2017 ~ Rooster Year

An Okinawan Superstition….an example perhaps.

Welcome back.  Its been awhile, and a new friend reminded me of this endeavor and I may continue.  We’ll see.  Anyways….its an opportunity to project some thoughts and share.  With the new year quickly approaching, perhaps its time to rethink and revisit this site and other things in my life.  The same probably holds true for you; the reader.

If you are a Rooster (I like to think of myself as the Phoenix as connotated in some cases though my kids think that is a bit boastful; akin to a rooster), this year was probably a very difficult year.  And for those who don’t rely heavily on the zodiac, etc., well you probably should dismiss this article and go watch some CNN or FOX.

It is always fascinating to read and dwell lightly of course on articles about the zodiac…. or Farmers Almanac, or even biorythms… like, how scientific is this?  Coincidence? Luck?

Like the song by Linkin Park, “In the End”, a great song by the way, does it really matter ultimately?  i.e. if it is luck, chance, scientific if it is significantly true?  At the least, its irritating a bit to know, and even more troublesome when things seemingly happen that way.  Or did it happen to happen because of unconsciously happening?  (lol, Matrix 1 – was Neo really going to knock the vase or was it because the Oracle mentions it?  …did you figure that one out?)

I could go on and on, but I will spare you.  However, I will share a very Okinawan superstition.  Why Okinawan, well, my mother is Okinawan, and raised me, yup, with the stories, superstitions, and all that goes with it.  Some still sticks with me, while others I have nestled safely away from remembering for awhile.

YUSHUSHO – 2nd level koto contest aka “challenge”  – July 2017

Trying to incorporate a chapter into a few paragraphs will be a record for me, so let me try.

It was Father’s Day  (June 18, 2017), and my daughter (inagungwa) had noticed something I already did but she is more animate about this, I already knew  and processed it and feared it as well.   There’s a baby bird on the grass not too far by the car.  Then no. 2 son also recognizes this and takes interest.   I knew that this was not chance.   To an Okinawan, raised with the older generation and spiritual outlook and at times superstitions, well, it was more.  I immediatedly made plans, and I took the bird in.

My family was astonished.  How do you know so much about taking care of baby birds?  I said; I have a past life that includes many things.  (funny how the kids underestimated that homeschooling mom had a life before)  Adding as a child how I had that experience in Hawaii raising a young cardinal that was shot by a bb-gun (wounded right wing so he was grounded) and also with baby sparrows over the years.   So the intracacies of handling, feeding, etc was natural for me while they were overwhelmed and surprised with my ease and comfort.  Ok, to the point….

Premonition?  Chance?  Coincidence?  Okinawan superstition?

“Chirpy”, yes, the bird, was indeed happy and chirping.  I was very anxious about leaving on my trip to Okinawa.   There was a laundry list of reasons, not suitable here and now and at varying degrees of private.  Anyways, not that far from the top was my concern for “Chirpy”.  And a knowing…. (some dismiss the idea or notion of empaths, …. if you are one, then you understand what I am saying and dismiss this ignorance,  as it is real and evident for those who are.)

So, with a host of issues and reasons not to take the test in Okinawa due to personal reasons, …. I had no alternative.   Pass or fail, …. the trip was “on”.   It wasn’t a matter of being ready, … Oh,…I was ready.  And in fact, …. another story,   but I was told I passed last year yet didn’t.    So, …there you go, with so much going on…. (the stories, oh the stories I could tell- wow) just a host of  bizarre things to deal with.   Well, my outlook was this.  To walk away with something regardless if the odds were against me, superstition or not, health or not, personal or not.     *If I fail, I gained experience and made acquaintances and got to train with Master koto players, which is a wonderful opportunity in and of itself.  And if I pass, well,… it was supposed to happen anyways, and one less thing on my “to do” list.  So just go to Okinawa!

Sunday, July 3rd.  Left on an early flight, 1st segment of the trip to Okinawa.  Completely without any warning…. a Chirpy text.

“Chirpy”  was great when I left, happy, active, and growing so well over the past 2 weeks under my care.     I am now checking my messages at the Toronto airport, on board with only minutes to spare when 2nd son texts me,… Chirpy is not doing well, and he thinks is dying!   (wtf)   I told my daughter immediatedly and she could see my dispair.    I go back and forth on texts and so upset as I felt there was lack of care and attention while I was gone (only for a mere few hours!)      Until finally,….. sadly, I got the text, “Chirpy is in Heaven”.     I looked at my daughter, we both cried and tried not to make a scene, it was so heartbreaking and so overwhelming not being able to do a darn thing.  Helpless.  It was our personal moment, and with that we both knew it meant one thing.  My yushusho was already determined.  We looked at each other later, we knew, it meant  I would fail.    Then it immediatedly began to rain to signify and magnify the saddness in heaven as well.   We both were still crying,  soo heartbroken and feeling helpless so far away.    Already we were not happy with making the trip.    (Afterall, things like this don’t happen on my shift!)

Ultimately the day came for the test.  Prior to the test, I was not doing well in Okinawa health-wise. (Although my koto playing was very good and was told I was now at 100%,  I was sleeping a lot and felt severe fatigue.)   The allergist advised me and my daughter and even wrote a note indicating (I was indeed thinking of canceling the trip)  that we should not go.  So that coupled with personal things not being right back home, allergies, and being dehydrated in Okinawa – things were definitely stacked against me.  I also always have trouble adjusting to the weather in Okinawa and my poor eating habits again only compounded the problems.   It didn’t matter how talented I or anyone is, or  prepared, that only gets you so far…. without proper health,  the body can’t function.

