Monday, July 4, 2016

BLOG OF THE WEEK - AN UPDATE WITH TOTOMAI

My friends, I think this is the most energetic poet I have ever interviewed. Fasten your seat belts, it might be hard to keep up. Smiles. Our friend  Totomai, who blogs at Totomai.net, and whose spectacular photos we enjoy so much, has just spent the most incredible year. I managed to latch onto a coattail and slow him down long enough to bring us up to date, and it is exciting, amazing and will leave you breathless. Buckle up, and hold on tight. You are about to have a really good time!




Sherry: Totomai, you recently celebrated nine years of blogging. Congratulations! We last spoke in 2014 – bring us up to date on what’s new in your life since then, won’t you?




Totomai: Hi Sherry. I can’t believe that I’ve been blogging for almost a decade already.  Not so much has changed  in my life since our last chat, though I can say I am 25 kgs lighter than before.  

Sherry: Wow! You look great! That's fantastic, kiddo. Way to go!

Totomai: My professional life is still the same, been working in and out of Japan despite the crisis in the oil and gas industry. As long as I still have my work, I think I am more than fine.

Sherry: I have gathered from your posts that you are into fitness/adventure in a big way. Would you like to tell us a bit about that? 





Saudi Arabia

Totomai: After my assignment in Saudi Arabia last year, I realized that it’s time to change my lifestyle. I am categorized as obese (as per our medical check-up) and working at site was a challenge for me. I easily got tired and could barely move. In August 2015, I started my low-carb diet. I thought it was going to be hard but it wasn’t. 

As for those adventures, I wanted to experience many things in Japan. I am afraid of heights, and in order to counter it, I guess I have to do crazy stuff. 





Preparing to jump





Paragliding was fun.  I thought I had frozen tears after the jump. 


Climbing Japan's Tallest mountain, Mt. Fuji, was extraordinary. I never climbed a mountain before. I just told my friends, okay, count me in.





The climb


Mt Fuji

 

Sherry: "What's new? Oh, nothing much.  Learned to paraglide, climbed a mountain".....LOL. Your photo of Mt. Fuji is extraordinarily beautiful, Totomai. And you made it to the top! You are unstoppable!





Totomai: I’ve been curious about skydiving, so when I heard that one of my office-mates is a licensed skydiver, I asked a lot of questions on how I can experience it. She arranged everything and wow, that was an amazing adventure. I will try to save money to jump again. 

Sherry: Afraid of heights? Sure, let's jump out of a plane! Seriously, kiddo, you are brave! And I read that you participated in a lengthy 45 km marathon. That sounds intense!

Totomai: Last month’s marathon was for charity. It didn’t have strict rules other than to finish it within 12 hours. Our team clocked 11.5 hrs. It was also a good chance to explore Tokyo. 

Sherry: It's an achievement to have completed it. I am so happy to see you have published a book of your photography, titled Filtered Precipitates. How was it, putting it together? Tell us how you felt, holding it in your hands for the first time.





Totomai: We talked about photobooks during our last conversation. You have encouraged me to make one. I found it tough, though. Maybe because I wanted it to be perfect and I had it in monochrome. It felt great; some of my friends bought a copy and asked me to sign it.  It is a self-published book with my photos and poems. I am planning to make one next year, but this time, only photos (in color) to celebrate my 10 years of blogging.

Sherry: It will be beautiful, and then you will have two! Yay! You have traveled a great deal in your life. Is there anywhere on your Bucket List that you’ve been to since we last spoke? 
 



Ecuador


Totomai: I thought I could go to Galapagos Island during my business trip in Ecuador, but it was impossible. So it still remains on my bucket list. I went to United Arab Emirates (Abu Dhabi) and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia since we last spoke. It was my first time for these three countries. 



The Grand Palace
in the United Arab Emirates


Sherry: Wow, you are seeing the whole world! I love the palace. It has hints of Russian architecture. Is there a place still on the list you are most keen to see?

Totomai: Maybe Switzerland. Or Slovenia. I heard some great stuff about these countries.


Singapore


Sherry: In our next chat, I would not be surprised to hear you had scaled the Alps, LOL.

Totomai: I am also trying to visit all of the 47 prefectures in Japan. So far, I have been to 23. And if I decide to return to the Philippines, I plan to go island hopping. You know, our country has 7,107 islands. 

Sherry: I didn't know that! That is a lot of very beautiful seashore. I notice you are writing haiku lately. Tell us a bit about that. What is the difference, for you, in writing haiku or a longer work?

Totomai: I am currently reading Basho: The Complete Haiku.  I wanted to be like him and I am trying very hard. Anyone can dream, right? The more I read about Matsuo Basho’s works, the more I realize that writing haiku is not that easy.  There’s more to it than the 5-7-5 scheme.

