Friday, May 20, 2011

Food Fun Friday- Hanaya Yohei

I have been meaning to post about Hanaya Yohei for ummm- since last October?  Better late than never I suppose?
Hanaya Yohei's website  (sorry the link function isn't working properly)

Hanaya Yohei is described a family style sushi and Japanese food restaurant.  It is a chain restaurant, and can be found everywhere.  The atmosphere is like Coco's in the US, very family friendly with large booths and no frills.  the first time the kids and I went was when we first got here.  It was a challenge to order our food and we were afraid to push the button on our table to ask for more water.  I think I have mentioned it before- the waiters and waitresses in Japan will not bother you or ask you to take your order.  You have to summon them.  At first it seems like they are ignoring you if you are used to American style dining.  But then you realize it is NICE.  No one comes by to ask how your food is a million times- and every time you have a mouthful of food.  And no one rushes you out with your check and a meaningful look that says "please leave" so we can clear this table.  Here in Japan all of the places I have been to do not blink an eye if you sit around a chat for an hour after you have finished your food.  I am sure part of that is because Japanese people do a lot of family and friend get-togethers in restaurants.  Their houses are too small to host people, so they meet and socialize over meals.

Anyhoo-  the last time I visited Hanaya Yohei was with my good friends Jaime and Jason.  It was "Beer Garden Friday" and we usually liked to go eat before we headed to the beer garden.  The menu involves many different combos and it is difficult to choose.  There seem to be at least five different things in each selection on the menu.  The sushi is very good, and my favorite thing to eat there.  I did try fried octopus"fries" that night.  They are so delicious!  I would take them over french fries any day.

If you are willing to be adventurous and try things you have no idea what they are, this is a great place to go.  And if you like sushi, this is also a nice change of pace from a sushi go-round.

my meal- cold ramen noodles (I think it is called "somen" when cold?) and tempura.  Yumm!
fried pork or chicken cutlet
sushi- *nom nom*
chicken cutlets


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Life is Good!

We've been back in Japan almost 3 weeks now.  It almost feels the same as before except so many people and services here on base are missing. Yes I know we are all lucky to not have been in the path of destruction as seen on March 11th.  So I am not complaining so much as WISHING and HOPING.  There is a difference, yes?

Hubby is home and working one hellacious night shift.  But he is home nevertheless, even if we only see each other in passing.  I am just glad we are all in the same country once again.

I have resumed my workouts and I feel great.  I am down 15 pounds and have lost inches all over.  I actually tried on a couple of bathing suits today and didn't walk out in tears.  Like I told my bestie Jaime today- CrossFit is the shiznit!  I recommend it to everyone (especially certain roller-derby superstars to-be)!

To sum it all up, LIFE IS GOOD.  I am going to enjoy it all I can.


Sunday, May 8, 2011

It's good to be an American

I don't really really have anything to write today.  Instead I want to share a blog post from an old high school friend.  Alex is an amazing and inspiring person, and he has a way with words.  He has three prosthetic limbs- both arms and one leg.  He never feels sorry for himself and always exhibits the most positive attitude.  To top that off- he has a great sense of humor.  I look forward to his witty Facebook posts.

This blog post he wrote reminds me why it is good to be an American.

Read it here at Adventures of Being Alex.



Tuesday, May 3, 2011

nothing like sleeping in one's own bed...

I am back home, and I am extremely happy to be here!  The trip back wasn't as long as the trip out, thank goodness.  The only snag I hit was when the airlines didn't want to let Brownie on the plane because her kennel was too big for their little puddle jumper we were about to board.  I argued that we flew in on a similar sized airplane (albeit a different airline).  They conceded and made an exception.  The night before i was panicked because it was supposed to be 24 degrees that morning- too cold for Brownie to fly.  So I was surprised about the size restriction.  If they hadn't let her board- I WOULD HAVE DIED.  Not to sound dramatic, but I really would have passed out on the floor right there.  It was so much work just to get her "safe for flight" so we could get her back into the country of Japan.

