things have turned out. We’ve lots of challenges yet to tackle though it appears the hardest part of the journey is now over, and life can at last return to a new and utterly different form of normalcy.


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10-05-15
Is the best part of Americanization the gaining of a love and interest in the Rocky Horror Picture Show? Perhaps not though it’s a clear sign of significant changes underway below the waterline.

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10-07-15

One of my goals in returning to the USA was to introduce my daughter to the Southern California beach lifestyle. A relaxed, rather carefree way of life, where one’s first weekend consideration is how big the waves are or how clear the water visibility. Sunshine, laughter, physical activity and tracking beach sand everywhere are a few of the hallmarks of this way of life, where getting wet at least once or twice a day and leaving your swimsuit to dry on the balcony are a few of life’s happy routines. Throughout the summer Emily joined me at dawn nearly every Saturday and Sunday morning to enter the sea and play like seals, making memories and setting important precedent for a way of life and frame of mind which is one of her birthrights as a child of the California coast.
WATCH VIDEO: Emily and papa play like seals – adventures in the sea
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10-07-15
I’m channeling my daughter’s grandfather Grizzly just now as she asks my help in understanding potential and kinetic energy. I remember asking my dad this same question so many years ago. Dad was always so excited to talk science, and he loved to make up examples and even put on a little show to illustrate a point. Though Emily will never know her grandfather, it’s nice to have a chance to speak to Emily with his voice and convey his sense of excitement for a subject he would rather bestow than the passage of any mere legacy or monetary inheritance. For what greater gift can there be than to teach a child the tools and methodology of uncovering truth.

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10-08-15
Emily is constantly texting her new American friends. At first she mostly watched the dialogue in group chats, periodically asking me to explain a new sentence or phrase. When she finally jumped in she was at my arm throughout the day, requesting I double check her English while she screwed up the courage to press send. There was a lot of editing at first, and some doubtful scowls as she wondered if I really knew how to spell or compose. Now I’m lucky if she comes to me for help once a day. And usually it’s a brief visit, as her writing has greatly improved, and I usually have nothing more to say than that’s right or good job. Soon she won’t need me at all to communicate in English. Though I’ll probably be going to her for help in understanding the challenging language of the American teen.

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10-09-15
I got lucky recently and was able to capture on video my own daughter getting swept away in a harmless mini rip current. I was proud as heck to watch her safely extricate herself from said predicament, which bodes well for her safety when she eventually meets a larger version of these curious ocean rivers.
WATCH VIDEO: Emily encounters a rip current – adventures in the sea

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10-09-15
There’s a culture for those who come to the sea to live. A community and way of life as distinct as being American or Japanese. And we know one another by the artifacts of such a life: the clothing, shoes, walk, speech and appearance announce the waterman or waterwoman as distinctly as the bronzed skin, stretched smile or far off look of remembrance of moments apart from land. It’s a good life, a good people, and a worthy, immediate and quite optimistic perspective on a life both wondrous and brief.
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10-11-16

During our walk yesterday Emily revealed to me her #1 fear in coming to an American high school. This fear has since been dismissed by Emily as just another pesky USA stereotype. I want to capture this quite interesting cultural collision to add to the Return to the USA playlist though I’ll need a little time to think of the right words to avoid misunderstanding and offense.

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10-14-15
Emily recently reported seeing a goldfish in her bedroom. When I asked her what happened to the goldfish, she reported it got away when she tried to catch it. Noting the look of confusion on my face, Emily thought about it and quickly corrected herself, saying “it was a SILVERFISH!”

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10-15-16
Emily’s social calendar is really filling up… At first it was all girl names in her life, though lately there’s an increasing number of boy names. In other news I’ve taken up a new and interesting hobby of shotgun cleaning.

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10-16-15
I’m so excited for Emily and her first Homecoming dance this weekend. Two years ago I could hardly have imagined this day would be real.

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10-17-15
I do miss seeing Emily in her Japanese schoolgirl uniform. Every middle and high school in our city in Japan had a distinct uniform style, including summer and winter outfits. The bright red winter blazer the girls wore at Emily’s school really stood out, and I always enjoyed seeing clutches of young girls making their way along the castle moat against a -background of the great stone walls which protected the Shogun’s castle.
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10-17-15

Emily’s first high school Homecoming experience begins with a lunch date with friends (boys and girls), followed by a late afternoon pizza party at a friend’s home, before the group heads to the dance. I’m on-call all afternoon and evening in the capacity of chauffeur, which gives me just enough time to install the gun rack in the Prius.

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10-27-15
I have to remember that when my daughter asks me to pick up “juice” at the supermarket she really means soda. Oh Japan, you’ll always be with us.

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10-27-15
Another interesting US-Japan collision just now… Emily came in to the kitchen to offer her help preparing dinner. I said sure, and handed her two cans of soup with instructions to open and heat. She looked at the cans and then looked at me and asked, “how do I open these?” “Use the can opener” I said, as I handed her the device. Emily had no idea what to do with the tool, and even after I showed her with the first can she struggled to get the second can open. Yumiko reminded me that can openers are rarely used in Japan, where nearly all cans open with a tab. This was likely Emily’s first awkward encounter with a tool most American’s take for granted. Tomorrow I’m going to introduce Emily to the typewriter, record player and a rotary dial telephone with a 20 foot cord in order to really blow her mind.

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10-31-15
Emily and I are about to embark on our first daddy-daughter motorcycle adventure. A 200 mile swing through the California sunshine. I feel like Pinhead in Hellraiser who said “I have such sights to show you.”

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10-31-15
Emily and I have completed our first daddy-daughter Southern California motorcycle adventure. We rode through cool mountain heights, a hot empty desert, saw beautiful, expansive vistas and congested ten lane freeway traffic. We made friends with a happy Harley couple riding the most chromed out bike in existence, and waved at wild burros grazing beside a road. At one point we steered off the pavement for an exciting ride along a dusty dirt road through a narrow mountain pass in a vain quest for tarantulas and rattlesnakes. Lunch had that awesome taste which only adventure can add, and the few rest stops we made along the way were fun and satisfying. Emily told me she liked seeing cows the best and that riding a motorcycle is “just like a roller coaster.” Fortunately there’s lots more California to discover by car or bike, with my family, alone or with my girl.
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10-31-15
I was pretty sure Emily had missed her chance at enjoying a USA Halloween. But then she was invited to a Halloween party where her teen friends are planning to make the neighborhood rounds. The “kids” are a little old for this, perhaps. But they’ve all made an effort with costumes, and being a polite and courteous bunch I’m sure the adult spooks who greet them at the door won’t mind much. I hope she’ll have fun, get some nice goodies and of course make some happy memories of the very best USA holiday of all. HAPPY HALLOWEEN everyone!

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11-01-15
I just picked up Emily (on the bike) from her first Halloween party with friends. Looks like after trick-or-treating they all watched Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2. This was a first for some of the girls, many of whom are from somewhere else in the world where quite different genres of ghost and ghoul reign supreme. Frankly, I find US spooks a little tame in comparison to what lurks within Japanese folklore, though the girls seemed pretty convinced that Freddy Krueger was the single scariest thing they’d ever seen. Emily loved being frightened in the company of friends, and seemed to really enjoy the movie, and the experience of her first USA Halloween in over a decade.
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After saying goodnight to her pals, Emily and I hopped on the bike for a quick 20 mile midnight motorcycle ride on the Orange County freeways. The chill Halloween air felt great on our exposed skin, and together we enjoyed the city lights while watching the large and glowing amber moon rise slowly over the dark hole of the Santa Ana mountains. Emily seemed to especially enjoy leaning with me as the big bike hummed and banked along the single-lane overpass which connects the 55 and 405 freeways at the notoriously complex Orange Crush interchange. We felt like helmeted fighter pilots roaring far above more than a dozen sprawling lanes of freeway far below. And our high vantage gave a terrific view of the glimmering lights of the mini sky-scrapers clustered around John Wayne airport, lights which twinkled and blinked in the cool evening air, hinting at winter, and the end of another fun year. Altogether, a terrific first Halloween for my young American, who’s learning fast the traditions, lifestyle and perspectives of the USA and California way of life.

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11-10-15
Today marks exactly half a year since reuniting with my family on May 1st, 2015. It’s been a rough six months jump starting our new lives, though I feel like we’re finally over the toughest part, with new jobs, school, routines and community all set and beginning to normalize. Though I’m so glad we engaged in this fifteen year adventure, and I’d gladly make the decision “yes” if offered the youth and opportunity to do so again. However now, I hope to never, ever, EVER do anything like this again. The Japanese have some wisdom to share in this regard when they caution climbers that “A wise man climbs Mt. Fuji once, while only a fool attempts it again.” Very true words, Japan. Very true, indeed.

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11-06-15
Emily is so like her mother. She’s clearly inherited Yumiko‘s calibrated discernment. I wonder if she has her moral intuition? Is this perhaps a Japan thing? Qualities of character cultivated through centuries of cultural maturation? Next up Americanization, and the adding to the mix of our youthful optimism and zeal. Our acceptance of what is different and new, and our striving for a wondrous future far better than today. I hope there’s room for both worlds, though I expect the end result will resemble an unfamiliar memory.

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11-07-15
The sun is rising and it’s time to take my daughter on a dawn patrol motorcycle ride to greet the day. A quick jaunt down the coast to San Juan Capistrano and then a hard left onto a twisty two lane highway winding into the Cleavland National Forest. Our goal is a windy mountain top where we can catch a view of sunrise over the Sonoran desert and perhaps even spy the rugged face of San Jack and the highest escarpment in North America. All this before breakfast should make for a hearty appetite with a side order of pleasant memories. Let’s go!

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11-11-15
Tonight was the first time I’ve ever heard my daughter talk like a native English speaker. Her best friend came by and I heard them chatting together in the lively, animated way of teenage girls. Yet unlike anytime before, Emily was modulating her English to express emotion very differently than the more measured cadence and steady tone of Japanese. It was like someone else was using my daughter’s voice to talk, and I was quite taken aback by a change I had neither anticipated nor imagined. Emily still speaks to me in the voice of a cautious English learner, though I’m encouraged at the glimpse I’ve seen of the American she has already become.

