29 Nov 2013

[E:0] About this blog ~Strength of diligence ~

日本語版はこちら(Japanese version is here)

I travelled round Australia by bicycle, about 18,000 km in eight months, in 1993. I will be publishing the story on this site.

It was 20 years ago when I did this bike trip. Gradually, my memory becomes blurry. When I talked about the old tale to my friends, sometimes I mention something like "flowers were blooming all over the desert" or "I rode a bike for 500 kilometers between water replenishment stops, so I carried 40 liters of water". On July 9, 2013, when I temporarily returned to Japan six months ago, I had a similar conversation while I was enjoying drinking with friends in their 20s. It was my hope that I did not say the same things over and over again in my middle age, but it told the old tale to them.

Mr. Nagashima, one of the fellows there that night, said "This is interesting a story. It is good to write a book about it" Other fellows also told me that "I would definitely buy the book once you publish it." As a researcher, I had been publishing articles in academic journals, but I was not so interested in writing a book. Also, I have never written a lengthy text in Japanese, so I am not confident about writing a book in Japanese either. On the other hand, I also began thinking it might be fun to write a book before all my vague memories of the bicycle trip disappear completely. It might be a good subject for my first book. Self-publishing is getting easy these days..

I was thinking about this when I returned to my parents' house in Aichi Prefecture, Japan, four days later to attend the first anniversary of my father's death: that was the real purpose of my temporary return to Japan. The anniversary proceeded smoothly, and we heard the appreciative speech of a Buddhist monk. Last year, I did not not even expect to lose my father at the end of my 30's. I am sure my father also did not think about going to the other world in his 60s. This one year, I have been thinking how short a life is. I’m always muttering in my mind "I cannot guarantee that there is a tomorrow." My father had secretly planned a trip with my mother, but it was never realized. During this one year, I was asking myself "What about me? Is there anything I would like to try?"

Somehow, I ended up in the room that used to be my room in my parents' house. There is a shelf that was packed with books. I did not study at all in my high school days, but I read many books. These books are still stored from those days. My eyes caught my old diaries that I would sometimes open when I would go back to the house. Some of them are diary books on the bike trip in Australia.

I was a twenty-year-old boy trying to be "cool", so a stickerof topless women and a label of an Australian beer are on the covers of the diary books. "What is this!" I thought: I do not understand this coolness when looking at the covers 20 years later. I guess 20-year-old-I would have desperately tried to look cool. Then I opened one of the diaries and read it randomly.

"It's really interesting."

Because it is already 20 years later, I can read the diary objectively. In 1993, Mr Clinton became a president and the Japanese football league, J-League kicked off. In Japan, the pop duo "Chage & Asuka" sang a disturbing song like "YAH YAH YAH! Together now, Together now, we can go and beat them up". To me, it was the year, What's Up by 4 Non Blondes stuck in my head. It is the era when there is neither mobile phone nor internet (for me at least!!). I was always backpacking alone. When riding a bicycle in the outback of Australia, it is a completely closed spiritual world. I did not know who they were when I met Gypsy and Aboriginal peoples. I had only my brain to determine who they were and what is right and wrong. Reading my diary now, I wanted to comment "What are you saying! You are wrong!" However, after 20 years has passed, 20-year-old-i has become a stranger to me, and I am not ashamed to read about it.

I can read it objectively. "I may try to make a book?" "No, I will make this as a book!" I made up my mind. At this time, I had already decided not to extend the JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) expert contract. The JICA project was interesting, but I had a feeling that I should do something new because of my family circumstances, and because of the death of my father. My wife will start a villa business, I may have a spare time, and I will be free! So, I promised myself that I would do a collaborative work with 20-year-old-me at this time. "Let's write about the Australia trip 20 years ago!"

Then, I closed the diary and reopened from the first page. "What's this sh_t! It is not interesting". This is all I wrote on the first day.

Breakfast bread
Lunch butter. Honey lemon
Dinner Chicken Set $4.50 cents
I have not yet made the cards I should have made ​​today. I passed through the route of the great up and down. 55.4 km first day for the time being.