The first flight we flew to Denver- an hour long flight.  It was not so bad.  Luckily, we had an hour to find our next gate- because Denver is HUGE.  Our next gate felt like it was a mile away (which would fit the whole "mile high city" theme.  I think we got on at least 5 walking sidewalks.  The flight to Seattle was MISERABLE.  Brother sat in the middle and he proceeded to elbow me the entire flight.  It didn't help that we were in the back and everyone was lined up to use the bathroom.  The flight attendant kept squeezing by, which meant his butt swept my beverage tray each time.  Brother was getting irritated with Sister, and I was irritated with him.

In Seattle we had 3 hours to hang out before our flight to Tokyo.  By that time I literally wanted to  punch my son.  I know.  That sounds AWFUL.  But you have to understand we were all sleep deprived and Brother is not very fun when he has no sleep.  In fact, he usually does his best to make sure everyone else is as miserable as he.  He is pretty skillful at that unfortunately.  So he antagonized his sister every time he thought I wasn't looking.  Good thing we were in public.  I am just saying.

Being in SeaTac International Airport was bittersweet for us.  We have so many friends in the PNW (Pacific Northwest).  I wish we could have been able to see stay a day or two and see everyone.  So I just posted to Facebook that I was waving at everyone.

Changing planes when your dog is flying in the cargo hold is a bit on the terrifying side.  There are so many things that could go wrong- namely your dog could be put on the wrong plane and sent to Timbuktu.  And since we were flying a million miles to Japan, that makes it all the more complicated.  I mean, they lose luggage all of the time, right?  Before the plane takes off, an airline attendant is supposed to bring you a little slip of paper the baggage handlers filled out to let you know your dog is on board.  We watched her being loaded onto the first two flights, but forgot to look for her on the last.  I did verify that she was waiting to be loaded, but that was one hour before our boarding time.  Usually I will ask the attendants once I get on the plane to let me know if our dog was on board- if I didn't hear from them first.  On our last flight that day, I totally forgot.  That is, until the plane was taking off- and the attendants were all buckled down in their seats.  Talk about a moment of sheer panic.  And of course it was the LONGEST take off EVER.  Ever.

There is a happy ending of course- she was on board.  *big giant sigh of relief*

Brother fell asleep right away (he had an empty seat next to him), I enjoyed two small bottles of red wine, and  watched Gullivers Travels with Sissy.  It was an extremely long flight- but it was 100% better flying commercial than on the Patriot Express (military "airliner" we flew to Japan on when we first got here in 2009.)

The best part?- besides seeing my honey once again?  We didn't have to ride the "prison bus" home!  The base has a lovely tour bus they use to shuttle us back and forth to Narita airport.  They normally do not allow animals.  But with the evacuation- they decided to bend the rules (God Bless them for that.)  That meant they brought out the white "prison bus" to put our big dog kennel on.  They can't go underneath the bus, and they cannot be let loose on the bus.  So we had to set our kennel on the back seat.  The normal tour bus they use doesn't accomadate the big kennels, so they brought out the white buses that are used for shorter trips.  I was very appreciative of them for this, I really was.  But it was a cold and uncomfortable ride to the airport.  I was not looking forward to riding on it again (that and waiting an hour or so to even leave.)

My honey rented a van and picked us up.  That was the best present I have had all year.  And now we are all home again.  I didn't realize how MUCH I missed my home and missed Japan.  It is like being given a second chance, there is so much I want to do and see.  Now if I could just kick this jet lag in the butt, I can get started on that!

Lastly- here are a few random pictures I took on my iPhone of our trip there and back.  Mostly it is our trip TO the States.  They are totally out of order too, sorry...

"airplane food"- Sissy's lunch at one of the restaurants in Narita

Poor Brownie still locked up in her kennel at LAX- we were trying to find the dog park so we could let her out.

"Dog Park" at LAX- just what we needed!  Poor Brownie was so thirsty- she drank for days.  (She did have water in her kennel, in case you are wondering.)

"non-working" fire hydrant

They even provided poop bags.

riding to Narita on the "prison bus"

our good little traveler- just the beginning of our journey

inside view of bus

I was so happy to have one last Cherry Blossom Frappucino at Narita before we left!