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11-14-15
Emily’s asking if I fed her dog. Clearly “nope” is an English word which has not yet entered her vocabulary.
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11-15-15
Yesterday my daughter learned the word “nope” and today she learned “epistemology.” That’s like doing 0 to 60 in 3.5 seconds in the vehicle called English.

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11-16-15
Emily speaks to her dog in English. I wonder if she think he’s an American dog who can’t understand Japanese?

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11-21-15
At the Hell’s Kitchen biker bar explaining the USA Harley Davidson culture to my daughter. Emily wants to know why she and I are the only ones in the bar who aren’t dressed “right.”

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11-22-15
Emily comes to me less frequently these day for help with her English language texting. Tonight though she offered me a stumper when she asked me what ‘Imma go’ meant in a message from a schoolmate. Good thing there’s the Urban Dictionary to turn to.

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11-23-15
So, Emily. You’ve been going to school in the USA for six months. What’s the main difference between school in America and Japan?
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It’s cold.

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11-23-15
This evening marks a first… Emily came to show me a non-Japanese YouTube celebrity she’s begun following.

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12-04-15
Emily’s teachers in both Japan and the USA often stand at the school entrance in the morning to greet their arriving students. One big difference is that the American teachers are often seen holding a mug of hot coffee. This small detail really startled me the first time I saw it and was one of those “Wow. I’m really back in the USA moments.”

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12-04-15
I think that my daughter is about to become more American than me.

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12-10-15
“Dad, can I borrow your sweater tomorrow? We’re having an ugly sweater contest at school and I want to win.”

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12-13-15
It’s a rainy Sunday night and my daughter (new to the USA) thinks school will be closed tomorrow because nobody in California owns an umbrella.

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12-14-15
Emily: My dog barked at my friend tonight…
Me: Nani-chan?
Emily: Jason-kun

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12-16-15
Emily told me today that there are no “real Americans” in her school. She seems to think that most of the people who live in the United States are from somewhere else.

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12-18-15

Emily’s new circle of friends include a number of girls from somewhere else. Relatively recent arrivals from places like Japan, Korea, China and Iran. It’s interesting to note their different levels of acclimation based on their use of English, as well as their adoption of American attitudes and behavior. Emily is the most recent arrival, and a late-comer at age 14 (now 15) for whom the change is largely linguistic as she plunges headlong through the process of becoming a native English speaker, with little change yet to the Japanese teenager inside. The girls who arrived in middle school are a curious mix, with near fluent command of English spoken by the mind of an outsider who no longer feels like one. The one girl who came at the end of elementary school is startlingly American, with a perfect command of English driven by an American mind only faintly tempered by Japanese protocol and etiquette. Of course each girl (and a few boys) is unique, and their story of Americanization is their own, though I’m certainly noting a pattern not only related to how long, but perhaps more critically to the age of immersion, which begins a curious and perhaps irrevocable trade-off of culture and language.

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12-18-15
Emily just started following me on Twitter. I’d better watch my step…

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12-19-15
Trying to share America with Emily in Japan was a little like trolling for bass with the wrong lure or bait. I got some curious nibbles from time-to-time though mostly I failed to connect. Suddenly now the fish is swimming ’round the boat, with friends even, making motions as if to leap straight in.

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12-20-15
At the beach today Emily mentioned “you haven’t made any YouTube videos in a while.” I didn’t have a good response at which point she continued “now’s your chance.” So, here’s my first video on request from my daughter.

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12-20-15

Have you seen the movie Europa Report? It’s really quite good. And provides a fairly believable portrayal of what it might be like when we finally visit the ocean moon orbiting Jupiter.

Emily wasn’t very impressed with the squid-like alien rising from the 100 kilometer depths, which she thought was too much like life on Earth to be believable. Enter the opportunity to introduce my daughter to the fascinating scientific observation that life has a way of repeatedly finding a similar solution to the same problem. I shared with her the fact that flight has been independently developed at least five times with birds, bats, insects, pterosaurs and humans; eyesight multiple times with various levels of success, and differing, yet quite recognizable design similarities. Another example of this phenomenon is how life fills ecological niches with roughly the same players despite great geological separation and isolation; as with the placental fauna of North America and marsupials of Australia, which parted ways from a common ancestor more than 100 million years ago, yet today form ecologies rife with familiar answers.

So would it be too far flung to expect something squid-like and glowing with bio-luminescence to swim up and blink at us when at last we lower cameras into the global ocean covering Europa? Maybe we won’t find squid, though I’ll bet there’ll be plenty down there reminiscent of Spongebob Squarepants to satisfy the claims of convergent evolution.


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12-20-15

In a way it’s our daughter’s first Christmas. Though we knew about Christmas in Japan, it had the feel of a foreign holiday, easily eclipsed by the far bigger event of New Year. It’s our first year with a real tree, proper trimmings, lights, accumulating presents, and most importantly the sense of community anticipation and collective participation.

I can tell that Emily is in the spirit by the fact that her presents seem strangely changed from day to day. As though someone has been examining them, rattling them around, and perhaps even peeking a bit here and there (the poor job of covering the evidence with tape is a giveaway).

It’s good to be back for this experience. Just in time for the end of childhood. A last chance to strip a foreign holiday of it’s foreignness. And to make memories to last throughout the year. And to set some precedent for a lifetime to come.


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12-22-15
I’m home alone with my daughter today on a bleak and rainy Southern California day. She’s headed out and I suggested she be careful in the storm. She responded, asking “There’s a storm coming?” ‪#‎RaisedWithTyphoons‬

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12-22-15

More sharing today from Emily… If it seems I post often on the topic of my daughter becoming American, it’s because she’s lately quite chatty on the subject, and I want to capture and share what I suspect is a rather rare and fleeting glimpse at the process of teenage Americanization.

Over lunch today Emily told me about her “girl’s world” as she called it. Though she made a point to disclaim any understanding of what it’s like for boys, here are some facts of being a mixed race/culture/language teenage girl in Orange County, California in 2015.

Unlike Japan, where ethnicity broke down into three basic categories of Japanese, Foreigner and “Half” (mixed), things in California appear a lot more complicated. In Japan, Emily often masked her mixed heritage in an attempt to blend in with the largely homogeneous Japanese community. She rarely used English in public, and even went so far as to “dumb-down” her English so as to not appear different from her peers. There’s no such hesitation in California, where diversity is the norm and communities of children from different backgrounds freely mingle and communicate in multiple languages.

The complexity comes from degrees of cultural familiarity and language fluency; with children raised overseas forming quite intimate cliques, where membership is small and exclusive to the extent that those who are not part of the group tend to voluntarily remove themselves as they become more American, and more comfortable with kids like themselves, kids not so foreign. The longer such a child has been in the USA, the more distant they draw away from this small native group, as they start thinking like an American, their English becomes more fluent, and their connections stronger with others who are further along the spectrum of Americanization.

The biggest group of mixed-heritage kids consists of those who are in the middle and between cultures. Such children are well represented in social circles such as the Japan Club, Korea Club and China Club, which are filled with kids whose adaption is midway between cultures. At the far opposite end are the girls who have been here longest and who have nearly become “Real Americans” (Emily’s words). The change being less related to language acquisition alone, but rather the wholesale transformation of attitude, behavior and mores from the culture or origin to the culture of acclimation.

Emily reports there is lots of crossover between the groups, with smaller, mixed culture friendship circles forming from all races, where the common bond is personality and the common language is English. She says that this is where the real transformation takes place, as the girls strive to become “normal” against the only common standard they share, which is the perceived behavior and attitude of the American teen. The “Real American” girls (those not raised overseas) who are part of these groups (they tend to be few) are unwitting role models for this standard, along with whatever popular culture the foreign-raised girls are exposed to.

Emily told me that appearance is also important, in ways both similar and different to her experience in Japan. Like in Japan, Emily does not feel fully Japanese here due to her obviously mixed appearance, and she told me she senses some distance between herself and the “Real Japanese” girls due to this simple fact. On the other hand, her appearance stands out in stark contrast to her very Japanese mannerisms, which have earned her the curious nickname of “The Polite American.” Emily told me that she currently shares this title with one other Japanese girl at her school of identical circumstance, who together rather baffle their Asian friends by looking like “Real Americans” but behaving like “Real Japanese.”

Though this is all quite confusing, I’m happy to report that Emily seems fine with this complex cultural churn. While we were talking, one of her friends called, a Japanese girl who came to the USA at age eleven, and is currently on the outer fringe of the “Real Japanese” community due to her extreme normalization to American culture. I’ve met the girl several times and would have thought her born and raised in the USA if Emily didn’t tell me otherwise. I was startled to hear my daughter speaking on the phone with her friend in English (both girls are native Japanese speakers) with the frank, open confidence of an American teen. Throwing out harmless slang and idioms with the careless ease of a native speaker. After the call, I mentioned to Emily that I was impressed with how far her English has come in such a short time. She seemed pleased, though she quickly reminded me that though her tongue has already become American, her mind was still very much Japanese.
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12-23-15
My daughter has actually requested my new signature meal of Sloppy Joes and chili. Nobody has ever requested any of my meals before.

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12-23-15
Emily is so excited about her first sleepover in America. For some reason I suspect that there is little difference between sleepovers in Japan and America besides the meals, snacks, TV, jokes, clothing, parents, siblings, bath, toilet, home, and language. Other than that I imagine everything is pretty much the same.

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12-24-15
“Why is English so complicat…stupid?” From Emily just now as she tries to unravel some frustrating English grammar.

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12-24-15
“What kills you makes you stronger.” A frustrating swing and miss by Emily while texting her American friend. Poor thing. Trying so hard to get new sentences right and comprehend their meaning.

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12-25-15
Merry Christmas! We’re all in this together.

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12-27-15
Teenage girls wield social media like a light saber. There are Jedi and Sith, master and padawan. Forces both malevolent and good though rarely indifferent. Watching my daughter spar in this arena is a real nail biting experience. I only hope she chooses the better side.