Test day – I was now on stage and the lights are so bright that you feel as if you are being interrogated as seen on tv since;  you can’t see anything beyond a few feet.   The stage lights are also unusually hot.  So wearing the formal kimono with the long sode/sleeves also become somewhat getting used to but that was not the issue.   In the midst of the utter midnight darkness beyond the lights, papers rustling (judges), coughs, sneezes, etc the sounds from the audience are as loud to me as a speaker as I am normally hyper sensitive.   …thinking…. It is paramount to now focus on one thing and one thing alone….playing these 2 songs properly – just one time, and its now….so I told myself over and over, … Helen, play them right!  (you got this)

Well, I was lightheaded all morning….was it the lack of caffine or change in diet being overseas?  Not sure, but it was real, and now suddenly my number is called and up I go.   Another minute of self composure would have been nice,…nope….its “show time” and its on every screen – every floor of the Okinawa Times building in Naha, Okinawa.

I was now well into page 3 of a 6 page song (Rokudan), and had a “moment”, it was a micro moment of lightheadedness (the strong stage lights just got to me) before I knew it I just caught myself.  But, it was too late; fatal.  (as quick as a blink I recall)  I ended up repeating a small section of p.2 (realized it) so I then finished and re-did page 3 properly to demonstrate that I  (a) recognized the error and (b) to demonstrate that I knew what was wrong and fixed it.  Looking back,..its weird,… I never had an issue with making that error so why it happened was indeed a bit frustrating.

The transistion in spite of the error I must add was done very well, and that to an untrained ear, it would have gone unnoticed but to a judge – now that’s different.  However, I conducted myself professionally inspite of the fact that a part of me died, was dying all the way through knowing I commited the ‘fatal error”.  With each passing miserable second I am wondering why I wasn’t asked to stop, why are the judges allowing me to continue if I have no chance at a recovery?  And as each passing second went by, I also felt somewhat reassured that I could have grace, that perhaps if I execute the rest in perfection that it would be considered,  and perhaps an exemption could be made.  After all, continuing was no easy feat.  Once I knew I did the error, I litterally felt like taking off the koto picks and throwing them in disgust to get up and then walk off the stage….I know that sounds badly but true.  I was so mad at myself among other things.  (These thoughts wonder and plague me as I play yet, I did not show it.)

So, this is all happening quickly and I am trying to focus.  I mustered strength with each passing second, and did my best because I believe it is about showing, about demonstrating inner fortitude, about demonstrating my knowledge of the musical piece and ability to execute that would be more important regardless of a “pass or fail” as it would be an attestation and reflection of my character.  So with confidence and composure,  I continued and  executed the instrumental piece and then moved on to the 2nd song (which contained lyrics).   In all, its about 12 minutes, but each second after that error was  like an eternity.  (much like when I was working at the bank  and we experienced a robbery or for others, any  traumatic event in which every second is exaggerated)  Again, a learning experience and I am grateful for the opportunity.  I did learn much from the trip.  I also recommend if folks have the opportunity/means to take a proficiency challenge, test, or visit their school (performing or martial) that they do so.   There’s no place like Okinawa.

Needless to say, my daughter and I was not shocked at the outcome as I shared why I was prepared with “Chirpy’s story”.  (Interestingly, a similar unusual event happend the year prior.)  I was a bit disappointed with the judging.  If I was not called out, meaning asked to stop playing, that signified a chance.  In addition, my entire performance should have been evaluated and considered, especially traveling from America (not the doorsteps of Okinawa), the fact that I am traveling with my daughter and have her welfare on my mind and responsibility, the other reasons I mentioned….with all that, the challenge should, in my opinion be based on ABILITY.  The question and evaluation to be for such an international contest should be: did the performer understand the pieces and execute it properly,  professionally, and with proper grace?  Based on that allocate points, and as such grade on “pass or fail”.  Honestly its way too subjective which also means it depends on who were the judges that year.

So, ..of course, it doesn’t make things better, but I understood the sign; these things happen often to me.

A curse perhaps, or a gift?  Still unsure but I grew up hearing from mom and her sister how I was “born different” in this context,  and it was an “Okinawan” thing.  Uggh. And how an Okinawan performing artist (master) also believed this belief along side with her.   It can get to you afterawhile.  (For further reading, look up a book called “Ancestor Worship – Okinawa’s Indigeous Belief System”  by Matayoshi Trafton or what Okinawan’s call “yuta”.    Note to share, some another time.)

So, in retrospect,… as you can understand,….. I am eager and looking forward to 2018.

Lastly, on the Chinese zodiac, I learned that I should have worn red this year.  Apparently, one should wear red if it is your year because it helps (good luck).  So I was on occassion faithful to this rule…. so if you see someone wearing red, it doesn’t mean it’s their animal year, but typically, if they follow the Chinese Zodiac, a girl may wear a beaded bracelet to signify such as I learned in class.  Some folks are probably more dilligent than others in taking this seriously.  (OMG, we will be late to Chinese class…… lil helen …we need to leave now!)

Let’s all make time to reflect on 2017, be thankful, and welcome 2018. Be safe.

As for me, I’ll look into being a bit more prompt in communicating overall…., catching up on other things that got pushed aside as 2018 approaches.  Sorry, I got a bit lazy with FB.

Here’s to a great day, and a Happy New Year (soon to come 😉

Chirp Chirp ~


















About Tuigwaa-chan

Searching for my Okinawan identity through sanshin and ryubu (dance), and hope to inspire our younger generation to take a more active role. I also advocate education and when appropriate homeschooling.

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