Chapter 78 – A Latino Connection
BETWEEN FIVE WORLDS: CHINA, RUSSIA, JAPAN, PERU AND AUSTRALIA.
BETWEEN FOUR CAREERS and FIVE LANGUAGES
1. Nakadaki Development Sold
2. Enter Peru
3. Latin America: Beauty amid Poverty
At age 70, blackballed in Japan over the phoney North Korea abductee issue, and with Japanese universities behind me, I set about creating a new life.
First priority was to turn my Nakadaki operation into something viable.That was not easy.
In the process I found new friends, and an an enemy or two. (That goes with the construction industry.)
1. Nakadaki Develpment Sold
Initial aim had been to turn the place, with its twenty or so cabins, six Lockwood houses, a restaurant serving Indian food, a bath house, two large parking and sports grounds, over to one or other of my two sons.
But by this time they were already up to or over forty years of age, and had established themselves in their own businesses – Dan had his own translation/interpreting company, Ron in his sports and camping ground business.
As my original Nakadai clients moved on, I had to go out and find new tenants. That would be difficult. And I was still fighting with my back problems.
A man with an accomodation and bar business in Tokyo offered to rent the entire property on a lease-purchase basis. I agreed, though it meant eventually he would become the owner.
He made some improvements, found new customers from this bar clients in Tokyo, paid his rent on time and eventually got a bank loan to cover the balance owing.
By this time I had found found the ideal person to act as manager. But too late. So I had to pass over the roads, buildings, parking areas, water system, flowering trees – everything I had created over some 20 years – for a figure in my bank balance.
I go back there sometimes. At night the paths up the hills between the lit-up cabins filled with activity seems magical.
That loss was sad. But it let me concentrate on a smaller development of some sea-view hillls around my house in the Ohara district. That was much easier to manage.
That ended up with a population of around six families spread over two hillsides with cabins and houses, and a tennis court, with my own house attached.
Health gradually recovered, but overall I had been forced to slow down.
They never discovered a proper cure for CIDP, but I keep hoping.
One by-product perhaps: the disease is caused by an over-active immune system eating away at the soft material around the nerves. At the same time I seem to have avoided other diseases. Maybe that too is due to the over-active immune system …
By chance I was able to reconnect by mail with D. whom I had known at Oxford more than 60 years earlier and who had found my email address from an article I had written for Asia Times.
She was back with the German engineer who had escaped Mossad assassinations in Egypt in the 1960’s, and had a daughter.
That gave me a short burst of nostalgia, and thoughts about how different my life would have been if I had stayed with her in Europe …
2. Enter Peru
But one cannot live by nostalgia alone.
Working near my Nakadaki development were some Latino women who had been able to stay on in Japan after the Bubble era labour shortage had passed.
They were part of the educated middle class forced to flee Peru during the Senderista (Shining Path) troubles of the eighties and nineties.
One of them (from Peru) was not only good looking but intelligent too. She spoke good Japanese which she had picked up while working.
We teamed up, with her helping improve my past sporadic Spanish by insisting we talk only in Spanish, and me helping with the visa that allowed her to stay in Japan.
All that helped greatly when I got to meet her extended family in Cusco, Lima and Abancay. I had become one of the family, it seemed.
(Spanish is a deceptive language. It seems to be easy but when you get into it you find the difficulties. I spent another fortune on textbooks only to find there is quite a lot of good material on television.
(One of those books is almost two inches thick and is devoted entirely to Spanish verbs. It makes good doorstop material.)
3. Latin America: Beauty amid Poverty
Many others have written about the attractions of Latin America — Peru especially, with its still strong Inca civilisation spread over the spectacular Andes. Many still speak Quechua.
I discovered another world they do not tell you about – on the other side of the Andes and Machu Pichu. There you are already into the jungles and swamps of the Amazon headwaters. It is a different Wild West over there.
I discovered the strength of the Latino family. Fiestas seem endless; one town in the Andes boasts 400 in a year. They coexist awkwardly with a strong dose of bureaucracy which seems to be a Spanish hangover, and which helps tone down the chronic corruption.
I discovered too how free trade cripples most manufacturing activity.
Peru used to make textiles of quality but many brands have been wiped out by cheap Chinese imports.
With its educated middle class Peru would be an ideal target for my selective protectionism idea.
Despite weak manufacturing, the economy survives (like Australia increasingly) through export of raw materials: in this case copper, silver, fruit. But that is a dead-end growth formula.
And I really miss the excellent quality shirts I used to be able to buy there.
However with their artistic sense they excel in architecture. The condominiums that line the cliff coasts of Lima, the capital, are quality. Many are sold to rich Americans and Europeans. I ended up with one or two. Not much Chinese competition there.
The poor survive in unserviced shacks on the dry hills behind the city strung along the coast. Crime is a problem, unsurprisingly.
An even larger problem is the unemployment caused by excess population growth relative to employment opportunities.
The Catholic religion is strong. But even without its contraception ban large families would prevail; what are people going to do to occupy themselves in an impoverished society with few other affordable attractions? (This circular link between poverty – large families – continued poverty is not realised strongly enough perhaps.)
There, even more than in Australia, one is forced to realise the harm caused by the inability to create a manufacturing base. Australia can survive with its service industries (and submarine making?) perhaps. Peru has very little less to turn to unless it can control the unemployment problem caused by excessive population growth.
But Lima has a vitality, absent from Japanese cities. My Peru companion made no secret of what she prefers. I would too, but for the political disturbances.
On the other hand, Lima has no subways. Life above ground seems more subdued when when much of the population and transport moves among the bars and restaurants below ground.