What I Can Do as an Adult ROP Patient and Being Blind in One Eye

Ever since I moved back to the United States, I kept on looking for a support group to join for adult ROP (retinopathy of prematurity) patients and/or for the people who were born blind in one eye to occasionally meet up in Washington D.C. area, but it is such a shame I could not find one till this day due to my lack of resources.

And I came up with the idea that if there is really none, I am going to make one if there are people who are feeling the same way, which is exactly why I am finally writing here today.

For a long time, I have been feeling the desperate sense of urge to be connected with somebody like me. We might not need any special assistance when it comes to daily activities, but for anyone being born blind in one eye, I greatly assume that each of us shares similar struggles that are difficult to be noticed in public compared to those who are legally blind such as being unable to drive a car, facing the fact that the blind eye shrinking each day, resulting in a more obvious lazy eye, literally running into a wall and a pole and fearing for the future outcome as we age with the increasing possibility of a retina detachment of our good eye caused by illness such as glaucoma and diabetes. Are you with me?

At the same time, because we were born with one eye blind, I also assume that each of us has various stories of what we have accomplished so far and aspire to achieve in the future. Being blind in one eye can never stop us, you know. Is this you?

If you are like me and if you are ever feeling lost and isolated because it is hard for people to understand what it feels like to be born and live being blind in one eye, I am here for you and you will find the light because you can be unbelievably strong…much stronger than you can ever even imagine.

It does not matter how old you are whether you are in D.C. or from the U.S. or anywhere in the world. If you feel like sharing your personal experience or stories of anyone you know who are like me, please write as comments. I would love to be connected with all of you.

Advertisements

(21 Days until I Say) Goodbye, Germany/Tschüss, Deutschland

The last year in Germany went by really fast. I mean, unbelievably surprisingly crazy fast. Our six years here will end exactly in 21 days. Will I cry? Probably!!! Am I going to miss it? Absolutely!!!

“Are you excited that you are moving to the U.S.?” 

“I should say yes. I am positive and hopeful but there is a moment every day that I feel extremely sad.” 

“Oh, we’re gonna miss you.” 

“I’m gonna miss you, too!!!” 


It is the phase of goodbyes. I have experienced it before more than once like there is nothing new about it, but one thing so sure is that I am NOT a fan of it AT ALL.

Deutschland ist schon meine zweite Heimat. People say where you live eventually becomes your home. After living here for six years, Germany already became my home. Though I am not German and my German is far from great, I tried my very best to be a better person in this country despite the fact that the attempt might not have been always successful. And now, “Please stay!” and “I don’t want you to leave!” mean so much to me more than ever. How many times do you think I have wished that I could be in Japan, the U.S. and Germany at the same time? 

The beautiful Rhein River on the bridge between Kastel and Mainz, the cobblestone road on my way to the station, the latte macchiato and the Glühwein with my friends, the Christmas markets we went throughout Germany, the sound of the church bell near our apartment, the commute to Frankfurt on S-bahn I have done countless times, the gates of departure at Frankfurt Airport where our trips started, and the sound of German language (especially, the dialect of Hessen). The priceless ordinary pieces of my memory are forever remain to be so dear to me.

Like I wrote before, it is not a place that determines your happiness. Wherever you go, it is you who make you happy. And when it happens to be so easy to fall in love with the place, it gets even easier for you to feel your happiness, Vielen vielen Dank, Deutschland. All I have for you is nothing but genuine gratitude, Germany. Thank you so much for the best six years of our life.

Now America is calling. It is the East Coast: the brand new world. It is time to go and I will definitely discover new happiness there.

The Shot of Espresso Macchiato in Italy Tells All About Happiness

I have written an article about how much the power of a cup of good coffee contributes to the feelings of happiness before. I also mentioned that my deepest love for coffee started ever since I had a shot of great espresso when I visited Paris for the first time when I was twenty. The exact feeling still stays the same till this day.