Brother's hamburg lunch
Last one- a very tired and delirious little girl on the last plane to Narita.  Almost home!
Now I will get back to my spring cleaning- so good to be home!!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Going home

I am going back to Japan!  I am very excited, but I still don't have tickets in my hot little hands.  Until I get those tickets I will be anxious.  Shoot!  I will still be anxious because I have to get Brownie's health certificate so the nation of Japan will let me doggie in!  And let me tell, when there is no military vet nearby, it is a PAIN IN THE BUTT!  

Basically I will be relying on a couple of overnight packages and paying lots of money out the nose.  I really was hoping to leave Brownie here with the in-laws, but they don't have dogs anymore and I think Brownie would be lonely without us. *sad face* 

 Taking a pet to Japan is no easy task!  Even though we have only been gone one month- we have to jump through all of these hoops.  Luckily, she already had her FAVN test (test for Rabies antibodies), and it is still valid (they expire after 2 years).  She has all of her shots, microchip, and FAVN test.  Now the vet must examine her, fill out the paperwork to be faxed to the USDA office for pre-approval.  Once they get that, we have to overnight the paperwork to USDA, and include a pre-paid overnight envelope to send the certificate back.  I just hope USDA works quickly.  I would have done all of this already- but.  But the certificate is good for 10 days.  Make that 9 days seeing that we will lose a day traveling to Japanland. Oh- I have to let Japan know I am bringing a dog to the country.  It is supposed to 40 days notice, but we are exempted this time around. :)

 I am not looking forward to the actual flight.  But I AM looking forward to seeing my honey again!!  It will all be worth it when I am in his arms again...

Cross your fingers I receive my itinerary tonight (morning for Japan)!!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Can I go home now?

We are on week three in Safe Haven land.  Now that the jet lag is gone and we got to see family, I am ready to go back.  Unfortunately, things don't seem much better in Nipponland.  They aren't WORSE, but not much better either.  I think things ARE better in Tokyo as they don't have so many rolling blackouts to put a stand still on everything.  But as far as the Nuclear reactor problem, they have made baby steps so far.  I know things will get better, I just need to be patient (take a cue from the Japanese.)
My in-law's pad is gorgeous- better than a hotel.  In area it is bigger than the 4-plex we live in on base.  But it is not my HOME.  Know what I mean?  I miss my bed, my things.  I miss being able to make a mess and being able to pick up after myself at my own leisure.  I miss running my own household.  Here I feel like I have worn out my welcome.  I know I haven't really, but you know how it is when you feel like you are "in the way?"  I have interrupted the "flow" here and I hate that.
So after feeling sorry for myself- I see this.  My heart is still breaking for Japan.  I want things to get better so I can return.  But more importantly- I want things to get better for the Japanese people who are suffering.  I am sure they aren't whining like me.  I am so grateful my family is well and safe.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

missed my blogiversary

I just realized that on April 1st, I had been blogging for 2 years.  Geez, it feels LONGER than that.  Happy belated blogiversary to me.

Looking back:
2 years ago I was trying to get TO Japan.  The No-Fee ASSport Passport people were making me jump through hoops to prove I wasn't born in Mexico.

2 WEEKS ago I was trying to get OUT of Japan.

2 years ago I was missing my sailor terribly- knowing I wouldn't see him for another 5 months.

Today I am missing my sailor, not knowing WHEN or WHERE I will see him next.

2 years ago my kids were both in elementary school.

Today my son started middle school. (He was still in elementary school when we were in Japan.  Here in Colorado 6th grade is MIDDLE SCHOOL).

2 years ago I thought GETTING TO JAPAN was the hard part.

Today my heart aches because I had to leave.

2 years ago I was determined to learn Japanese.

Today all I can do is order food.

2 years ago the only foreign countries I have been to were Mexico and Canada.

2 years later I have added Japan and Singapore to that list.  I was hoping for more than that- but I am grateful nevertheless.

2 years ago I didn't think I will be able to keep up a blog.

Well, here I still am!  I haven't been the most consistent blogger.  I know some of what I post is pure dribble and a snoozefest.  But I do have some good memories here.  If nothing else- I have my Food Fun Friday posts to look back on.