I also enjoy writing free-verse poetry.  The degree of difficulty for both literary forms is quite similar. But for the time being, I want to focus on improving my haiku skills, if there are any. Ha ha!

Sherry: I think you are perfecting the art, my friend. I find such brevity very challenging, but should give it a try. Would you like to choose three of your poems to share with us? And tell us a bit about each?

Totomai: "Colorful Smile" is written to honor our city’s MassKara Festival. Our city has been struck with tragedies and the local government decided to ease the pain by having this celebration. Everyone’s wearing a smiling mask to hide tears and the pains.





Colorful Smile

I bought a colorful smile
for a peso or two
when the mermaids invited
the mortals to be part of their choir

I bought a colorful smile
for a peso or two
when the sugarcane juiced out
salt crystals

I bought a colorful smile
for a peso or two
when the sky flooded
the town black

I bought a colorful smile
for a peso or two
to hide
a colorless soul

/totomai


Sherry: The poem is wonderful, Totomai, and your gorgeously colorful photo captures the emotions perfectly. I am always saddened to hear of the tragedies in Japan. 

Totomai: "Lullaby of the Ocean" was written after I slept on the shore, waiting for the Hamaorisai Festival. It was a very relaxing feeling.




Hamaorisai ~
a festival celebrated in the ocean


Lullaby of the Ocean

i sleep
on a sandy crib
watch by two stars
and some planets
like musical mobiles

the curtains above
quickly change
from blue to black to blue

somewhere
i can hear a lullaby
it is without words

like a hum
of a mother
to a child
thumb sucking

the sound grows
louder and drowns
my spirit

i sleep
on a sandy crib
protected by the mists
coming from the ocean

the lullaby lingers

/totomai





Sherry: Sigh: I can hear the waves. Your poem makes me feel very peaceful, too. And your photos are incredibly beautiful.

Totomai: "Dream House" is a poem for the homeless.

Dream House

I can make my own ---
not the houses sketched
by architects and arranged
by interior designers.

I do not need a thermal roof,
a couple of rusty GI sheets
with used rubber tires
as weights would do.

I care less about marble floors,
French windows and sliding doors;
I'll use smoked plywood
and discarded hollow blocks.

This is the dream I have every night
as I curl like a fetus,
in the careless womb of the city
wrapped in a blanket of newspapers.

/totomai


Sherry: Yes, to a man wrapped against the chill in newspapers, the simplest shelter would seem more than adequate.

Totomai: Finally, here is a haiku in honor of Matsuo Basho.

fragile syllables
over rice cakes and green tea
the soul of Basho

/totomai




Sherry: I love this one, love the rice cakes and green tea. Thanks, Totomai. Is there anything else you’d like to share?


Totomai: I also enjoy designing shirts using UNIQLO application to do them. Some of them are available online in Japan. Check them out.  http://bit.ly/1sZWdoM





Sherry: That's cool. I see you have them for sale on your website, and they are great. I saw one with  cherry blossoms, too. Kids, you can WEAR Totomai's photos! How cool is that? 

Just before this feature posted, Totomai, I understand you received some recognition for your talent for photography. 

Totomai: I submitted photos to the National Geographic Travel Photographer contest. While not one of the winners, two of my photos were picked as editors' favorites (sort of a shortlist in choosing the winners), during the contest. It inspired me to take more photos and explore the world.

[The link to the gallery of winning photos is here and, kids, they are amazing! And here are the two photos that the editors took notice of: one in the Cities category and one in People. Both are amazing.]







[Can you see Totomai with his camera in the centre?
He looked up and saw his reflection in the lights.]

Sherry: Congratulations, my friend! You are hitting the big-time. Next year, I am sure you will be among the winners. (We'll do another update!) You are so talented!

In closing, is there anything you'd like to say to the good folks at Poets United?



Sakura


Totomai: Poets United is one of the reasons why I kept on writing poems.  Words are not enough to express how thankful I am for discovering this site and bringing me back again to my first love – poetry.  As I mentioned before, I hope Poets United will outlive all of us and may continue to inspire poets all over the world.  Keep on writing everyone!

Sherry: It is the reason I keep writing poems, too, kiddo. I started writing them again after my writing had slowed to a trickle for lack of support in the real world. It is why I remain so dedicated - and grateful.

Thank you, Totomai. A visit with you is always wonderful, for both eyes and heart. We can't get enough of your poetry and I am stoked to know one can WEAR one of your photos, now. Smiles. It doesn't get any better!

Well, my friends, wasn't this enjoyable? Totomai is the man to watch: jumping out of airplanes, climbing mountains, producing books,  working full time and turning out wonderful poems and photos. He makes it look easy. Do come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you! 