Living in Europe for about 8 years in total, finding a cup of good coffee through traveling various places in Europe completely became my greatest joy of everything. I had the amazing opportunities to travel to Rome, Florence and Paris last and this week on vacation and I entertained myself so much, going to different cafes and trying different coffee every single day in Italy and France.

At La Casa Del Caffe in Rome, I finally found the one. The very best coffee I ever had in my life.

As soon as I entered the cafe filled with tourists and locals, I ordered and paid for a shot of espresso macchiato and received the receipt at the cashier. As I handed the receipt to the barista, he promptly placed a tiny saucer and a spoon on the counter right in front of me and hurried his way back to the prestigious-looking coffee machine where the greatest creation was formed with pride.

Within a minute or two, the cute espresso cup filled with the coffee with the drops of milk on top was on the saucer. The taste was just so heavenly- the creaminess of the milk softly wrapped the rich flavor of the coffee. No sugar or anything else was necessary. Just amazing!!! It was the exact moment I truly thought I was the happiest person on earth. I really don’t think I was the only one who felt this way. 

The very next day, I returned to the cafe and tried the cappuccino this time, which was absolutely fascinating also.

Where did you have your best coffee in your life? Have a happy life with coffee, everyone!!!

The Part of Me as a Language Instructor

I just wondered if it would be interesting to write about my work a little. I have been working as a Japanese language instructor for some private language school for quite a while here in Germany.  I teach both directly at the classroom of the school and at the students’ companies. Majority of my lessons are for complete beginners, but I cover every level, including the native level. Most sign up as they are getting transferred to Japan near the future and some participate due to the urgent need of improvement of the language at their work. And I truly love every minute of my teaching path.

Most of my students are Europeans and it is always entertaining to see their reaction when they face the language for the first time. They always have the particular look of shock on their faces mixed with excitement and nervousness because compared to the major European languages they are familiar with, Japanese is just way more different, sometimes even beyond their imagination. Yes, the key is different, not difficult. And when they start to learn Japanese characters, the class becomes sort of like an art project, practicing drawings. The courses that start with memorizing the greeting words finish with my students holding solid conversations in Japanese in less than six months or so. What is not fantastic about being a part of the process? If you are a teacher, you know exactly what I am talking about.

The sad thing is though, it seems I must quit this lovely job by this summer. Our fate is calling us to move to the U.S.. We have no idea which state, yet, but I am desperately praying and hoping that I still get to teach somewhere. It will be more than delightful if I could teach in person, and I am also considering teaching online as well as creating podcast that contains short Japanese lessons, making my own textbooks or even doing something on YouTube although there are already so many similar things available. The hardest part is always marketing, isn’t it?

If you are a Japanese learner, please feel free to ask me any questions. And if you feel like you need extra help to improve your Japanese, how can I help you? And if you are already a successful self-employed teacher? What is your story? I’m dying to know everything.

Happiness Is Simple

Time flies fast. This year is about to end in four days. How do you summarize this year? Do you think you had many events that could make you feel happy? I truly hope so.

When it comes to how you define happiness, it reflects the perspective of how you see your own life. How do you observe your own life and what could make you happy?

I lost my mother over two years ago after the battle with the terminal stage of cancer. The last year of her life became my ultimate source to redefine happiness in my life. She was the master of finding happiness through the simplest events of her daily life.

She was happy because the sun was shining and the flowers outside bloomed. The pleasant way some neighbor said hello to her made her smile, and the good taste of the caffe latte in the cafeteria of the hospital made her day during her chemotherapy. When she lost all of her hair, she started going to the nail salon and sent me the photos of her nails every month with excitement. Since before and even after the discovery of the cancer, that part of her remained as her charm that could make her radiant until severe dimentia caused by malignant brain tumour killed who she really was. She constantly showed gratitude towards the simplest factors that occurred in her everyday life, and she lived her 58 years of her life to the fullest. Happiness was indeed ubiquitous. 