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12-27-15
My daughter and her pals are producing their third YouTube music video today. The theme is Disney Princesses. The Chinese girl is Mulan because she’s from China. The Iranian girl is Jasmine ’cause she’s Persian. And Emily is Belle because her last name is Bell.

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12-29-15
I can’t get used to seeing my daughter liking my social media posts.

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12-30-15
Facebook shared this photo with me from four years back which is quite topical for my family’s current situation. Yumiko is standing watch over Emily who is digging through a mountain of homework given out for winter break. Emily is currently enjoying her first winter break in the USA, where she has no homework and ample time to hang out with her friends. This difference is another interesting distinction between cultures, where one sees the break as a chance to rest and the other as an opportunity to push ahead. Which would you prefer?
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01-01-16
Emily and I are at the breakwater in Dana Point. She shot this landscape.
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01-02-16
Taking down our Christmas tree I’m reminded of my father who each year disposed of the tree with all of the ornaments still on it. He said it was easier to buy new ornaments next year than to wrestle them off of the tree. I have fond memories of coming home from school each year to find our beloved Christmas tree standing by the curb, fully adorned with bulbs, lights and a star on the top, and with an electrical plug running part way up the driveway.

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01-02-16
Look Emily, it’s Sylvester Stallone! Who?? Rocky! Eh? Rambo!! Huh?

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01-08-16
The most fruitful season is the age of doubt. I long for my daughter’s challenge and youthful admonition. Will I be able to satisfy her demands to know the reasons for the things I claim are true, or the motive and source for the joy I feel in so believing.

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01-09-16

The “Papa Emi Day” was a family tradition when my daughter and I would head out for a day-long bicycle adventure exploring the city and suburbs around our home in Japan. We did this on days when Yumiko was otherwise occupied and unable to join us. Our steed was a sturdy bicycle built for two, with a comfy child seat in back and lots of space for luggage and toys. We called that bicycle the “Papa Emi Bike” and together Emily and I made lots of memories before she first grew too big for the bike, and we had to switch to the car, and then later too old for dad, and she naturally switched to her friends.

Our new life routine in the USA includes working Saturdays every other week for Yumiko. Today is one such day. Last night I asked Emily if she had plans for Saturday. She didn’t. I asked her if she’d like me to take her to the mall so she could buy some clothes. She said she did want to go shopping…but with her mother, not me. I asked if she might like to drive somewhere interesting for lunch. She did. But she didn’t want to drive. She wanted to take the bike.

So today’s our first real Papa Emi Day in several years. The sun is rising. The weather appears chill but nice. And I topped off the fuel tank last night giving us easy range anywhere within the great metropolis of Los Angeles. There are words on the back of my motorcycle which read “softy” and “papa” which is actually a special code I made up when Emily was three years old meaning “Emily” and “Dad” as softy was my daughter’s nickname then. The “Papa Emi Bike” appears to be back. And with it a second chance at new memories in a new land by way of a new life.


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01-09-16
Over lunch Emily schooled me on the correct way for non-native English speaking girls to deliberately say things wrong so as to appear cute.

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01-09-16
Emily has crossed an interesting threshold. When she first arrived in the USA she always hid and let me order at restaurants and coffee shops. Today at Starbucks the barista called out “Emily” and she jumped from the table to run over and chat with him. Turns out they discontinued her coffee drink, and I was shocked as she listened to his apology and explanation before going on to choose something new. As recently as a month back she would have been hiding behind my back afraid to utter a word.

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01-09-16

A day alone with one’s teen is a treasure one can neither possess nor repeat with surety, and only remember and appreciate should fortune allow an encore performance. Emily and I began our motorcycle adventure with a nice outdoor lunch at the beach, where she tutored me on the challenge of fitting the Japanese culture of cute (kawaii) into an American culture which typically outgrows such things before high school.

My daughter is becoming comfortable on the bike, and I could sense her ease as we enjoyed a view of the deserted winter shore while motoring up the coast from Newport to Long Beach. The empty parking lots, deserted fire pits and rows of volleyball nets silently awaiting the crowds of summer. The grey sea, choppy with a light on-shore breeze. Not at all inviting.

We drove by the hospital where I was born, which I pointed out to her. She asked me about oil rigs which she thought were a sort of amusement park ride. We visited a World War Two memorial for lost submarines. And Emily learned to wave at other motorcycles as they passed on the other side of the road.

A last minute right turn onto The Path of Wildness led us somewhere we hadn’t planned, and we wound up sitting together on a dirty curb beside the bike in the parking lot of a Starbucks, sipping coffee while I answered Emily’s questions about the complex technology of the dirty and road-worn German marvel which loomed above us. She had no idea how brakes worked, or the mechanism of hydraulics, or why my bike is always so darn dirty.

Sitting on the ground next to motorcycles is something that happens when you become a rider. Especially when you ride long distances, are weary and coated with the road. You go inside and buy a coffee. And then come out and sit down near the bike. I’ve done it often, alone and with companions. And now I’ve done it with my kid. A rite of passage in fact. Though I know she has no idea.

The sky began to drop rain as we finished our coffee. Nice timing as we hurriedly put on our waterproof gear and got back on our powerful steed. Though prudence recommended we return home direct, I opted instead for the long way back. A little more time with my daughter. Making the moments stretch. Having her to myself just a bit more before childhood winks out and is gone for good.


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01-10-16
Emily’s in the back seat singing to herself. First it’s Justin Bieber followed by Adele. It’s the first time I’ve heard her sing American pop. I wonder if she’ll get upset if I sing along?

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01-13-16
Emily’s suddenly planning to attend the same California college where Yumiko and I first met. It’s a 13 hour drive from where we now live. She’s suggesting we ditch school and work and go next week. I think she’s just trying to get out of finals.

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01-14-16

I enjoyed my first ever adult conversation with my daughter yesterday. As she emerges into an American, her language skills have reached the point she can speak her mind in English like I could never do in Japanese. With fluency comes confidence, revealing the frank and honest mind of a 15 year old girl.

Emily told me some of her troubles, her pleasures, and a few of her hopes. She asked me about Japan, if I’d ever go back, and the things which made life there such a challenge. She even revealed to me a haiku poem she wrote in middle school. A traditional Japanese verse, revealing in three short lines the collective difficulties our family struggled, and ultimately failed, to overcome. She won first prize.

My daughter talked of her friends, and her families in both Japan and America. Her curiosity in others matched her willingness to share. A mature balance I duly noted.

I hope this conversation was the first of many to come. And the fruiting realization of a dream I’d nearly abandoned. To know the mind of my child better; to share, help and encourage her from adolescent to adult womanhood.

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01-14-16
Delivering a small bowl of ice cream to Emily just now she asked me “Dad, how are we related to stars?” ‪#‎HappiestDayofmyLife‬

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01-15-16
Emi and I went shopping together on the motorcycle. While loading our groceries in the bike’s aluminum luggage box she observed “I think the soda will get fuzzy in there.” I cocked my head and had to ponder for a sec before I realized what she was trying to say. We both had a good laugh after I explained the difference between “fuzzy” and “fizzy.”

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01-16-16

It’s good to discover my daughter isn’t bored, scared or intimidated by the truth. Facts are sometimes dull. Though through no fault of their own. After all, they have no ulterior motive than to simply be true. Reality doesn’t care if it wins us over. So what if I die harboring some comforting delusion?

What’s real also never wears makeup. Beware any claim which must first put on its face. Facts are sometimes ugly and often a downright fright to behold.

And what’s more dull than a universe which never speaks at us and behaves as if we’re not even there? Perhaps the brevity of our lives simply earn us no more notice than the sparks of a campfire.

My kid seems fine with this, which fact fills me with greater confidence for her future than grades, talent or ambition. Let her walk into adulthood unsure and unafraid for the fact of her uncertainty. Prepared to live and ultimately die confident of nothing more than what can be proved, validated or justified. A life where an answer’s quality is the sole measure of its truth. Where comfort and ease have no place in determining what is real.

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01-16-16
Emily hasn’t yet figured out that she really doesn’t need to study hard to attend Humboldt State University. A 75% admission rate means she can get in with nominal grades. I won’t tell her the truth and just let her work hard. Though I’d rather she come play outdoors with me.

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01-16-16
Emily told me tonight that it’s difficult for her to identify the “real Americans” at her school because “everyone looks American.”

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01-16-16
Emily has seemingly forgotten her first Japanese word. She and I were talking about the dog when she got this funny look on her face like someone who can’t remember where they’ve left their keys. “I can’t remember how to say ‘leash’ in Japanese” she said as she scrambled to look it up on her phone.

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01-17-16

If it seems I post often about Emily becoming American it’s simply because there’s so much happening so fast now. Every day there’s something new. Like last night, Emily and I were sitting on the sofa talking and I noticed she’d picked up a new way of expressing herself which included both verbal and non-verbal components. A familiar form of communication coming from the body and mouth of a person I didn’t think could talk that way. My reaction would be no different if she’d walked into the room wearing cowboy boots and a Stetson. Such a shocking and sudden expression of America.

I asked Emily if she thought she was becoming American.She answered emphatically no. She told me that Americans are scary, even the nice ones, and that she prefers the mixed enclave of Asians whose world view resembles her own. Did we bring her over too late to make an American out of her? Or did we choose the wrong community with it’s safe and familiar pool of foreign nationals? Better perhaps we’d thrown her into the deep end in a community of “real Americans” as Emily likes to call them? No. not that. She’d already had too much of being different living in Japan.

I’m beginning to suspect Emily may never become a “real American” which identity is formed of a distinction already well rooted in her mind. Just like a Texan living in California may always feel like a Texan living in California.

I asked Yumiko if she thought Emily was becoming Japanese-American and she answered that Emily was becoming Asian-American; an observation I had missed, yet I suspect the most accurate forecast of things to come

The Americanization of Emily


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01-18-16
I enjoyed some more grown-up conversation with my daughter today as she explained the reason Japanese people are often quite sensitive to how outsiders view their country, while I shared how Americans often don’t give a flying %#*& what people in other countries think of us. Some nice cross-cultural awareness over lunch.

