Rowena Pike-McFadden first came to Japan when she was 16 and travelled around the country as part of her Japanese studies during high school. 8 years later she was back with her fiancé and a teaching degree in hand, and has stayed for another 25 years. Their idea was to leave when they didn’t like it anymore but they are still here!
In her own words Rowena says that “If I see a need for the community, either through my own experiences or that of friends, I try to help and make things easier for families compared to what was available when we were raising our boys. I am passionate about education, school management, children’s developmentally appropriate practices and family support.”
She is the driving force behind one of the foreign community’s most valuable educational assets – Playpourri International, which offers flexible family care and education (from 2 months to Grade 2). Playpourri also offers a range of afternoon programs for kids from the expat community that may not have access to the international school opportunities. (Hip Hop, Art, Capoeira, Soccer, Cheer Dance)
They also offer a popular and valuable English-language book resource – their Lending Library where you can go and check out a wide range of English-language books. They also offer Young Artist Workshops.
Playpourri aims to offer more than just English-language activities. They also offer Love and Logic Parenting Facilitator workshops providing positive parenting solutions and this year launched PPI Happy Campers – English Camping Car Rental in Nagoya. As if all this was not enough Rowena moderates the useful facebook groups: Nagoya Kids, Nagoya Kids Community Yard Sale and the Nagoya Homeschooling Network and is also active in the English-language Boy Scouts Troop. WHEW!
So now you think you know her. But do you really? Here she has taken on another task – answering our version of the Proust Questionnaire.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Glamping with my camper, lovely roaring campfires, relaxing with friends and family by crystal clear oceans, cascading waterfalls or rivers. Bodies of water with great views in Japan and Australia make me content and happy.
What is your greatest fear?
Fear of this Proust Deadline. Lol. Seriously though, it’s been a tough year for our family and friends with loss and health issues both in our immediate family here in Japan as well as family in Australia. I would have to say getting news that people I love and care about are struggling but even more than that, I could not even bear thinking about something happening to either of my boys.
What historical figure do you most identify with?
I don’t really identify anyone in particular but I admire political leaders of the past who worked for the betterment of people even if the public didn’t like it. Do we ever really like policies that will cause us immediate inconvenience or hardship but in the long run be better for the community, town, city, country, world as a whole. I admire those that don’t put public appearance over public good?
Which living person do you most admire?
My mother. She has been a constant comfort, always quietly encouraging and subtly sending mind waves of confidence to try my best, give it a go and never give up. She was raised in a generation where women were not taken seriously as anything other than a wife and mother. When her father and my father passed away, very close to each other, she travelled the world and lived her dreams. Being one of five daughters, watching my mother quietly grieve, continue to raise her girls with strength, determination and never not attempting to do something because of her gender. She is the best role model I could ever hope for.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
Procrastination. I know I shouldn’t do it but sometimes I just want to bury myself under blankets and hope magic fairies come along to do all my paperwork. Oh and thinking I will remember to do something. I won’t! It’s proven.
What trait do you most deplore in gaijin?
Expecting that everything should work the same as in their home country. The international airports in Japan should have big welcome signs that read….
”From this point on:
1) Don’t ask why.
2) Don’t start a sentence with… “In my country….
3) Learn what “shoganai” means and embrace it.
We suggest you just go with the flow, review the 3 steps as many times as needed and you will live happily ever after”.
And I will leave that there.
What is your greatest extravagance?
My Camping Car. The minute I am in the drivers seat, I feel myself relax. It doesn’t matter if I’m taking it to switch over the winter tires, or going on an impromptu adventure, I’m happy. I will also say children books but I can’t justify them an extravagance as I share them with the community but I will say… “Hello. My name is Rowena and I’m a bookaholic.” I cannot stop myself. And to be honest, I don’t want to.
On what occasion do you lie?
When I go to bed. Hahahaha. I try to be honest all the time or avoid answering the question which is a technique I’ve learned from my time in Japan. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings and if I feel that I have to answer something uncomfortable, I will respond with “Do you want to hear what you what you want to hear or do you want to hear what you need to hear?” It’s also so easy to tell if I’ve told a fib, my face will go completely guilty. I’m such a goody two shoes.
What is your favorite journey?
Unplanned adventures exploring anywhere. I recently drove from San Diego to West Virginia in 4 days and then back again for my sons adventure to the World Scout Jamboree at the Bechtel Summit Reserve. Then after that we then drove from San Diego to Seattle. No hotel reservations. We just booked along the way. People thought I was nuts but the adventure went where it wanted us to go.
Which living person do you most despise?
No one comes to mind but I don’t really warm to people who use the phrase… “You should know this about me…” That tends to irritate me for some reason.
What is your greatest regret?
I don’t believe in regrets. We all make the best decisions we can at the time with the information that we have and the situation we find ourselves in. I believe that if I make a decision and it doesn’t work as I would have liked, I can learn from it, change and move in a different direction. I am also extremely lucky to have an amazing support team in my family, friends and school who help me look at problems from all directions.
Which talent would you most like to have?
I would love to be able to understand financial planning and investment terminology. As I get older and think about our retirement plan, I feel that I’m woefully underprepared for the fabulous retirement home on the beach or river somewhere that I see myself lounging in.
What is your most treasured possession?
My thoughts, memories and time I have with my kids, family, friends and school. If there was a possession that I needed to grab in an emergency, it would only be what I needed to get my family to safety. Everything else can be replaced or remembered.
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
People not caring for others and sneakiness. I don’t give business to people that I feel put money and their own self importance before others or who are not upfront about their motives.
What is your most marked characteristic?
Determination. If someone tells me I can’t do something, just watch me do it.
What is the quality you most like in a man?
Coming from a household of women, I have watched the men my sisters married, my friends married and I married. I will have to say that a quality I like in a man is to be mindful of his role as a model to the younger generation, be respectful of others opinions, talk kindly to others, and to be able handle emotions without freaking out!
What is the quality you most admire in a woman?
Sisterhood. I think sisterhood encases all that I admire in women because when I think of all the women in my life, they are all amazing and dealing with daily struggles, yet they get up and get on with the day. And those that can’t get up and get on with the day are supported by those of us that can.
What do you most value in your friends?
Support. I would never have stayed in Japan as long as I have without their love, support and community. I love my life and family here. I love raising my kids here. I love our friends that have left and stayed. I love the team I work with. I love the kids I teach. I love the families I help.
How would you like to die?
Peacefully if I had a choice. I would love to have all my boys cuddling me. I would drift off and join my family up in heaven, have a beer with them and tell them how happy I am to see them again.