51 comments:

  1. Whoa! Totomai, you are as CRAZY :) as you are prolific.
    I am grateful too, for being on this site. You arelways a pleasant surprise.
    ZQ

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    1. Oops! "for YOU being on this site. You are always a pleasant and vibrant surprise.

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    2. Thank you very much ZQ. :)

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  2. Oh wow Totomai...you certainly are conquering your fears. And reading your poetry is such a joy....when you put it together with your photo travelogue, it is magic as we can see in your wonderful book. You are a wonderful inspiration! Thanks Sherry for bringing us this update.

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    1. Sherry brings out the best of me during the interview. I talked a lot haha. Thanks too Donna for your continuous support.

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  3. Your energy for life and photography and poetry is infectious and can't help but lift the spirits - how wonderful that you share your adventures with us. I agree next time we meet up I expect you will be even more successful - I love the colour in your words and photos so it will be another brilliant book! Well done on everything and thank you Sherry...think I need a cup of tea now!

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    1. Is it green tea, Jae? Your poetry, in one or another, also inspires me, especially when it comes to free-verse. I will never get tired sharing my adventures to everyone here in Poets United.

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    2. Good old fashioned English Breakfast - we may try green tea one day ;)

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  4. WOW! Good to learn about this adventure enthusiast, poet and a frequent traveller, Sherry.The pics are truly captivating.Thanks for this wonderful interview. It is such a joy to learn so much about Totomai …his work has been such an inspiration to me!!
    Thanks to both of you for putting this interview together! Enjoyed the reading.

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    1. Aww, thanks Panchali. You are making me blush. :-)

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  5. Totomai, you are amazing. Such good energy! Thanks for the lift, we are starting our week off with a bang. Next time I feel "too tired" I will think of you, LOL. Am glad you are enjoying the feature, my friends. I knew you would!

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    1. Haha, I can be that energizer then Sherry. :) It's really amazing how this site make us all connected. Cheers!

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  6. I've been enjoying your haiku, too. Here I was especially intrigued with buying a smile. I'd live to see a book of smiles, some bought and some real. I enjoy your energy for adventure and your way of seeing--the homeless dream, for example--and the gentle breeze that tones your words. In your t-shirts I LOVE the nature ones, especially "one lip. tulips. gone." 'Spring clouds" And the autumn farewell. Gosh!

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    1. Thanks Susan. I think I still have lots to learn in making haiku but everything is continuous process so I am very patient. :-) Thanks for the Wednesday prompts too. How I wish I can join regularly.

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  7. What a lovely start to my morning, to come here and read all this! I always love Totomai's poems and photos, and I am in awe of the adventures and travels, not to mention the weight loss. The T-shirts are terrific – and the tote bags. And I will be grabbing a copy of the pdf version of the book. (I prefer reading onscreen these days.) You use colour beautifully in your photos, Totomai, but monochrome can look amazing too, and the one on the cover certainly does – though I will be getting the book as much for your poetry. Enjoy your haiku journey! I did the same for a number of years, and discovered, as you are doing, that haiku is at once the easiest and most difficult form to work with! But so rewarding, and very addictive.

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    1. Just came back to say, I have got the book and it's WONDERFUL. Those poems are among your very best, I think, and those photos couldn't possibly be anything else but black and white, they work so well that way. No, I don't read quite that fast – I had a dip in, then forced myself to put it aside to savour more leisurely later. :-)

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    2. Thank you so much Rosemary, I hope you will enjoy the book. I'll read them again once I return to Japan. Haha. I agree, haiku is very addictive. But it got me frustrated at times haha.

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  8. Hi everyone, I am currently in Korea for some meetings but I will reply to each one of you later.

    I never thought I talked a lot Sherry, I got exhausted after reading the interview. Ha ha! Seriously though, I am thankful to be a part of Poets United.

    Will continue to share my poetry, photography and travels if time allows. Don't worry I am trying to post regularly as much as I can. :)

    Will be back later. I hope the meeting will finish early haha

    Halong Pirmi
    (Take care always)

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    1. We look forward to some photos of Korea.............how wonderful!!

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    2. Oh yes, I hope you will share photos of Korea at some point, Totomai!

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    3. Oh, I did not bring my camera this time. Maybe I'll take some snaps with my phone :-)

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  9. Another fascinating interview, Sherry. Very cool to learn more about Totomai - whose posts are WONDER-FUL: beautiful photographs, lovely poetry ... and Oh! those adventures.

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    1. Thanks Wendy. Trying different adventures while I still can :-)

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  10. That is a lot of 'nothing' :)
    A very interesting and inspiring interview. And a beautiful haiku to end it with.