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01-18-16

Emily and I ran into her friend’s father today at Irvine’s Central Bark dog park. While Emily played with the dogs, the father and I got to know one another and compared notes. He’d brought his family to the United States from Japan four years prior, and we shared some interesting war stories about the challenging process of finding work, getting a visa for our spouse, and acclimating children to their new home and environment. Perhaps the most interesting information he shared was relative to his two children’s experience of switching from Japanese to English. And transitioning from Japanese culture to American culture.

My new friend’s kids arrived in the USA at ages seven and eleven. In short, the seven year old boy (now eleven) has almost entirely lost his Japanese in the four years since they arrived. This, despite the mother’s efforts to only speak Japanese in the home and to her children. The eleven year old girl is now fifteen and speaks both languages fluently and happily switches between either language, displaying an evident pride in being bilingual. Emily say’s that her friend’s Japanese is very good, though it hasn’t progressed much past the middle school level when she left Japan. Emily thinks that a half year back in Japan would bring the girl on par with her Japanese peers for speaking; though reading and writing will take longer to catch up. Both children are completely Americanized though the boy no longer relates to Japan at all while the girl continues to feel a very strong connection to all things Japanese.


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01-22-16
I can always tell when my daughter’s had enough of me when she switches from English to Japanese…

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01-22-16

Emily’s short message “I like Milk Duds” came just as I was leaving work… I wonder if she’s telling me something?

On a secondary note, this is yet another sign of her gradual Americanization as she had no idea what Milk Duds were eight months ago.


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01-23-16
Emily_and_Ollie_at_Irvine_SpectrumI enjoyed a nice breakfast discussion with Emily on topics related to economics, politics and foreign policy. All subjects I’m amply unqualified to speak on, but which I’m rapidly trying to learn. Where’s Glen when I need him?

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01-23-16

It’s so funny hearing Emily deliberately trying (and failing) to say ‘karaoke’ incorrectly in an effort to fit in with her American friends. smile emoticon

The same thing happens to me when I try to say ‘Ronald McDonald’ with Japanese pronunciation which is ‘Donarudo Makudonarudo’.


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01-23-16

Emily asked me today how many more months she must wait to begin driving. Back in Japan when I told her California teens can apply for a license at age 16 or sooner, she was appalled and declared she’d never want to drive so young. Now it seems she’s eyeballing Yumiko‘s Prius.

Maybe I’m getting my hopes up but she also seems a little interested in motorcycles. She’s taken a fancy to the BMW F 800 R Roadster which would be a sweet Southern California ride. But don’t worry. Emi won’t be riding her own street bike any time soon.


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01-23-16
Emily’s just got home from her first mixed-sex group event on the town. She was nervous heading out but came home happy, claiming she had a lot of fun. A nice teenage milestone complete.

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01-23-16
Emily is still getting New Years cards from her schoolmates in Japan. Each receipt is a bittersweet arrival. A reminder of the happy life given up in favor of something quite fearful and unknown.

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01-24-16

1604382_768042446635023_8382637831736206944_nWhen I first introduced Emily to the California Beach Lifestyle this last summer she was hesitant and unsure. She took one look at the scantily clad young girls and told me she’d never wear a bikini. She complained that the water looked too cold or ‘samui!!’ as she exclaimed in Japanese. She said the waves were scary ‘kowai!!’ and she didn’t want to go in the water ‘dame!!’. She told me the animal life in the tide pools was weird ‘hen!!’ and she refused to touch the grasping tentacles of the flower-like sea anemone which she said was gross ‘kimoi!!’

12552584_768048989967702_604425357295040332_nYesterday at the beach with her friends, Emily led the way in introducing the other girls to the sea. She was first down the steps to the familiar sands of summer. She immediately ran across the beach to the cliff to show the other girls how to find polished crystals embedded in the sediment. As we made our way out towards low tide she showed the girls where to step, cautioning them of slippery rocks. Lifting strands of loose seaweed Emily explaining about the kelp beds which rise like forests in deep water. When I called the girls to do my usual show-and-tell about sea anemone Emily pushed through the crowd to boldly place her finger into the animal’s gaping maw, allowing the creature to envelope her digit despite the other girls’ cries of astonishment and disgust. Emily pointed out large, bright orange garibaldi fish swimming boldly within the clear waters at the edge of the rocks, cautioning her friends ‘those bite.’ At the far end of the tide pools we stood at a place where the land definitively ends, dropping immediately from exposed rocks into 20 foot depths and the open ocean beyond. The very place Emily and I had played like seals together in the waning days of summer. As we looked at the deep water Emily eyed me and said tantalizingly ‘don’t you want to get in?’

Before long Emily was up to her waist – shoes and all – in a deep pool filled with cold, clear water. And the other girls soon followed. Though I was first to enter this last summer, I was last to go in yesterday; carrying Ollie the dog safely in my arms and letting Emily lead the way. We moved to the sand and the girls laughed and played, running up and down the beach while being pursued by large waves breaking hard on the shore. Ollie and I sat and watched from the dry sands, the dog not yet at ease with waves and wet. I felt happy. The way an old man feels happy watching young people enjoying their youth.

Emily at last ran up the beach to me and told me ‘I want to get in!’ I had to tell her no, as time was late and we had no towels or any change of dry clothes, though I kinda wish I’d said yes. I promised Emily we’d be back…soon. And I made a note to myself to remind her to pack her beach towel and her skimpy California bikini, each and every time we return to the sea.

WATCH VIDEO: First day at the beach 2016

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01-24-16

Emily was sitting beside me just now using her iPhone when she let out a gasp and said “you won’t believe this.”

She was browsing some Japanese website where Japanese people were talking about me in some form of chat room. Emily was astonished to read when the conversation turned to her, and a discussion about her well being since moving to the USA. Emily was baffled to read strangers in Japan discussing if she’d ever come back. The people concluded she never would. The look on her face…


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01-24-16
Emily has officially outed herself on Twitter. You can be sure I’ll be keeping a bird’s eye on her tweets and follows. Good luck in the world of social media kid!
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01-24-16

Emily was sitting beside me just now using her iPhone when she let out a gasp and said “you won’t believe this.”

She was browsing some Japanese website where Japanese people were talking about me in some form of chat room. Emily was astonished to read when the conversation turned to her, and a discussion about her well being since moving to the USA. Emily was baffled to read strangers in Japan discussing if she’d ever come back. The look on her face…


 

01-25-16
This new video is a curiosity to me. I made this on Saturday when I took Emily and some of her friends to the beach. The video was Emily’s idea. She recommended I make it as soon as we got on the sand. This is something new to me, as Emily has been camera shy since around age eight, and I’ve trained myself to keep the iPhone in my pocket when we are together.
After we got back from the beach Emily asked me when I would upload the video. I responded soon, though I didn’t get a chance the rest of the weekend. She asked again…and then again. And finally, when I uploaded the video last night and sent her a link her only response was surprise that it was so short, and didn’t include all the good stuff we did. This is a big change from the kid who previously seemed uninterested in having her moments captured in video or photos.
Perhaps it’s the fact that some of her new American friends have their own YouTube channels (one of these is quite successful)? Maybe it’s the recent fun and interesting music videos she’s been making with her friends to post on YouTube? Or maybe it’s the dawning realization that moments come and moments go, but that a picture or video may last forever.

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01-26-16
Since reuniting with my family in the USA I’ve been fortunate to witness the unfolding of a process of transformation. The first steps in my daughter becoming not just a United States citizen of birth, but an American of mind. I’ve also been lucky to learn about the changes she is experiencing through the closer relationship we now have, due in part to the common bond we now share in being American. I’ve been posting here, on my blog and within my personal journal from time to time about experiences Emily shares with me, as well as my own observations along the way. I’ve decided to collect these notes into a new page on my website. A journal-like chronology of what happens along the way, as my daughter grows from a Japanese teen into a Japanese-American adult.

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01-27-16
My weekend plans have changed. Emily wants to return to the beach and take that swim I wouldn’t let her have last week. I’d rather enjoy a January swim in the ocean with my kid than an entire year riding my motorcycle around the world.

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01-28-16

Token effort is defined as my daily check of my daughter’s Twitter feed to make sure it’s all on the up and up. I can’t read a word as its all in Japanese yet I still feel like I’m doing my job.

I asked Emily if Twitter is a “Japan thing” in her world which she confirmed is true. It’ll be interesting to see when, how and on which platform she begins to adopt social media in English.


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01-28-16

An interesting change has happened with Emily’s English text messaging. As recently as a month ago she’d come to me to check her composition, which usually included some errors such as incorrect prepositions or particles. I’d help her tune her sentences to represent proper English grammar. Textbook English. Square and true.

Lately, she’s coming with sentences which are not only correct, but glazed with that casual ease more akin to spoken language than formal writing. I’m sure she’s picking this up from her friends; from their speech as well as their texts. It’s a first hint a coming fluency I think. When writing transitions from the proper mechanics of formal grammar, to the less structured flow of thoughts and observations passed casually between friends.


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01-29-16

‘I kinda know what you wanna say.’

‘But whatever. This is high school life.’

Emily is sitting next to me voicing out her text messages so I can check them for accuracy. I don’t have to correct her much and am amazed with how natural her messages sound.


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01-29-16

Emily has a new friend. A young girl from Japan named Emi. Newly arrived in the USA she’s joined our Emily’s art class. The two Emi have so much to share. A common challenge and struggle. And the deepest potential bond of empathy.


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01-29-16

Emily really enjoyed our after school motorcycle ride and beach outing today. She wanted so bad to swim out to ‘the deep part’ and made me promise to take her back tomorrow, weather permitting. There’s a big storm approaching and when I told her this might dampen our plans due to large waves she then suggested that we come simply to see the big waves. I think she’s taken the to the beach lifestyle hook, line and sinker (pun fully intended).


