At the ripe age of 27, I am contemplating the ethics, responsibility, and reality of parenthood.  I’m not gonna lie to you; I never thought I’d get married.  I don’t believe in the institution for a number of reasons, the foremost being that it should not be a prerequisite as proof of love.  But the religious overtones, lack of similar rights for other groups (homosexuals, foreigners, etc), and sickening cultural rearing of little girls to assume this to be their number-one goal in life, are some other reasons I have always questioned the concept.  After high school, a fellow classmate got married to a foreigner to assist him in getting his Green Card (US visa).  This brought up a huge moral question for me.  It was great food for thought, as to whether she was doing a good thing, or a foolish thing.  I am a fan of immigration, so the question lied more in whether she was making a personally responsible decision.  I liked the idea of using a system I wouldn’t have ever thought to use myself to promote ones own goals.  When I moved to Canada I joked with my friend (a Scottish-Canadian) about marrying to get dual Canadian/EU citizenship (a heavenly combo of passports, I think).
 Now, I am less adverse to the idea of marriage, because I am the foreigner now.  I won’t deny the US passport is the best passport in the world to have.  So I wouldn’t give it up without serious thought.  But I am less stubborn about my objection to marriage than I was when I was 10 or 20 years ago.
But it is not marriage that I have been thinking about primarily.  It is adoption, and family.  I know that’s sort of skipping a crucial step - finding a wife (or at least a partner), but I can’t help what my mind thinks of.  So it’s been toying with the ethics of adoption, parenthood, and family.  This is not a light subject, and I’m not sure there are any correct answers.  Or even questions!  But I will share the etymology of my thoughts.
I volunteer at an orphanage in Nepal.  I didn’t want to at first, because I didn’t think I liked kids.  As it turns out I probably just don’t like spoiled kids (like most Americans - like myself).  Yadda-yadda, you probably know the gist of the story.  So I have become very attached in a “want to support them as a parent would” kind of way.  I love them in a way I’ve never loved.  Like family who needs me.  Parents, cousins, grandparents, and aunts are family too, but they don’t depend on me.  I depend on them.  This was new.  Though these orphans can survive without me (no question about it), I still feel like they are family, and like they need me.  Like they look up to me at least.  I’ve been called “daddy” on more than one occasion, and it just highlighted the roles we were playing.  (as a disclaimer, these kids are taken care of year round by a Nepali.  I am not a huge part of their lives.  But when I’m there, once or twice a year, I become a huge part of their lives, and they have been a huge part of MY life ever since I met them all.)
When it was time to find a real job (that paid money), these kids influenced me to take a job with kids.  I am now a teacher of elementary kids in Japan, and love how these kids look up to me as well.  It’s even a bit overwhelming at times - almost 600 kids wanting to high-five, and speak to me, and shouting out my name from distant windows.  But the feeling is great, and I may be making a huge assumption here, but I’d guess that this is what it’s like to be a parent in some ways.  Of course with the good comes the bad, and while I get to go home at the end of my tiring days as a teacher, parenting is 24/7.  AND, when I get sick of this job I can leave, but parenting is for the rest of your life.  I know these huge qualifiers change the playing field quite a bit.  But it’s a big step for me to even THINK about kids seriously, let alone have even an inkling of desire to have any.
So I originally got to thinking about what I wanted because of the orphanage, and naturally my line of thought led back to those kids.  I considered the possibilities of adopting any, but the Nepali director then made it clear that they were not adoptable.  It turns out it is not an orphanage after all.  It is something called a hostel - something we don’t have in the West.  It is for kids who HAVE family, but the family is just too poor and/or destitute to educate, or even feed them.  So since these kids have family (though they rarely see them, and it is not family in the same sense that we think of family in the West), they are clearly not adoptable.  But that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of adoptable kids in Nepal, or the rest of the world.  I would mull it all over.
Though it would be preferable to have found love, and partnership before I considered how, and especially WHO I wanted as a child, that’s not the order my mind worked in.  Satisfied that I had considered my original interest, and came to a dead-end, I then came back to the more immediate concern.  A partner.  In truth there is not much to say about this except that I am infinitely more interested in finding a non-American partner.  European - Asian - African - Latin, they each have strong and weak points, but without being too legalistic, I am open to any nationality (with a strong bias against Americans).