However, as twenty-year-old-i wrote more pages, the amount of text continued to be longer. Its content also became more interesting. Then, my handwriting became neater: I can grasp the growth of myself. Ichiro (a Japanese baseball player I like) said, "I feel that repeating small things is only the way to go to a place that is outrageous." It is not comparable to his feats, but I can grasp it.

Compared to these two photos, I understand well the degree of my growth. The first photo was taken on the first day I left Sydney. The second photo was taken when I was crossing the Nullarbor Plain six months after the first photo. In six months, things coming from the photos changed so much. This is "the strength of diligence"

"Strength of diligence" is what I learned from traveling round Australia by bicycle. If you ride a bike 100 km, you can cycle 700km in a week and 9,000km in the three months. So…anyone can cycle round Australia. If anyone could not do it, it is because he or she had quit in the middle. Before coming to Australia, I could not speak English at all. I will write about it later, but in the wake of an accident immediately after I started the trip, I decided to study English in the light of a candle every day in my tent. Now, I probably speak English better than Japanese (as my Japanese is very bad too). Since then, I have retained this attitude.

After this Australian trip, I diligently studied English after dinner, and I’d take a bath while listening to conversational English radio programs every day. I saved up my living expenses and tuition fees to go to a university in New Zealand. I studied everyday during my undergraduate days and got economics, statistics, and biological science degrees in 3.5 years. Because of that, I got a full scholarship from the University of Oxford, to study an MSc and DPhil (PhD). I also did the research and wrote a thesis everyday during my PhD. I decide to finish my PhD in 1000 days and I made my viva (final oral examination) on the 999th day. These days, I get up at 4:30 every morning and go surfing before breakfast. It is important to continue something everyday. If you continue something everyday, you can go somewhere. If you do something everyday, it is not necessary to put your effort in it as it becomes your habit.

Returning to the story of my bicycle trip in Australia, I lived like a robot. I get up at 4:00 in the morning before sunrise and eat breakfast which is the leftovers of my last dinner. I pack my tent and begin pedalling a bicycle as the sun rises. I eat a half loaf of bread as a lunch. I travel 100-120 km per day. I stop pedalling at 4:00 pm whatever the result, and camp in the bush where car lights do not reach. I put up a tent and start cooking. I usually cook pasta or something like a pilaf. While cooking rice, I repair my bicycle, tent, or clothes. I need to repair something almost everyday. Whatever I cook, I say to myself as "delicious , delicious." It is a time of bliss. Since I cannot take a shower, I sprinkle baby powder all over my body or wipe sweat lightly with a sheet of toilet paper. During the daytime, it is very hot in the outback, but it is very cold at night because it is basically desert. When everything is done, I am exhausted and dive into my tent and sleeping bag. EverydayI study a high school textbook called "English syntax II" that my parents sent to me. I make a hole on the tent with a candle sometimes, but I do not stop studying. And then, my world falls to end. In the next day, a new world begins from 4:00 in the morning, before sunrise, and I repeat the same things like a robot.
For anyone who continues this life for eight months, they can go around Australia by bicycle. Because it was before the Internet era, and mobile phone do not really exist, I did not know what lies ahead on this road. I was worried, but I was also able to go around Australia by bicycle.

Because I'm thinking of trying something new now, it is good to go back to the origin of myself. I do not know what would happen to me. I think there is a need to proceed with my life hell-bent and diligent once more. To do this, it is not a bad idea to face an innocent kid of 20 years old/ago. I think it will take sometime to write about the eight-month-diary, but I am happy if you follow this blog.

Lastly, I am not a native English writer and this is a draft of my book project, so it will be great if you correct my English and tell me how to improve English sentences by commenting this blog or Twitter https://twitter.com/TakeshiTakama

Best regards,
27 Nov, 2013

Dr. Takeshi Takama, at Bali Island

I update photo, maps, and other post in the Facebook page.