One of my favorite pictures as of late:

This isn't really related to my blog post.  But this picture just tears me up.  It is a Japanese man hugging one of the Helo guys (I believe it is HS-4) who came out with relief supplies for the tsunami victims.

I hope that on my next blogiversary I will be able to report that all is well in Japan again.  Ganbate Kudasai!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Missing Japan...

It's a stormy and dreary day here in Colorado.  The kids and I arrived safely a little over a week ago after traveling over 48 hours.  I think the jet lag has finally worn off and we feel rested.  And now that I am here I want nothing more than to go back.  I miss Japan, I miss my friends, and I miss my husband.

There have been people who stayed behind that accused those of who evacuated of "abandoning" Japan and its people.  That really upset me at first, and I felt like I had been put on the defensive.  But now, in spite of a sham of an article in the "Farse and Lies" (ie Stars and Stripes)- that said that everyone who evacuated only did so for a "free vacation", I am at peace with my decision.

There will always be haters out there, who want nothing more than to make everyone as miserable as they are.  I am a good person, I will not justify my decisions to anyone.  My family and my country come first.  Call me selfish, I don't care.  That isn't to say that my heart isn't broken and I don't grieve for Japan and her people.  At last count, according to NHK World, over 27,600 people are dead or missing.  My brain can't process that number.

Eventually we will return.  When that is, I don't know.  Until then we remain in limbo, while trying to have some sense of normalcy for the kids' sake.  They are enrolled in school here and are enjoying seeing their cousins again after 2 years.  While we wait, I am trying not to break down and cry.  I am afraid I won't be able to stop.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Mata Ne (See you later)

I am leaving Japan tomorrow.  I am almost all packed, just need to unplug a few things and put them in my bags.  The kids have been ready since last Thursday.  Things are actually looking better as far the threat of radiation, I really would rather stay at this point.  But we are going tomorrow and the kids are EXCITED.  I think if I didn't take them back stateside my mother-in-law would fly out here and get them herself.

I feel like I am giving up on Japan.  At least, I am afraid that is what my Japanese friends think.  My students all understand, at the same time they tell me that everything will be ok here.  One of my students is very concerned and ready to head south if the sky starts to fall.  She said she would have gone to her parents by now if her husband didn't have to work.

I met one of my students- Chizuko, for lunch today.  When I dropped her off at the front gate and hugged her goodbye- she started sobbing.  My heart just broke!  I reassured I will be back, while choking back my own tears.  I do believe that in my heart.  I will be back, Japan.  I love you too much not to.

If you don't hear from me soon, it is because I am either traveling, or having a hard time getting online.

Mata ne!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Only in Japan...

Only in Japan would you see an explanation of the Fukushima power plants crisis explained this way.  This has been going around Facebook- maybe you have seen it already.  If not- check it out:

Who doesn't understand "poos and farts"?  It is a very simple explanation for a very serious and complex problem.  It's not Chernobyl- but there is potential for much harm.  Let's hope and pray it doesn't come to that...

Got Iodide?

Today the Navy started handing Potassium Iodide (KI) pills out to personnel and family members.  It is purely precautionary and erring on the conservative side as seems to be the theme with the Navy lately.  No big deal, I went down with a friend to go pick up pills for myself and the kidlets.

Guess what?  I cannot take the pills.  Apparently, if you are allergic to shellfish or have a thyroid disorder, you cannot take the KI pills.  Well- if you have only a slight allergy to shellfish- you may be ok and it might be worth the risk.  But me?  I have a thyroid disorder- can't take the pills.  My doc was there to confirm.  He said I will just have to "shelter indoors".  Soooo, if we are trying to evacuate should the sh-- hit the fan (which I don't think it will), I would either have to stay behind and send my kids off with someone else (and their pills), or risk exposure and go out with them.