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01-30-15

One of the best things about the outdoor lifestyle is coming in from the cold. The experience of deep exhaustion coupled with the happy satisfaction which arrives after the excitement and danger are past, and we’re safe and warm again in our home.
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Emily and I were numb and shivering after riding the motorcycle home from the beach last night; covered in sand and wearing only wet swimsuits and riding gear. I told her to take a long, hot shower while I prepared cheeseburgers for the family. She emerged from her steamy bath with that supercharged glow of life which comes only of deep living, and she quickly asked for another cheeseburger after wolfing down the first. An hour later she was fast asleep with her dog on the sofa, enjoying the dark dreamless depths of sleep which the body always demands when we’ve pushed ourselves just a little too far.
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I hope she’ll like going too far. And perhaps grow into a woman who’s willing to take risks. To look to nature as a teaching muse, a place to play, a forum for the composition of character and thought.
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I haven’t yet introduced her to solitude. But I expect that’s something she’ll have to find on her own. But I’ve noticed how she often wanders away from me in wild places; on the beach, in the sea, in her mind. I think she’s found the path and has begun taking steps. Eager steps from what I’ve so far seen. I’ll need to let her go. Stay behind while she walks further than my aging legs can follow or swims deeper than my fears will allow. And maybe after she’s returned, has been showered, fed and rested, maybe then she can tell me a little of what she’s found there in the solitary dark.

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01-31-16
It’s been eight months since Emily came to America. Our family went to see Kung Fu Panda 3 today (terrific movie, BTW). After the movie I asked Emily if it was difficult for her to understand without Japanese subtitles. She said she didn’t even think about it until I’d asked. The movie’s story isn’t complex, yet it’s telling that she was alright without a Japanese crutch. Another milestone to record on the road to feeling at home in the United States.

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02-02-16

“How do you spell ‘congrats’?”
Followed by…
Does that mean ‘congratulations’?

Emily’s experience of learning English through text messaging is a lot like running before she can walk.


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02-02-16

Emily learned the F-word around age three, and could use it effectively in a sentence before she started preschool. By then she knew a lot of other bad words too, though she had no idea what any of them meant. I taught these special vocabulary to my daughter each night in the bath. My aim being to prepare her mind to  recognize the difference between F-you between friends and F-you which might lead to a fight. Profanity is actually pretty complex stuff, full of nuance and innuendo, and ranks up there with humor and sarcasm as some of the trickier bits of language and culture to understand and use well.

By the time Emily entered first grade she could spew forth filth from her mouth sufficient to make a sailor give up the sea. And we’d have contests to see who could string together the longest, most disgusting parade of vulgarity, just like rappers try to outdo one another at rhyme. This game came to an end a few years into elementary school, when I’d thought the lesson had sunk in, and propriety dictated I clean up my act. I never thought much about those seedy English lessons from then until now.

Emily’s been in the United States eight months. She’s in high school. And I’m guessing she’s beginning to hear for real some of the bad language she learned as a small child in Japan. I don’t know if she uses such language herself, though she’s clearly gained insight into what’s wrong with profanity versus what’s alright among friends. She’s also gained that keen feminine reaction to casual male profanity. That knowing look, slightly amused, slightly chastising, slightly in on the game. That look she now gives me every time I slip up and let on of those foul words fly.

I don’t use bad language often. And to my ear it’s seems Emily never does. Though the words are in there. And I hope such familiarity is helping her to feel a little more connected to her new home; to expressions of emotion, friendly banter, the American frame of mind. I hope it’s all still in there. Serving its purpose of acclimation. Even if she still doesn’t know what most of those bad words really mean.

CLICK HERE to read the whole blog post


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02-03-16

“So, Emily. Do you know what the ‘Superbowl’ is?”
“A really bouncy super ball??”


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02-04-16

When we lived in Japan my daughter recoiled anytime I brought out the camera to capture moments with photos or video. Much of this was a budding self-conscience concern about her appearance, what others thought, as well as the fact that my content often found its way to YouTube and social media. As a result I’d trained myself to keep the camera in my pocket and to exclude my family from my on-line sharing.

Things have changed since coming to the USA. Though Emily still likes to review my photos prior to upload, and will often have me do a retake until the composition is just right, she nevertheless seems comfortable joining me on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Tumblr and Facebook. And as for YouTube, she’s actually begun instructing me about videos I should be making, suggesting that ‘this experience would make a nice video’ or ‘don’t you think you should make a video now?’

The curious thing is how when I turn the camera on now she still acts a bit annoyed, though in fact the video was her idea. I guess this is an old habit from her media-phobic years in Japan.

The video linked below was Emily’s idea. And I’m glad she suggested it. Not for the storm, which was very nice, but for the moments of her smiling and holding the dog. Being happy while chased by the waves. Talking about getting in, and how cold the water really is. And a few minutes together which I’m sure we will both always remember.

Emily was right to suggest this video. Which isn’t much now. But will ripen and mature in the years to come. Becoming a treasure to us both when childhood and youth are a thing of the past.

As a content creator I suspect I’ll lose a few subscribers who expect something more of me. But in the end my channel isn’t about production, a particular message, or gaining eyeballs or augmenting my income. It’s about my life. My family’s life. My thoughts and whatever it is I choose to share. Emily was right to suggest this video, which has no gimmick other than the observation of a young girl, bright and eager with life, who could intuitively sense that a moment was happening which was worth recording.

Thank you, Emily. For teaching me something real and important. And perhaps for helping me regain my footing as an online content creator.

CLICK HERE to watch the video


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02-05-16

With my permission Emily took my phone in order to tweet on my behalf. I guess she has ideas about what I should be sharing. So this is fair warning that what I post from this day forward may not always be from me. I expect this change will be an improvement in every sense; a joint venture identity across generations and between individuals fast discovering a common bond in a new life and connected frame of mind.


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02-09-16

I heard my daughter say ‘bless you’ after a sneeze last night, which is such a slight and subtle indication of the American she has become.


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02-10-16

During our walk this evening Emily filled me in more on the story of our lives according to the Japanese message board she follows. Apparently, we moved back to the USA to escape bullying which Emily experienced in elementary school. The fact also explains why Emily sometimes accompanied me on mountain hikes in Japan. The real shocker in this story was the fact that Emily and I ditched Yumiko in Japan. I guess I’ll need to make some more YouTube videos to set the record straight, though I have a feeling that even the truth won’t help when you’re dealing with the reality that “the message sent is never the message received.”

 

 Emily attempted to use the word ‘genre’ in a sentence tonight with mixed results. It was a clear case of the mind commanding the tongue to do tricks it hadn’t yet mastered. Part of the problem is the close similarity in pronunciation between Japanese and English for this word which requires a simultaneous act of suppression and expression.

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02-11-16

Emily less than a year into her new life in Japan. About the same place then as she is now with her life in America.

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02-14-16

I really like this photo of Emily and her friend Kelly. These girls together positively radiate laughter and joy. I’m so glad Emily has made some terrific friends since coming to live in America. I hope that Kelly will always feel welcome to join us on any and all adventures.

friends

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02-04-16
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One of the very best things about coming back to America is the wonderful group of friends Emily has made along the way. Getting to know these exceptional young women is a great joy, as well as an encouragement that America hasn’t lost it’s way, and in fact continues to get better with each and every generation.

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02-17-16
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Emily and Kelly discovering the joy of playing in the sea.

Emily and Kelly playing in the surf


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02-17-16
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Emily has begun picking out errors in English pronunciation within the Japanese TV shows she likes which she describes as “so annoying!” This is a development I hadn’t anticipated as she used to deliberately alter her English to fit in better with her Japanese peers.

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02-17-16
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Emily: I’m hungry…
Me: You wanna “piece of toast”?
Emily: Pizza-toast??

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02-18-16
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Emily has stopped calling ice cream “ai su” which is another of those subtle and almost unnoticeable transitions from Japanese to English.

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02-19-16
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I’m helping Emily this evening with her vocabulary homework.

Me: What’s another word for “unusual”?
Emily: Weird
Me: What’s another word for “weird”?
Emily: You


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02-19-16
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Emily told me she wants to attend summer school this year even if it cuts into her Japan holiday. She says sophomore science is gonna be tough and she needs to improve her English comprehension to keep up. Who is this kid?

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02-20-16
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Emily came home from school last night super confused about Mrs., Miss and Ms. which are used with the various female teachers, staff and administrators at her school. After explaining the difference and enjoying an interesting exercise in pronunciation we then talked pretty heavy and deep on the subject of gender equality.

Today I’m going to teach her that fathers should always be addressed as “Your Grace” and see how far I can get with that.


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02-20-16
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Headed out to go skateboard shopping with my kid. For this So. Cal. dad this is better than learning she’d been accepted to Harvard.

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02-20-16
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Emily’s new skateboard is a Globe. This brand is from Australia, and is made for cruising. With soft wheels and rubber between the trucks and the board, it will absorb shocks and the occasional small pebble better and help reduce the chance of falling. The board is perfect for the wide, smooth streets, walkways and bike paths of Irvine and Orange County. Now we’re off to get some safety gear before commencing practice. — at Huntington Beach Pier/Main st.
Emilys skateboard

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02-20-16
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Turns out Emily rides goofy-foot just like her dad.

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02-22-16
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Emily has decided that I want a skateboard for my birthday. Sounds good to me.

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02-26-16
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The adventure of the last two plus years has been fully chronicled in the YouTube playlist “Return to the USA” (link below) along with two spin-off endeavors titled “The Americanization of Emily” and “My daughter meets Christianity.” Over 160 videos capturing the good, rough and unexpected at the tail end of a 15 year odyssey. I expect there’s a few more installments in the works though for the most part I’m happy to at last bring this chapter of our lives to a happy conclusion. I wonder what’s next…
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLsxz6VpLrYyM_JDFb3axftsNc9oQav0oz

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02-27-16
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Like a scene from Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Emily’s friend Kelly was telling me of a girl at their school who successfully ordered and received a pizza just in time for lunch.

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02-28-16
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Two year status report video (click to launch).
Two year

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03-03-16
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Tossing a teenage English learner into an American high school is like giving them a brain infusion of street vocabulary. I can’t believe the number of non-dictionary words and terms Emily has picked up in just nine months. I’m not referring to profanity but simply to the casual way American teens talk with one another, along with the words and phrases each generation makes their own.