I am forever grateful for having her as my mother, and after losing her and turning thirty without her, I feel like I finally became a few steps closer to the way she observed her life. It takes time and strength for one to become positive and optimistic like her. I am certain that she also had her own process that made her who she was. At the same time, through witnessing her life and death, I realized life was too short to regret and to feel sad. It is better to cherish your each and every day because you never know when you die.

I loved every cup of my coffee in the morning, am content that I met new amazing people through work, had fun traveling different places, read a few good books, had some good hot wine on Christmas markets, and a few days ago, my student surprised me with a slice of brownie he baked, and my husband is peacefully snoring on the couch as I write this. I guess I am able to conclude that I had a pretty good year this year.

May all of you be blessed even more with lots of happiness in the coming new year.

My Two Grandfathers and the World War II

Today is August 12th, three more days until the 15th. The thought sometimes occurs to me that I would probably not exist in this world if the war did not end on that day in Japan.

Being married to an American, I always have mixed feelings to talk about the war. His side of the story and my side of the story seem to end up hurting each other. We reluctantly conclude that it was the rough time beyond our imaginations. We have watched Letters from Iwo Jima and Flags of Our Fathers, but it does not mean that we have experienced the war. The truth is that we have no idea what they have been through. When I think that way, my mind automatically shifts to my two grandfathers in Japan who survived the war when they were teenagers.

My paternal grandfather was 14 years old at that time, volunteered to serve as a Kamikaze pilot, waiting for his order to be sent abroad anytime to accomplish his ultimate mission. My maternal grandfather was 18 and supposed to be drafted two weeks later. Both of them had unquestionable faith in our country and were more than prepared to dedicate and sacrifice their own lives for Japan. Then our emperor announced the end of the war, thus their lives were extended by decades.

I remember I was sitting in the passenger seat and randomly brought the topic up during the long drive from New York to Boston exactly 8 years ago just to kill the boredom and because it was the time the war ended years ago. Then, the driver, who happened to be an American writer and a professor, replied, “It’s your perfect topic of your book to write about,” as if he got some kind of epiphany, but I shamelessly argued, “I don’t want any of my works to be categorized as the minor genre of Asian literature.” Then he added that my background could be the variable strength in my writings that no ordinary Americans could have.

I am still skeptical of his comment although the idea stayed in my head ever since then. My ignorance and lack of the actual experience of the war and the fear to face the reactions of the patriotic Americans kept preventing myself from writing about them. However, I started to think recently that it might actually be interesting to write about them not to sell the Asian-ness in me as a writer but to honor the lives of my grandfathers.

The Magical World

Approximately one more year remains in Germany. Most of the time, I try my very best not to think of the inevitable fact. I just let time pass by, focusing on the daily routines that do not seem to possess that much significance. But some cups of coffee and some train rides and some ordinary conversations later, the feeling of void that resembles heartbreak always ends up coming back. It is like the relationship that you are in that you know it is ending. Please don’t let me leave you.

Life can be funny indeed. I wonder how many of you are actually living the lives you dreamed of when you were ten years old. When I was ten, I was daydreaming that once I stepped out of Japan, the magical world filled with nothing but happiness awaited.

And the reality was dead wrong. To be honest, things could have been much easier if I stayed in Japan although it does not necessarily mean that could make me happier. I have lived in the United States, France and Portugal before my fate sent me to Germany. Five years ago, my life here started with zero German knowledge and zero friend. And five years later, the world became somewhat magical filled with a plenty of happiness. I wonder how the ten year-old me sees me now.

Germany already became my home and a big part of me, but again, I will have to let my fate decide where I am going next. I am not too hopeful because I am not ten anymore, but I have come to learn that it is up to me to make the world magical no matter where that is.

That Dark Juvenile Time

When I was a teenager, there was the period that I thought it was for the best if I ended my own life. I was afraid of people, responsibilities, future: practically everything. I thought the world would be better off without me. I stopped eating for months and cried endlessly because of my own despair I had created.

