February 2015 Archives

Juggling in Yangon

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I spent the past week in Yangon, Myanmar, for a juggling festival & social circus project organised by Serious Fun in Yangon. Me and two dozen other international jugglers flew in to do shows and teach workshops all over the city. We worked with disabled kids, a monastery school, rescued child soldiers, and the general public.

There were so many great people. I reconnected with Andrea, the head of Spark Circus, and we'll be working together on some stuff in the coming year or so. I got my first volunteer for Spin Matsuri India, Elad, an Isreali juggler who will be in India later this year when I'm there, too. I watched in awe as veteran performers did their stuff: Haggis, Ben Zuddist, Maike, & Captain Finhead are the sort of performers I want to emulate - skilled, able to play to all ages in any condition with aplomb and good humour. I made connections with circus people, tech people, and new friends from all over the world. I also met a juggler, Mike Twist, who lives two stations away from me in Tokyo. We have very little overlap in our circles, which is rare for long-term foreigners here. I'm sure we will meet up and do more together in the coming months.

I learned to juggle two balls in one hand. Seems like it would be easy, but it has eluded me forever. Roo, a 15 year old, stared at me the way only teens can until I got it. I simply could not let myself fail and I didn't stop until I could do columns in both hands and inside and outside cascades, too. I also managed to juggle (1 whole juggle) clubs, another long-standing goal. Alberto taught me the tricks: throw to the outside, not forward; sing circus music while doing so. The music made it work. And I also learned to bend balloons - I can make a balloon sword. Slowly and carefully...but I can do it and it will only get better from here. Practice, practice, practice!

The highlight of my week was the praise I got from my fellow jugglers regarding my skill at stage management. Yep, I am not the best juggler (in this group, I was the the worst by far) and my performances are less polished than they could be, but I am fearless backstage and it was a treat to know that performers I respect recognised that.

Reasonably Tidy

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The living room circa 1978

"What sort of home did you grow up in?" a #minsgame friend asked me after describing her mother's hoarding tendencies and the clutter she lived with as a child.

A phrase popped into my head immediately. Mom described our house as "reasonably tidy" and I remember her making sure that it wasn't cluttered or too messy. The living room got a once-over every day to straighten it up, and we were expected to to take our things (toys, books, sweaters) up to our rooms at bedtime. The dining table was never piled high with stuff like in some of my friends' homes. We cleaned weekly, but tidied daily. 

Mom set a good example that I have failed to follow. Not to say that I'm a complete slob, but I'm not as consistent as I could be about patrolling the house. After recalling the right phrase, I've been making an effort to put the house to rights every day because I value a "reasonably tidy" room.

Thanks, Mom, for being a role model in this and so many other ways. Happy 75th birthday!

We won the #minsgame

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Tod & I both played through the Minimalism Game this month with great success. 1576 items left our apartment in 31 days. What?!

I started the game thinking I didn't really have that much clutter and that reaching the goal - 496 items - was going to clear out my spaces very well. As it turns out, I lapped the game with 1080 items of my own removed. Tod did 496 on the dot. I have a lot more clutter in my life than I thought.

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Learnings: 

  • Gathering together a group of people (the Minimalism & Decluttering Games group I started on Facebook) has made the process a delight. Everyone shared their daily decluttering stories and there was accountability to not skip days. I am pretty sure it would have been a drudge and I would have quit otherwise.
  • I can't remember 99% of the things I decluttered. Things that come to mind: the orange phone & a stack of party plates...and that is all I recall without looking at the photos I took.
  • The more clutter I removed, the more I realised there was to still get rid of. Even now, I could easily play the game again and will in March.
  • We've accumulated and saved things from a lifestyle that has changed quite a bit over the 13 years we've lived in this apartment.
  • Guilt plays a big role in hanging on to things too long - it was hard to dispose of gifts or things we "paid good money for" but rarely use. 
  • Having fewer things around gives me more energy and motivation for maintaining what's here
  • Minimalism doesn't mean austerity; it means not having excess.
  • There are lots of people who are happy to have the strangest things you might want to give away.
  • Donating items in Japan isn't easy, but the we gave clothing to a Syrian refuge charity drive, and the Salvation Army has a donations center that was happy to take my random assortment of stuff at the end of the game.
  • I think moving things out of my life has given me mental room to invite friends and ideas back in.

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