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03-04-16
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Emily was describing the difference between drink vending machines at Japanese and American high schools:

“American vending machines offer sports drinks and water, while Japanese machines offer tea, tea, tea, water, tea and tea.”


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03-05-16
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Mama’s working today so it’s just Emi and I on the town. First stop, Billabong, second stop Huntington Beach, third stop doggy park. Let’s go!!

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03-11-16
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Emily has begun exclaiming ‘yippie!!’ Instead of ‘yatta!!’ during moments of excitement.

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03-13-16
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Just two more months and Emily will be driving on her learner’s permit. Another six months after and she’ll be free to roam with her California provisional license. Such horizons!

I wonder if she’ll want to get a motorcycle license too?


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03-13-16
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Shopping for Emily’s first car. — at CarMax.

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03-13-16
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A hobby Yumiko and I have shared for decades is visiting thrift stores and used item boutiques selling clothing, housewares and whatever for deep discounts. We had to stop this pastime in Japan where the preference is for new and modern, and where recycle stores are a rare find. We recently resumed this activity with the discovery of the two Laura’s House women’s charity stores in San Juan Capistrano and Forest Lake. The big surprise was the enthusiastic interest of Emily who found shoes, a top, a framed painting of dogs at the beach, a cast iron mermaid statue and best of all a lovely black evening dress she can wear to her school’s spring dance. Emily was so proud she got her dress for just $10.00. What a joy to discover a shared interest the whole family can enjoy and a great way to furnish both our home and wardrobe on a budget.

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03-13-16
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Making great friends like Kelly Ko has made all the difference in Emily’s transition to life in America. Thanks for being you, Kelly.

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03-16-16
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Sneaking a mid-week motorcycle tour of the LA freeways with my daughter. The weather is perfect for nighttime riding.

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03-18-16
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Emily’s high school choral group won a friggin’ Grammy award.

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03-19-16
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Yumiko is working today, so Emily and I are on our own. We’re headed to San Diego to visit Muirskate which specializes in longboard skateboards. Our first stop is a cozy donut shop in San Clemente to fill up our tummies before the long coastal ride south. Emily is a great companion on the motorcycle and I’m looking forward to a fun day of adventure with my kid.

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03-19-16
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Emily are taking the back road home from San Diego to Orange County. Riding along old route 395 through beautiful hills and mountains. A spectacular day for riding a motorcycle!

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03-19-16
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Emily and I have stopped to rest a bit before we take on the dreaded and notorious Ortega highway. She and I have traversed this scary mountain highway six times together and it’s always a challenge. The last time was at night, which experience I never wish to repeat. See you all (hopefully) on the other side.

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03-19-16
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Emily and I survived yet another crossing of the Ortega Highway. Altogether, we put away over 250 miles of freeway, highway and city roads covering the costal range and inland valleys between Los Angeles and San Diego. The highlight of the trip was a one hour stretch of old route 395, where perfect weather combined with smooth winding roads connecting old California towns produced an experience quite worthy of long term recollection. Best of all, Emily’s iPhone battery died halfway through the day which meant she had to suffer many hours without music or any other distractions and instead learn to enjoy the peace that comes of being alone with your thoughts while open and exposed on the back of a powerful motorcycle leaning and gliding through the landscape. By the end of the day I could hear her singing to herself into the wind which is always a sign of a productive and satisfying road trip.

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03-25-16
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Emily went to the garage to get something, and I warned her to not bump the car which would cause the alarm to go off. As an English learner she asked me ‘shouldn’t that be “go on” instead of “go off?”‘ I didn’t have any good answer.

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03-27-16
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I’m always startled to see and hear Emily watching English-speaking teen vloggers on YouTube.

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03-31-16
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It’s time for Emily’s first driving lesson. I was a full time licensed California driving instructor for four years and I taught literally hundreds of teens to drive. I was always looking forward to the day I’d teach my own. Here we go!
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04-07-16
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Emily and I are on our second dash. The first one was pretty hectic as neither of us understood or knew the process. This second run is easier for sure. It’s interesting to see the inside of sone fine OC dining establishments.

Our first two hour Doordash shift is over. Emily and I completed three local deliveries and earned $29.23 ($15.00 for the deliveries plus $14.23 in tips). We drove 32 miles which is a bit over half a gallon of gas at $2.54/gallon. Our first delivery was complicated and time consuming which threw off our average delivery time, as did the fact we had no idea what the hell we were doing. Demand was IMMEDIATE and heavy with only seconds between calls. In fact, we had three calls piled up together into something called “batch” which occurs when two or more orders happen at the same or nearby restaurants. There’s good money to be earned accepting batch orders, though Emily and I were too nervous and we failed to accept the three orders in time. If we had, we might have doubled our evening’s take.

The best part of the night was partnering with my daughter on her very first job. We had fun checking out some awesome high end sushi joints, running together to make up time, and just talking and learning together about a new and interesting way to make money. Emily was in charge of operating the app which she mastered after the first delivery. I was in charge of driving and blasting the classic rock on KLOS 95.5. We listened to Boston, Journey, Fleetwood Mac and more before finishing off the evening with KISS FM and Justin Bieber, Mike Posner and Zayne.

A night to remember for sure. Thanks for being my copilot, Emily. I’ll have your ten bucks ready tomorrow.


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05-01-16
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Happy one year anniversary in the USA, Yumiko and Emily! Life is strange in offering challenges we didn’t expect and rewards we didn’t think we deserved. This last year was full of both and a pivotal period in our development as individuals and as a family. Our struggle to reestablish ourselves in the USA remains an uphill climb, though I think we’re almost there. Now let’s celebrate with breakfast, a movie and some Yum Yum Donuts before we turn together to take on our second year!

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05-07-16
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Emily’s second driving lesson is done. She’s learning to navigate curves and control the car at speed. Before long she’ll be behind the wheel during our weekend delivery work together. I can’t wait to hand her the keys so I can take a nap while she drives.

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05-13-16
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My daughter told me tonight that she wants to go to the wilderness…alone. Pinch me. Am I dreaming??

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05-14-16
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Thirteen months in the USA and I no longer need to pull punches using English with Emily. Full, rich vocabulary and range of expression are now employed with the confidence that any new words will be understood by virtue of context. Her improvement in just the last two months is worthy of the term exponential, as she fast approaches the capabilities of a native English speaker. Such are the astonishing capabilities of a young and fluid mind.

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05-20-16
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Really enjoyed watching Emily and her classmates performing tonight in Broadway Rocks. An outstanding choral performance led by the incomparable Mr. Blaney.

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05-27-16
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Watching my wife and daughter texting…in English…mostly.
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Emily and Yumiko Texing - The Americanization of Emily

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05-31-16
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Emily is joining me this weekend in the desert. Her first experience of the desert will be at 110 degrees F (43 C). If she returns again then I know she’ll be hooked for life. Yumiko is welcome as well though she’s elected an air conditioned mall instead.
I’m planning to take Emily to the Daggett Pioneer Cemetery during our outing this weekend. I want to show her the grave of Botanist Mary Beal who came to the desert as a young adult to spend her life wandering and exploring alone amidst the silent mountains and dead volcanic cinder cones. Miss Beal’s botanical photos, descriptions and specimens are today found in collections around the world. Miss Beal herself was interred in an unmarked grave beside the man who shared her passion for the desert and who may have been something more than friend. A headstone was added a few years ago by admirers of her work and life story. My own research has revealed what I think are the graves of Mary’s mom and dad in an old cemetery in Riverside where I plan to stop with Emily to tell her the first part of the long and interesting tale of Mary Beal the Desert Botanist.
hope to use the opportunity of this weekend with Emily to warn her of the danger of safety.

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06-04-16
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4:30 AM and Emily and I are off to the desert. We’ve only a rough idea our destination and almost no provisions. I’ve forgotten water before we’ve even begun, though it looks like Emily remembered to bring some. It’ll be 110 degrees F (43 C) where we’re headed
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I just did a double-check with Emi who reports that in addition to water she has her mascara, lipstick, foundation a a mirror. So I guess we are truly ready to go. 🙂 66 degrees F. (17 C.).
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Roadtrip!!!
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5:57 AM and we’ve crossed the mountains and have entered the desert. 72 degrees F. (22 C).
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After an hour on the road we’ve found s nice roadside diner for a hearty breakfast and a discussion of how deserts are formed. 74 degrees F. (23 C.).
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20 foot tall worn down nub of an ancient mountain. 82 F. 28 C.
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Our first stop is an abandoned desert homestead recently the home of a desert hobo. As usual, Emily quickly wanders alone into the empty places. If I don’t keep an eye on her she will be consumed by the desert…or perhaps she’ll consume it first.
Desert trip 01
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Exploring and sharing about the history of Daggett, California. A once and important place in the history of mining, railroad and 20 mule team borax extraction from the deep recesses of Death Valley.
Desert trip 02
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Daggett Pioneer Cemetery in search of the grave of Mary Beal. 86 degrees F. 30 C.
Desert trip 03
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Old checkpoint along Route 66. I’m pretty sure John Steinbeck visited this place, which may be the same checkpoint the Joad family visited after their ordeal crossing the California desert in the novel The Grapes of Wrath. Readers might remember that this place was the turning point in the novel where ma rose up to become the strength and last uniting force to rescue the family from dissolution. Quiz: can anyone recall what was in the back of the Joad’s old jalopy and the impetus of ma’s sudden strength? 90 degrees F. 37 C.
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Emily dared me to race this desert locomotive. I lost.
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Newberry Springs and Bagdad. 99 degrees F. 37 C.
Desert trip 04
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Gasco road. The Volcano Wilderness is a three hour hike over trailess desert from the end of this road. 101 degrees F. 38 C.
Desert trip 05
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Emily and I are at the end of Gasco road. The edge of the Volcano Wilderness is visible as the black line above Emi’s head. We sat together on the hot sand and shared our personal philosophies. I told her about The Great Indifference, The Path of Wildness and invited her to return again to venture across the desert and into the heart of both. 102 degrees F. 38 C.
Desert trip 06
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Emily is learning to drive off road. Watch out for dead cars!
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Emily’s first drive was 30 miles between Bagdad and Ludlow along historic Route 66. Good job, Emi. I enjoyed my nap.
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Blasted by a dust devil!!!! 108 degrees F. 42 C
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115 degrees F. 46 C. and we’re beginning our hike. I told Emily there is no room for error on this hike which may be the most dangerous of her life.
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and I survived our hike though we both returned to the car with seriously swollen hands and with faces bloated and red like a Japanese ogre. She said she really “felt” what such extreme heat can begin doing to a body and understand what I meant when I told her that venturing out in such heat starts the timer on a countdown to death. The temp is now 118 F. 47 C.
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Our sixteen hour, four hundred mile road-trip is complete. My daughter and I went to immerse ourselves in one of the planet’s most extreme environments, and our 118 degree desert hike was truly an eye-opening experience. It wasn’t until a half hour after we’d made it back to the car that we both realized how our bodies had been pushed towards untested tolerances. Our hands continued swelling and remained swollen and somewhat numb for a very long time. We both suffered headaches and our faces were so blotched and red Emily thought we’d each been severely sunburned. I know that we hadn’t yet reached even stage one hyperthermia, though knowing how quickly heat exhaustion can develop into something worse, I was glad we’d turned around when we did.