The next obvious question to consider was “how do all these pieces fit together?”  Well, I can’t really think about children without a partner (probably a marriage partner), though I can require that she be as interested in adoption as I am.  I certainly can’t decide WHO she is before I even meet her, and I’m not sure it’s realistic or responsible to “decide” on a nationality, or even a continent.  So let the dice fall where they may, right?  Be patient?  But here is the conundrum everyone faces.  Wait for true love, and you may wait forever.  Force it, and it’s likely to backfire.  Start a family too early, and there are a dozen reasons it can be a big mistake (not mature enough, not enough financial security, not enough emotional security between the parents, possibility of wanting the kids for consumerist reasons/emotional reasons/as a friend/wrong reasons, having a family puts the breaks on your own young life, etc).  Start a family too late, and there are some much more serious reasons it can be a big mistake (i.e. you’ll die before they finish college…, you’re less and less able to relate to kids and their “culture” when you’re older, etc).  And of course there’s no going back if you make the wrong choice with kids.  Even if you make the wrong choice about marriage, it’s really tough, and life-changing to “go back”.
Plenty of people my age are married, and many of the rest are waiting somewhat patiently.  My generation (in the West) is much more concerned with personal independence and pursuing careers and hobbies than previous generations, who were concerned with more important things (putting food on the table, war, sustaining the population, just surviving, etc).  These environmental differences in our generations has supported a later and later average age of marriage.  So, while my parents generation, and even more, my grandparents generation, was getting married at around 19 or 20, my generation is more likely to average 25, with many people waiting until their 30’s.  That’s great, and it’s more like the way it should be.  There should not be pressure or expectations to marry without regard to individuals’ readiness for such a commitment or responsibility.
 But for the first time I began to think about the drawback to late marriage.  It all has to do with kids.  Take kids out of the picture, and I can’t imagine any reason not to put it off.  But with kids, I’ve just recently realized it can cause quite an asymmetry.  This time I will get legalistic.  Put the years between 20 and 60 on a bar graph, and assume you are physically responsible for any children for at least 18 years, and financially responsible for another 4-6 (assuming their matriculation at university – lets say 6 because you want to raise really bright kids).  So put another bar inside the first that represents 24 years minimum years of responsibility.  Now, add another bar before the 2nd bar that should be (in my opinion) at LEAST 4.  This represents the number of years you should ideally be with your partner before knowing you are ready to take on the responsibility of children together.  All of a sudden the number of years you have to get started is kind of small.  At absolute latest you will need to be with your partner by the time you are 32.  And that does not include the various bad choices you make along the way.  This also does not calculate the importance of being there for your kids as they grow to be adults, and need advice on important things such as their own families, careers, etc.  Nor does it consider such things as “are you going to be as good a parent as a 50 year old raising a 12 year old, as you would be at 35?”.
And there are equally negative results if you put the graph all the way forward to 20 years old.  The graph would not depict it, but are you really ready to have babies crying all night when you’re 24 years old?  This means your 20’s are shot to hell.  You can forget about your 30’s as well, because, of course, children change you too.  You’ll be much more conservative, and… well… not the person you would have been if you were “free”.
 So this stupid mathematic approach to family is a simple (and thoroughly imperfect) means to show what I’m dealing with in my head.  In short, I feel like I’ve been casual about dating, and not particularly discriminate about girlfriends, because I felt there was no rush.  Not even a goal.  But now I realize, and I know my friend Casey would argue with me here, I’ve got to start thinking about my “future self”.  Even if I don’t want a wife or kids now, I should be aware that if I ever do in the future, it’s not something I can whip up together at the last minute.  This is not meant to be an exercise in procrastination – something I’ve been good at all my life.
 So that’s one of the themes I think about in my free time.  There are many more, and maybe this blog is just the right place to share them on occasion.  Maybe I will.  Quarter-Life-Crisis blog entry anyone?  Career Consternation?  There’s no shortage of 20-something angst here!