    --Nimi
    www.NimiArora.com

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  11. I really enjoyed this opportunity to catch up with you, Totomai. You really have been busy. Wow, what an accomplishment to complete a 45 km marathon! And paragliding - what bravery. And climbing Mr. Fuji....sounds as if your life is composed of fulfilling dreams. Your photography continues to awe me. I enjoyed the poetry you shared. "Dream House" makes one really feel for those who are homeless.. And I can almost hear the 'lullaby of the ocean.' I am glad that Poets United keeps you writing poetry, Totomai. Smiles! YOU are inspiring. And thank YOU, Sherry, for your ability to ask questions & find out interesting things!!

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    1. Sometimes work - you know - is a big distraction haha. Kidding. Thanks Mary. Photography and poetry are my stress busters so both keep me sane. Thank you also for your support in everything I do. Really appreciate it :-)

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  12. And congrats on doing so well on the National Geographic Travel Photographer contest. I have a feeling ONE of these days you WILL be the winner!

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    1. I hope so. But as long as I enjoy shooting, it's all good.

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  13. Kudos to your energy, determination and 'Colorful Smile' Totomai. Reading your lines with all those magical clicks are Bliss. And Sherry! What an amazing chat!

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    1. Thanks Sumana. So happy to be a part of the group and to know each one of you.

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  14. What a wonderful interview, your photo's set an example for the rest of us trying... and I always enjoy crossing path with you.

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    1. Same here Bjorn. Maybe someday we can shoot in Sweden :-)

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    2. Hey that would be fun... :-) just send me a heads up and we can go hunting.

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  15. By the way, photos from the National Geographic linked above can be downloaded as wallpapers on your phone, tablets, PC :-)

    Thanks again. I read your comments after the meeting and I am really thankful to be a part of Poets United. LOL! I kept on repeating what I've said earlier.

    More poems from all of us. Keep on writing. Keep on shooting everyone.

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  16. You are amazing totomai! In the air and mountain climbing are two very challenging pastimes - not an easy way to counter fear of heights. Have always been fascinated with your great photos especially those of Japanese festivals posted sometime ago. Your poems have that special air of simplicity yet perfectly executed.

    Hank

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    1. Arigatou Hank. I am becoming a virtual tourist guide and I think I like it haha

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  17. What an exciting life. I admire your courage, Totomai, to confront your fears and to address health issues with such determination. Your photos are spectacular and , of course, I enjoy your poetry. You inspire me to try to write haiku. I've always known it's not an easy form.
    Thank you so much for this update Sherry. As always, I enjoyed the peek at another poet's life.

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    1. Thanks Myrna. Haiku is a charming form and has a strong impact in delivering its messages.

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  18. I do love these features and seeing behind the scenes into each poet's life - all so varied and interesting and, in this case exciting!!!!! Yay!

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    1. I always enjoy reading these features every Monday :)

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  19. Totomai you are a creative inspiration to many of us. I hope your horizons continue to broaden as your haiku condenses beauty.

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    1. Thanks Leslie. Hopefully I can master the art of haiku. Fingers-crossed.

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  20. What a pleasure it is to regularly visit your site and be entranced both by your photography and your poetry Totomai which always expresses such beautiful feelings.

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    1. Thanks Robin. I remember we first met at Sunday Scribblings. :-)

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  21. totomai, you're simply amazing! :)

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  22. Totomai I am loving your style! I will have to take a look at your TShirts and I love your photographs. As a fellow artist I think you're great! I would like to design some TShirts myself been thinking of it. I have hand drawn on clothes like jeans but never sold any.

    It must be the best to travel like that! You're lucky you can do it. I have never been overseas. I would so jump out of a plane too if I had the chance.

    I too, went on a health journey this last year and am so happy I did so, losing weight and being in the best shape I've ever been in so I know how it feels. It's hard to describe but I tell people it's hard to be depressed when you feel so good. Lol!

    I really enjoyed learning about you. Joining photography/art with poetry is something we have in common. I look forward to more!

    Big hug! Bekkie

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  23. Great job Sherry! You are an interviewer extraordinaire! Love you! Bekkie

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  24. Totomai I forgot the haiku! Basho is the best! I don't know if you've read Brendon Kent, (from the UK) he has a book or 2 out and has won several awards (some international) for his haiku. He's the one who taught me that it's much more than 5,7,5 like you stated. If you look his work up, let me know how you like it. I adore haiku but just when I think I understand it, I don't. Practice makes perfect.

    Thank you! Bekkie

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    1. Thanks Bekkie, will check Brendon Kent. Yeah, practice makes perfect :)

      I am also happy that Poets United allows me to share my photography and poetry at the same time :)

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