I hope Emily will return with me again to reconnoiter indifference on a still hotter day perhaps, or to climb many hours on a cool autumn day to places humans rarely visit, and to there meet challenges of other sorts, and most importantly, to front her essential character and discover the worthless value of so many things imagined otherwise.

Thanks for sharing this experience with me, Emily. You’re always welcome by my side in the wild.


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Enjoying cool coastal air with family and friends at the 10th annual Orange County Super Pet Adoption event, where the event motto is “be kind, rewind.

Family with Kelly Ko


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06-08-16
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I’m looking forward to dinner tonight and our family chat on yesterday’s developments in the presidential primary and other races. It’s interesting to me that the two most avoided topics of polite society – politics and religion – are lately the main course for so many of our family mealtime discussions.


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06-08-16
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Emily schooled her parents’ English tonight explaining that “the title of the movie ‘Me Before You’ means ‘me before I met you’ not ‘me ahead of you'” as Yumiko and I had mistakenly presumed.

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06-09-16
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I made a point last night of looking my daughter in the eyes and telling her “you too can become president of the United States.” I then went on to explain to her the significance of Hillary Clinton becoming the presumptive nominee for president for a major political party, and coming one step closer to breaking though the glass ceiling weakened by “eighteen million cracks” in 2008. Regardless of what happens in November, the fact that the highest office in the land no longer seems off limits to anyone but white males should be great cause to celebrate. I’m so happy to be back and watching these events as they unfold. Now, may the best man….er person win!!

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06-10-16
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Congratulations to my daughter Emily on the completion of your Freshman year of high school. You’ve come so far, so fast, in a new world with a new language, culture and way of life. Both Japan and America are yours now and in the future. And I hope you’ll always have the courage to proceed with any dream, in any land, not n spite of the risks, but in full understanding and acceptance of both the consequence and wonder of choosing to live.

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06-17-16
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Yumiko and I have begun enlisting Emily’s young eyes to assist in reading the English fine print on American coupons and merchandise. As a former English teacher, I think fine-print reading should be a new category of English assimilation.

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06-25-16
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Welcome to the first full weekend of summer!! Let’s make this summer the best ever!
Just keep swimming - The Americanization of Emily

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06-28-16
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I’ve taken Emily as far as I can in empty parking lots and along deserted desert highways, and it’s time to hand her over to a professional driving instructor for city streets and freeways. I was a California licensed driving instructor at Steve Morris’ Defensive Driving Academy (pictured) for four years, and I think I know what to look for in choosing a good school, and I really like what I’ve found at Walter’s Driving Academy in Mission Viejo. I’m wondering if any other OC parents have tried Walter’s or if you can recommend any other programs in the area. Another place we like is Teen Road To Safety, where the instructors are also law enforcement officers. Thank you in advance for any suggestions!

And yes, this is an unsolicited commercial for the Steve Morris school in Santa Barbara. Mr. Morris (my old boss) is the most honest, down-to-Earth guy you’ll ever meet, who loves his work and really cares about the proper preparation of teens for a lifetime of driving. Steve’s principals of integrity, sincerity, honesty and professionalism are what the Steve Morris’ school is all about. If you send your teen to Steve then please tell him Kurt sent ya, and please give him a big bear hug from me. I love that guy.


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06-28-16
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t looks like my dinnertime stories of warm water, salty sea air, cool breezes and the soft light of sundown have successfully persuaded Emily to join me for an after-work ocean swim. My evil plot to make her a child of the sea seems to be working. Muhahaha! *kneading hands fiercely*

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06-28-16
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There’s a story behind this photo… Emily and I were out this afternoon working the last of the sets rolling in from that big storm that sent giant waves pounding the So. Cal. coast all weekend. For the most part the big waves have passed, and Emily and I were practicing diving under manageable, mid-size waves with occasional large set-waves arriving at rough, ten minute intervals.

I’d just finished teaching Emily how to handle the situation surfers call “spin-cycle” which describes being caught within the foaming, churning madness of a full-on breaker. Not five minutes after our lesson on the topic there suddenly emerged an enormous series of waves rising like mini mountains preparing to close-out the entire length of Shaw’s Cove. Emily and I successfully swam over the first two waves, only to be met with the third and biggest, which I knew we could never out-swim. I yelled to my daughter to wait until the big wave was upon us before diving to the bottom to seek refuge from the slam. The timing was all wrong, and I could see that she was in precisely the worst place, and was going to be hit direct by the full force of the wave. We both dove, and with my eyes open I watched underwater as Emily became enveloped by a wedge of water weighing tens of tons and delivered with the force of a 20 mph school bus. She was gone… Lost in a madness of white.

When I came to the surface Emily was nowhere in sight. Just a bubbling, boiling churn of foam in every direction (the camera was running and caught this image of me as I first emerged). When Emily failed to come to the surface, I began swimming towards where I’d last seen her. Within moments my right leg kicked something solid…Emily. I reached down but she was gone. Just as I began to worry she suddenly popped to the surface with a huge smile on her face. The wave had torn the scrunchy from her hair which was hanging wild and free. She was clearly alright, and when I asked her what happened, and why she was down so long, she explained that the wave had given her quite a ride and toss under the sea, but that she remembered what to do; to not panic, to not resist, and to simply let the wave’s energy dissipate and fade, rolling with the flow, and only when she was fully free of the “spin-cycle” to begin her climbing swim back to the surface.

Emily did great, exercising a trained instinct which is second-nature to every body, boogie or board surfer the world over. An understanding of the power of the sea which requires an honest respect and willingness to not panic, and instead yield to a power far greater than ourselves, preserving strength and breath until the sea sets us free, and only then beginning the effort of fighting back to the surface, breath and life.

Good job, Emily. You’ve passed a critical stage in learning to enjoy and survive the sea.

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Sometimes the best way to learn the sea is to first become owned by the sea.
Emily takes on the sea

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07-01-16
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Emily’s day at the beach with friends was extended to an evening of outdoor dining by the fountain at Westpark. Yumiko and I used the opportunity to enjoy an adult meal together at Urban Plate, followed by green tea latte at our favorite coffee shop, Tomo; which word means ‘friend’ in Japanese. Conversation wound to the topic of the long overdue challenge of transforming our humble apartment into a home. I’m really excited about the plan we agreed to. In a way it feels like being newlyweds again; planning each room and deciding an overall theme and budget. The seasons of life are indeed attended by both completion and renewal. A chance again at improved living, building on the lessons of seasons already past.

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07-02-16
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love this photo Emily shared of her own ocean adventure yesterday. Never stop living each day to the fullest, kiddo. Never stop loving life.
Emily at the beach with friends

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07-04-16
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After playing mid-day chauffeur for Emily and her friend, I’ve dropped the girls off to join their larger gang (including boys) for an evening of fireworks and festivities in central Irvine. A year ago (only two months after arriving in the USA) Emily attended the same event with her mom and dad; and now she’s matured and settled into a life of her own here I had previously only dared to dream possible. Mom and dad will be there tonight as well, watching the fireworks on our own while our daughter participates fully in the experience of America. Happy Independence Day Emily and the USA.
Fourth of July 2016

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07-09-16
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Emily texted to tell me she couldn’t make our daddy-daughter date. I remember when she was very small, and began walking without the need of my hand. And a few years later when she got on the kindergarten bus without us, smiling back through the window as the little bus drove away. Not long after, I let go the back of the bike as she wobbled away towards her panicked mother down the street. I remember the first time she rode the train alone in Japan, and went to a movie without us. She did well without me after I came to America first. And now she’s finding footing in a new land, growing up, needing us less. It’s a good thing. It’s the right thing.

Yumiko’s off work in an hour. I wonder if she’s free for ice cream?


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07-12-16
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It looks like Emily’s wish to become a babysitter for Japanese families is going to happen. While hanging out at the community pool today with friends, she met a Japanese family who asked if she was available to babysit. She cleared it with Yumiko and me and she’ll begin work after summer school is complete. She’s going to do this as a team effort with another Japanese girl who recently arrived from Japan. I plan to go over emergency procedures and basic safety training with Emily before she begins work.


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07-15-16
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Emily’s got two babysitting gigs lined up for the weekend. I told her it was important to receive proper babysitter training to do the job right; and accordingly shared with her my stories of blowing things up with fireworks, experimenting with the oven, jumping off the roof contests and how my babysitters always seemed to have boys over after Lyle and I went to bed. Yeah, I think she’s ready.