But after doing a little research, I feel reassured I will be ok.  And I understand why I can't take the pills.  The KI pills saturate the thyroid with potassium iodide- which prevents radioactive iodine from being absorbed in the thyroid.  Basically it is like filling all the hotel rooms with clean guests before the radioactive guests get there.  Oops, sorry no room for you!  People exposed to radioactive iodine (what is released in the event of a nuclear plant explosion)- are at serious risk for developing thyroid cancer.  As I understand it- it is 90% treatable (though it would require a lifetime of care- I do know someone who had it.)  The reason I can't take the KI pills is because one of the side effects is hypothyroidism, which I already have.  So for me it would make it much worse and could cause serious health problems (think heart.)  In my doc's words- "it would cause more harm than good".

I confess- after a day filled with defeats, this tipped me over to the panic side- but only for a little bit.  I did a little research, and then I felt better.  This is all hypothetical, right?  We are not in immediate danger, it is all ok.  I am ok, and so is my family.  My friend tried to convince me to put myself on the "people with medical conditions" list (ie priority and first to go).  Women and children go first- the youngest children and those pregnant are at the top of the list- along with people who have special needs/medical conditions.  It didn't feel right to me to try and get out sooner.  Children are at the biggest risk in the event of radiation exposure- the younger, the higher the risk.  I don't want to bump someone with young children.  Also, from what I read, those who are 40 and older are at the least risk.  Well I am three years from 40, close enough!  I talked to my hubby's boss today- who chided me and told me not to be the "hero" and get out of here.  I am still not going to put myself on that "must evacuate" list.  But I am going to try and get a flight out of Narita if possible.  At the rate they are getting people out of here, I would probably make it home before them anyway!

Crazy huh?  I wish someone could just wave a magic wand over the power plants and put them all back to together in perfect working condition.  Japan has suffered enough.  What we are going through here is 100, no- 1000 times worse in Sendai and the areas surrounding the power plants.  So instead of KI pills, I'll take another dose of perspective- Vitamin "P".

Praying for good news and relief for those who are suffering.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Perspective? What's that??

A Japanese friend (who is married to an American) said she felt selfish for being glad that she and her family are safe while thousands are suffering because of the earthquake and tsunami devastation.  She intends to stay here until the sky starts to fall.  She feels it is her duty to stay here and help.

  That stopped me in my tracks today.  

It has been over 48 hours since the word came for the Military Assisted Voluntary Evacuation.  The key word being VOLUNTARY.  I want to stay and help, even though I am happy to be able to see family again after almost 2 years.  I am not panicked, and I am not afraid that there will be another bad earthquake.  That is not to say I am used to the constant shaking.  I am 90% sure that we will not be in danger of radiation.  I spoke to a fellow Navy wife yesterday who is from Russia.  She told me she went through the Chernobyl disaster and didn't feel the need to evacuate.  She said matter of factly that it doesn't matter where we go- no one can control a radioactive cloud.  I don't know enough to verify how it all works, but that made sense to me.  But of course we are being evacuated to the US, she doesn't have kin there and therefore doesn't want to go.

So am I feeding into the hysteria?  Do I think the "sky is falling"?  Not really.  But I have been wrapped up with the evacuation efforts, stressed to the core from trying to control rumors and comforting my kids because they don't understand why the "grown-ups" don't have their sh-- together.  After reading my friends statement above I felt guilty.  "Nancy, meet Perspective, Perspective, meet Nancy".  Yes, this is stressful and travelling for what could be several days with my two cranky kids  and 100s of other cranky people is not what I call a "vacation".  But we are SAFE.  I am not cold and starving with no home to go to, I haven't lost my whole family in a great rush of water.  My children are safe, we have food and water and electricity.  We still have internet for goodness sake.  As far as I am concerned this is the lap of luxury.

So am I selfish for leaving?  I don't think so.  Actually, I think it is good for us all to go.  The main reason being we (Military dependents) as a whole are a strain on Japan's resources right now.  If we all leave that would save electricity and put less cars on the road (traffic is worse than usual.)  And, the base will be able to conduct humanitarian efforts more efficiently without us here.  One more thing, our military members- sailors, marines, soldiers and airmen- will be able to conduct their missions without worrying about their families being in harm's way.  However, if I were Japanese, I would definitely want to stay.  I understand where my Japanese friend is coming from.

I did need that dose of perspective.  Suddenly, I wondered why the heck I was so stressed all day?  (Well, besides the million phone calls, emails, and my kids getting upset at the uncertainty of it all.)