It’s been a long time comin’

Wow!!  Talk about a long time!!  I have been a miniature tour-de-force over the past month, and haven’t had a minute to spare.  Now that I finally have time to write, I have TOO much to write.  It will take weeks just to catch up on all that’s happened.  And the hostess that lives next to me has either got a client or new boyfriend because they are making such noise over there that I’m not sure I can concentrate on writing ANYTHING!!  …though at 4am it was entertaining.

 I digress.  So in short, last month, after Tokyo Disney I had 2 weeks left of work.  The following weekend I ALMOST went to Germany.  Well “almost” is a pretty loose interpretation of what happened.  I mean to say that I REALLY wanted to go to Love Parade, and it would have been so Jet Setting of me to show up at Heather’s door all casual and say “let’s go dancing”.  But after going into Tokyo and making some calls to German airlines I realized the myth that standby seats go for dirt-cheap turned out to be a sham.  …unless 4000 Euros is dirt-cheap…

 So I was left with 1 week to go before taking my legitimate (and cheap) trip to Nepal via Singapore.  I worked my last week at my elementary schools, and one of the schools totally over killed on donations (yes, they are STILL there in the English room in 2-dozen bags!!).  I packed my carry-on with my clothes, and 1 checked-bag with all the shoes and socks I could squeeze in and then made it to the airport.

 Well, I was late, and only had a little over an hour to board when I got in line.  But lucky for me, United Airlines had fucked up (no surprises there) and overbooked!  So instead of getting some lame bureaucratic bullshit, like I would in America, they offered me US$100, free dinner in the airport, AND an upgrade to either Japan Airlines or Singapore Airlines!!!  My choice!!!  Not bad, eh?!  Plus they left 30 minutes later, so I had plenty of time to repack my overweight bag and get through all the checkpoints without sweating through my shirt.  Total deal!!

 Anyway, Singapore airlines was not all it’s made out to be.  Sure they have the largest fleet of 747’s (and soon the largest fleet of A380’s) in the world, they’re one of the most expensive airlines, and they win “Best Airline” almost every year.  But I’m pretty sure the judges must just be horny teenage boys.  Because aside from the stewardess outfits, there’s nothing special about this “5-star airline”.  But those outfits, man… heLLO!!!!  I usually sleep or watch movies on the plane.  Well, believe me, the movies took a back seat whenever a hostess/stewardess/flight attendant (whateverthefuck you want to call them) walked by.  Oh my God!  Ok, ok.  Not all of you want to hear about this, so just click here, or here, or here if you’re interested.

 The flight was uneventful, but this was the first time I went to Singapore, so please switch to my “Travel Blogs” on the left to read more about my trips to Singapore, Nepal, and Thailand.


AFTER I got back from all that travel, I only had a few yen left and had to be careful to get straight back to my company office and pick up last months pay (in cash, as is the norm in check-less Japan).  I got back and was just too laden down with bags to bother walking from the train station, so I caught a taxi.  Ah the simple pleasures of Japanese taxi’s.  Sure you pay through the arse for it, but isn’t that automatically opening/closing door a nice touch!  =P  Well sure enough no one was in the office or home upstairs, and my mobile phone battery had died in Nepal (after an incredible 2 weeks without charging, though!).  I couldn’t call anyone, and after knocking on some friend’s doors, I couldn’t even find an outlet to charge the phone to call the right people.  Eventually I got in, and got my money, but where was my car?  Man, a simple pick-up was turning into an all-night affair.  Sheesh!  In the end I ended up saying yes to going out with some friends for a couple drinks and stayed the night.

The next week was pretty relaxed, because, though my night classes started, my elementary school day job wouldn’t start for another week.  When it finally did start, I was looking forward to it, and seeing the kids.  Admittedly, the first day at both schools was kinda weird.  The kids all acted like they only half-recognized me.  I gained weight in Nepal (thanks to too much tourist food and sweet tea in Thamel), and maybe looked a little different, but after 1 day it was all back to normal.