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07-15-16
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Coming home from the beach just now I passed Emily headed out the door in running gear on her way for an afternoon run. When the heck did Emi become a runner?? ‪#‎ALifeOfHerOwn‬

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07-15-16
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It’s nine PM and Emily just walked out the door with Ollie to hang with her girlfriend and her dog at the park. Before she left I interrogated her at the door:

K: Do you have your phone?
E: Yes.
K: Is it charged?
E: 80%
K: Is the ringer muted?
E: Not muted.
K: What time will you be home?
E: 10:00
K: What will you do if you meet any boys at the park?
E: Hi cutie!
K:  😦


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07-17-16
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One of the reasons we chose Orange County to settle is the strong cultural presence from Asia, which we thought would help our daughter ease more gently into America. Tonight she attended a traditional Japanese summer Obon festival with boys and girls from her high school Japan club. Arriving at the festival to pick the girls up this evening, I was delighted to see a scene straight from Japan, with young girls in bright-colored summer yukata (lightweight kimono) giggling at boys performing antics to impress the girls, lots of vendors and a real atmosphere of summertime in Japan (though notably without the humidity). Yeah, life in the OC isn’t an easy choice financially, though it was definitely the right decision culturally.

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08-09-16
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I’m very proud of my daughter who studied hard and passed the eleven chapter English language on-line driver’s training course at Walter’s Driving school. Now she’s ready to tackle the forty-six question DMV written exam. And although the DMV offers the test in Japanese, she’s elected to take it in English. With a little luck I’ll soon be napping on the freeway while Emily drives the family around Los Angeles.

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08-11-16
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Emily passed her written driving test!! In English no less!

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08-11-16
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Emily’s first behind-the-wheel lesson will be over in a few hours. After that she’s free to drive with any lunatic, er, her dad over the age of 21. Next step, Las Vegas road trip!!

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08-11-16
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I just got off the phone with our insurance company. Emily has been added as a driver for both cars with ZERO change in our premium. Of course, the payments will go up after she is fully licensed and driving on her own. But by then I plan to have her through stunt driver training and making money driving the Prius through explosions for Hollywood blockbusters. Watch out, Vin Diesel, here comes Emily Ethanol!

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08-13-16
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While Yumiko’s hard at work at her job and I’m studying for my new job, Emily’s at Disneyland mixing it up with new media superstars. I’m soooooo jealous. I’m a huge Eugene fangirl.

Eugene and Emily


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08-14-16
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Studying to regain my driving instructor’s license with a teen learner in the house is a win-win for both of us. I can brush up on my teaching technique while giving my young learner/daughter the much needed practice she’ll require to become a safe and competent driver.

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08-16-16
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ROADTRIP!!! With my daughter to help her get lots of driving miles under her belt. We’re headed out to the desert to drive highways, byways and freeways. And we’re takin’ the dog! Who knows where we’ll end up.

Emily has completed many miles today; beginning at the edge of the low desert where she drove a lonely, gently-winding two-lane highway along and between low hills. Lots of practice guiding the car in big, graceful curves. After mastering the easy stuff, we headed for a mountain pass for a more challenging drive through steep twisties. It was here that she had a chance to hone her skill slowing into and accelerating out of mountain turns. Ollie the dog was even obliging the effort by leaning his body to the right and left as he sat on my lap watching the road. I pulled a fast-one on Emily by selecting a highway which merged onto the freeway without warning. As a former driving instructor, I remembered my former students’ irrational fear of freeways, and decided to slip the experience on Emily without notice, after I determined she was ready. After a while on the freeway Emily turned to me and asked “am I on the freeway?” She was so unfazed by her achievement that she never had a chance to feel anxious. I’m going to need to remember this trick when I begin teaching driving again professionally next month.

Now we’re taking a break at the Skechers factory store in Moreno Valley, where Emi can pick out some back-to-school shoes before we resume our driving lesson.

Emily and I just got home after our half-day driving lesson. She was doing so well I let her drive the freeway during rush hour as well as some dense metropolitan surface streets while the masses were letting off work. Of course, I’d never throw my paying students into the deep-end like that, though I’ll always encourage my flesh-and-blood to not only walk, but also drive, along The Path of Wildness.

I almost let Emily drive the notorious 91 freeway home during rush hour, though I decided to hold off until next week exposing her to the worst freeway in America. After all that challenging LA driving though, the tame and gentle streets of Irvine should feel like the motorcar ride at Disneyland.


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08-19-16
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It’s time for another driving lesson with Emily. Yesterday she drove for more than half a day through desert two-lane country roads, meandering mountain highways and mildly congested freeways. The goal was to make her feel at home behind the wheel. Spending hours in the saddle, through increasing levels of difficulty and traffic congestion, has increased Emily’s confidence as a new driver (a risky gain which we will deal with later). She’s now ready for a few hours of real city driving.

Our plan is a relaxing drive up the coast along the Pacific Coast Highway through the beach cities of Laguna, Newport, Huntington, Long Beach, Seal Beach, Palos Verdes and finally Torrance and Redondo Beach. Along the way we’ll negotiate dozens and dozens of traffic lights, a rare LA roundabout (I’m going to make her go around two or three times) and even two giant bridges resembling the Golden Gate. Somewhere between here and there we’ll also look for a nice place for lunch.

So far, Emily hasn’t experienced any “OH SHIT!” moments as a driver, which are valuable for the purpose of delivering a solid dose of reality regarding the dangers of driving, as well as to instill some sense of humility and caution as to the potent power of motor vehicles, and the need to wield that power carefully. I’m hoping we’ll have a few safe and sane OH SHIT! moments today in order to get these challenging experiences under our belt while I’m there to help her stay safe. It’s always a balancing act providing new life experience to my daughter while being careful to not push her too far.

Emily’s first drive-through experience.#TeenDriver
First fire truck with sirens encounter. CHECK #TeenDriver
Spill hot coffee on dad’s leg – CHECK #TeenDriver
Navigated traffic leading up to and around first traffic accident. – CHECK #TeenDriver
Successful navigation of Surf City, USA – CHECK #TeenDriver — at Main St Hungington Beach.
Northbound 405 freeway – CHECK #TeenDriver
Emily’s first night drive is complete. A thorough tour of the wide and gentle streets of Irvine followed by a short jaunt on the freeway. #TeenDriver

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08-20-16
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Emily has become my chauffeur. With a full morning of errands, I decided to let my daughter do all the driving. I taught her about the Waze navigation application, and then plugged in each destination. I then sat back and watched Emily maneuver the car here and there throughout the city. Within a few miles she’d figured out the app’s predictive technology, and was deftly changing lanes and setting up the car in anticipation of every turn. She dove straight into the center of the most challenging parking lots, selecting her spaces and executing lovely, positioned stops. Backing out’s still a challenge, as is figuring out just how far a mile really is as opposed to the more familiar kilometer. I used to joke that I’d have her driving Doordash with me after she got her learner’s permit. I’m thinking now I may just really do it…

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08-21-16
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Today’s driving lesson was all about freeways. Emily completed two full round-trip circles (rectangles, really) around Orange County. I choose Sunday for this experience for the reduced traffic and stress levels of our fellow drivers, which I hoped would make the experience a little less challenging for my daughter.

For the first loop we stuck to the inside freeway lanes, focusing on dealing with other drivers who were entering and exiting the freeway, as well as the challenge of negotiations complex freeway interchanges such as the maze-like Orange Crush.

For our second loop, I got Emily out into the fast lanes, including the carpool lane. While cruising along in the safe and cozy carpool lane we talked about reading the freeway signs, and learned to watch out for impatient motorists who might suddenly dart across the solid double yellow lines. We practiced maintaining a safe driving distance and discussed what to do about tailgaters.

Emily did great, though the 25 MPH interchange loop was a little tricky. She also needed a little practice changing lanes at 75 MPH in the fast lane, and then outracing the CHP after they engaged us in high-speed pursuit. We’re now laying low at the Yum Yum Donuts in Santa Ana until the police give up the search.


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08-24-16
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In Japan, Emily always brought school paperwork to her mother to read and sign. In America she brings it to me. So, this is what it feels like to be a real parent. 🙂 — feeling happy.
Homeowrk

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09-01-16
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Emily invented her own song to help her memorize all 50 states, which are new to her having grown up in Japan. The delightful part is that the song is sung to the tune of the National Anthem which she learned in choir. She’s studying for a geography test tonight and singing the song over and over while pointing at a map.

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09-02-16
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A year ago this week our daughter attended her very first high school football game, and the first game of the season, with her mom and dad. She was a freshman then, and didn’t know anyone else, and the circumstance were strange and unfamiliar. She didn’t go back for any other games.

Tonight our daughter is attending her second football game, and the first game of the season of her sophomore year. She left mom and dad at home tonight, stepping out alone to join a large group of friends, wearing a strappy, somewhat revealing top unlike anything she’d ever wear in Japan, humming a Justin Timberlake tune, and smiling from ear to ear.

As she left she asked her mother in Japanese what time to be home. My wife told her “we trust you.” Before she closed the door I told her to text or call if she needs me, and she gave my a solemn, grown up nod, before disappearing quickly into the night.

Somehow I think Emily is going to enjoy many high school football games this Autumn, and perhaps as many rounds of burgers and fries at In and Out. She’s tasting the freedoms of America, along with the increasing freedoms of young adulthood; such a potent, and risky, mix. Yet like her mother said, it’s time to trust. Though you can be sure I won’t be going to bed until I see her happy smile return back through the door, at a safe and reasonable hour.

Emily texted me at 10:08 to say she’d be home by 11:30. She arrived home safe and sound at 11:22.

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2 comments on “The Americanization of Emily

  1. Eric K.
    January 27, 2016

    Dear Kurt: Your writings are always captivating and informative. I always look forward to viewing your latest post whether it be on WordPress, Instagram or YouTube. You cause me to think, ponder, wonder and and ruminate about issues, matters, people, ideas, etc. Thank you, Kurt and Family! Best regards, Eric

    • softypapa
      January 28, 2016

      Hello Eric, Thank you for visiting my blog and for your very nice message. I really appreciate your feedback which encourages me to get out and live, love and share more. I hope all is well in your world. It’s been so long. The family and I visited Santa Barbara a few months back and we ventured a sneak upstairs above The Natural Cafe. It looks like our old offices have been re-purposed to professional suites, though it was nice to stand in that long hallway for a minute and just remember. Take care and have a wonderful today! 🙂

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This entry was posted on January 26, 2016 by in Uncategorized.
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