Speaking of perspective- this is a news cast my daughter recorded with her camera.  It was an hour or so after the big earthquake.

The newscasters are wearing hardhats.  You know things are bad when you see that.  

Hopefully we will be getting out of here soon.  And even more importantly, hopefully we will be returning.

One more thing- I understand even more why the Japanese love Ichiro Suzuki.  I'll never forget my first Mariner's game.  There was a big group of Japanese tourists shouting "Ichiro Ichiro Ichiro!!" every time Ichiro was up to bat.   I hope more pro athletes follow his lead.

I'll try to keep everyone posted on my travel progress...

Friday, March 18, 2011

I should be packing...

It seems I don't lack for anything to blog about.  It is after midnight, I am drinking coffee, and trying to pack.  Thank goodness for that nap I had today.

I started off with a killer Crossfit workout.  I was tired to begin with, so it was harder than normal for me.  I went home to a dark house (rolling blackouts), and goofed around until I could manage to get into a dark shower (no lights remember.)  After that I decided to relax on the couch, and eventually my bed called so I went upstairs for a nap.  I was woken up around noon with a call from the CMC saying the President signed the evacuation order and we are being evacuated.  I didn't need coffee to wake up at that point.

12 hours later, a million phone calls, emails and Facebook posts (and one meeting with the ombudsman and the Base Commander), I am typing away with a severe knot in my neck.  I have laundry going and sh-- strewn everywhere.  What do you pack when you can only take one bag and you don't know if you are coming back, ever?  And you don't know if you will get your stuff back, ever?  Honestly, I don't care too much about STUFF, I just want my family to be safe.  I think the hardest part of the day was worrying about my dog- would she be able to come with us?  At first I was told no because she is too big, but later I was told yes.  Oh thank Heaven!

I can't tell you how SAD I am right now.  I don't want to leave Japan.  I don't want to leave like this.  Hubby told me it all seems like a SyFy movie.  He is still away, and I don't get to see him before I leave.  That just plain sucks.  But he will know we are safe, and he will be moved to a safer place as well.  That is what counts right?  He told me to take lots of pictures so we can reminisce about it later.  I don't know about REMINISCE, but I will have plenty to blog about!

Should I change the name of my blog do you think?


PS: Please continue to pray for Japan and her people.  If you can donate to Red Cross, that would be great too.  Even if you can only give $5, that will help!!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Keep Calm and Bake Cupcakes (what the earthquake is teaching me)

I posted the other day on Facebook this statement: "Keep calm and carry on", in response to everyone's panic.  My friend Crystal responded with "Keep calm and bake cupcakes!"  Now that's what I'm talking about!  Crystal has been great to keep everyone (especially me) grounded.  Despite my appearance, I am not as calm as I seem.  But I am doing my very best to set a good example for other spouses and families.  I have been checking email non-stop and posting everything I can on our command's website (I am an ombudsman).  When this is all said and done, I am going to take an electronic vacation.

Since Friday, I have learned a few things and have made a few observations:

1. ALWAYS be prepared!  This goes for anyone, anywhere.  You never know when the power will go out, when an earthquake will make travel difficult, or some other strange disaster or accident that could happen.  And, for those times when you KNOW you will need emergency supplies (for example a hurricane or blizzard is headed your way)- you will rest assured that you are covered.

I am somewhat guilty of not being prepared.  Mainly that was water and canned food I was lacking.  I did have all of our passports, birth certificates, and my NEO packet in one place where I could easily grab it and go.  But I had depleted some of our water supply and food.  I had grown complacent, shame on me.  Last weekend I bought a case of water and stocked up on canned food and a few snacks for the kiddos just in case.  I bought ONE pack of D batteries (I already had a few extras in my emergency supply.)  And- I made sure I picked up a bag of dog food for our furry family member.

Now people are hoarding supplies, which means a shortage for the rest of us.  I would love to have the people who produce the show “hoarders” to come here and check out some of these people’s stockpiles.  I have a feeling a few of these people have turned their homes into fall-out shelters.  I can honestly say I spent maybe an extra $50 or less on extra groceries.