What saved me from the dismal selfish period was keeping journals. I turned to the healing ability of words. I felt as though I made the ultimate beauty when I described every negative sad emotion of mine on a paper. Thinking back, I was too ignorant to appreciate how fortunate I had been that I had my own bedroom and food to eat. The spoiled brat, who did not know anything about the reality of living, best described who I really was.

Now I have a job that demands the skills to face people. I am responsible for many things and I have the future I want to live. I eat a lot and I don’t cry anymore. And I learned to be grateful for everything and everybody around me. I did grow up, just like everybody else. But, almost two decades later, I still recall that era at times. Its memory deeply haunts me still and I keep on questioning myself why.

That ESL Kid

I assume a majority of the readers of my website here speak English as your first language. And, you probably had no troubles dealing with it in your daily life when you were young.

Or perhaps, some of you might be from those countries such as the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, whose educational systems are so marvelous that English has always been there for you during your entire school life, and you actually find English easy since your mother language is so similar and more complex. Or you might be from Singapore or India that English is treated as one of your national languages, thus you did not have to struggle that much.

Well, neither was my case. My mother language is not even made of alphabets to begin with. And, yes I struggled and I am still struggling when it comes to English. And If I make mistakes, please do correct me. I will be a better writer.

And, I wonder if anybody can relate this to your own experience or come up with the people you know with the similar background.

If you went to high school or college in the States or Canada, you can probably recall someone from overseas who could participate in gym, art and math classes with you but his/her other classes were all ESL. I was that kid and that was how everything started.

Even after you successfully completed the ESL program, your battle still continues. When you take an economic class, it takes four hours for you to finish reading just one chapter when it takes only thirty minutes for Americans, and you have to finish four other courses like that per semester to graduate.

And, when you think you finally wrote a great essay, your teacher gives you an A- with the footnote, “please take it to the learning center for grammar checks.” And when you take it there, the American tutor merely glances at it, obviously not reading it, and tells you that you should rewrite everything because it sucks, and your entire confidence in writing diminishes.

When you sign up for a creative writing class, some Americans look at your name listed on your works and shrug, as if to tell that you cannot write because your first name is not Elizabeth, Jennifer or Diane.

But, all of the sudden, when you keep on trying, some people start telling you that they like what you write and praise you that you are a good writer. And, you are on the Dean’s List for semesters, receiving multiple academic achievement awards and you graduate with honors.

Has anybody been there before? Well, you can still say my English is bad and it is probably still horrible but I still keep on writing. If you ever happen to be that ESL kid, don’t give up. Somebody is definitely watching your efforts and struggles. And, if you are a native speaker of English and know those kids, try to look for best in their ability beyond grammars and typos. I believe the same can be applied to any other languages.

I just thought writing this article could mean something to you and people around you. And I am happy if it could.

© 2015 Kiara Belle * To subscribe on your Kindle, please click HERE!!!

The Thoughts on a Rainy Day

It is raining here in the west part of Germany today. I don’t like the way that the sun seems to be loosing its strength to uplift my mind, and I wonder what it feels like if I ever lived in England. Will I always be like this? I doubt not.

Coming from Japan, the European stone-paved streets provide me the sense of newness, reflecting the history and the culture I was not familiar with. And, I find them particularly stunning when they are covered with rain. The way they shine invite some kind of sorrow and sadness that I see beauty within, which is like some songs by Lana Del Rey.

And, I love the way a majority of Europeans seldom use umbrellas unless it rains badly. Japanese people usually tend to be quite vulnerable when it comes to rain and we easily rely on umbrellas even when it just sprinkles. But, I learned how good it actually felt to be slightly soaked in a rain here. After all, a rainy day is probably not as bad as it seems.

© 2015 Kiara Belle * To subscribe on your Kindle, please click HERE!!!