Last month, my good friend Kirstin and I were having tea on the deck of her cozy cottage near the top of Wilhemina Rise in Honolulu. We had a very intriguing conversation around the question: “What is your purgatory?”
In other words, what would be the ultimate combination of tasks or conditions that would irritate you incessantly if you were destined to do it forever? We’re not talking about hell. It’s purgatory. Not pain and suffering. Just pet peeves.
But before we go into our answers, you probably need to hear a little more about Kirstin. She is from Germany and she’s a professor of Asian Theater at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, where she also directs of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies. I’ve known Kirstin for almost 20 years, because we played taiko together in the Kenny Endo Taiko Ensemble.
Because she’s tall and blond, audiences always remember Kirstin as “the haole girl” in KETE, but those of us who know her recognize that she’s one of the most “Japanese” in the group. She strives to be a good student, respectful of traditions and true to the artform. She is thoughtful about her practice and incorporates it into daily life. For example, I’m helping her with a crowdfunding project, and while we were looking at her webpage I noticed her mousing with her left hand. When I asked her why, she said, “because Sensei told us to.” Only Kirstin would say something like that.
But Kirstin is also very “German” — and by that, I’m relying on stereotypes of a slightly stern, no-nonsense, utilitarian lifestyle that I respect and admire. Kirstin’s house is impeccably clean, but cozy and warm. No clutter in sight. She’s been living there for about 7 years, with a 21-year-old cat named Luna. The two make quite a pair. Luna originally lived down the street with another family for over a decade. But the 2 dogs, 3 other cats and 4 young kids in that rambunctious household were too much, so she “adopted” Kirstin. And once she discovered Kirstin’s peaceful sanctuary, she refused to go back.
So here was Kirstin’s answer to “What is your Purgatory?”
Standing in line for stuff I don’t need, with leaf blowers, weed wackers and bad karaoke in the background.
I bet everyone who knows Kirstin is nodding their heads. Only Kirstin would say something like that!
I’m still trying to come up with my own perfect purgatory description. It definitely has something to do with long unnecessary meetings that could have been accomplished over email. Or insanely busy people canceling on me at the last minute because something “more important” comes up. Or worse, they show up but waste the time by complaining about how busy and complicated their lives are. Lately, my purgatory is sitting in traffic while I watch Google buses and singletons in Teslas whizz by me in the carpool lane.
There’s a whole lot of pet peeves that I could weave into my purgatory, but that wouldn’t be very productive. However, I do think that this exercise is fun because the little things that irritate us tell a lot more about our personalities than we realize. We can probably all agree on what “hell” would look like. But each of us has our own personalized version of purgatory.
On Monday, be sure to check out Kirstin’s crowdfunding campaign to bring Wayang Listrik (Balinese puppetry) to Hawaii’s schools. Watch my facebook page for the link!