2. NOT being prepared means that you will have to drain precious resources (ie food and water at the store), in order to take care of you and your family.  A friend of mine, who resides at Misawa Air Force Base, was without power for several days.  They are in the Northern part of Japan- which means it is cold!  She was very proud to report they were able to self-sustain without having to run out for supplies- and without draining any resources that could be used to help others that need it.  She is awesome and so smart, that lady is.

*note- I am typing this in a Word document that I will later copy and paste to Blogger.  We are currently having a power outage as a part of the rolling black outs.  I just had to get up and take shelter in the doorway due to another earthquake/aftershock.  Good thing I am prepared! *wink*

Not being prepared also means you might have to wait in long lines for bread, water, or even toilet paper.  No one wants to have a Communist Russia experience, do they?

3. My father in law always wisely says- “always keep your gas tank over half full”.  He doesn’t wait for the “E” warning to come up on the dash- he fills up when he gets down to a half tank.  That sounds like an inconvenience or maybe one too many trips to the filling station.  Think about it this way- if your car has a full tank of gas and there is a power crisis-slash-gas shortage- you have yourself covered.  Once again you will not have to wait in a LONG line to get your ration of gas.  Luckily my car was already full so I didn’t have to gas it up.  But hubby’s car was on “E”- he is always running on fumes.  I was lucky enough to be able to fill up the day after the earthquake.  I won’t have to wait in line anytime soon- our cars both use very little gas and we don’t have to drive too far luckily.
I feel  sorry for the poor gas station employees.  People are not happy that they aren’t being allowed to fill up if they have over ¼ of a tank.  But unless they live off base or have a medical appointment in Yokosuka (that will take twice as long due to the terrible traffic situation going on)- they really don’t need that much gas.  If we were to evacuate- it would be by air.  There is no way anyone would get anywhere by car!  It is hard enough to do under normal circumstances in typical Japanese traffic.

*still shakin’!!*

4. Disasters bring out the best in some people.  If you read my last post- you would have seen the pictures of all that was donated to the relief efforts.  It felt like everyone in base came to lend a hand, donate clothing, buy supplies to donate, or all of the above.  I gained a little more faith in humanity seeing and experiencing all the love and concern people had for our host nation.

5.  (You have to know this was coming.)  Disasters also bring out the WORST in people.  And that makes me irritable.  This is when you find out who are the panickers, who are the complainers, and who are just completely clueless, uneducated and/or willfully ignorant.  See numbers two and three.  We have been told that we will continue to receive supplies- but people are still hoarding as if we will be cut off from the rest of the world for two months.
Here are some other examples:

*We are being asked to conserve energy due to the Nuclear power plant crisis.  I have unplugged anything unneeded and only using the lights when absolutely necessary.  Yet I look out the window and see houses with every light on and another family with Christmas lights on their balcony in the tower apartments (they are referred to as “The Towers”).  I took a picture of the Christmas lights and posted it on Facebook.  All of my friends were livid at the inconsideration, except for one.  A really sweet friend of mine (and very young), asked why I was bothered- was the light keeping me from sleeping? *sigh*

*I am hearing complaints about the power outages.  Why??  The outages last 4 hours long and we are warned in advance.  Is someone missing a favorite soap opera?  Or maybe they don’t have iPhones so they are unable to check email.  Granted- those who live in the towers and on the upper floors- they have to walk down and/or up many flights of stairs.  But why shouldn’t we do our part to conserve energy by having a power outage?  Are we more special than the local folk because we are on a military base?  My advice?  Make sure your lap top is charged so you can type up a blog post while you wait for the power to come back on.  Or get an iPhone- then you can post your every complaint on Facebook and piss me off.

*Some people are volunteering only so they can receive special recognition and attention.  That just burns my butt!  At the town hall meeting last night one lady, while standing up to ask the Captain a question- first had to make mention how she has been a part of the relief efforts.   Did she think our base Commander was going to jump up and down  and tell her how wonderful she is to give up her time to help those in need?  I can tell you that yes, she was there helping.  But she also spent most of her time delegating work out to anyone that crossed her path.  My favorite part was seeing her masticate her slice of pizza and task everyone in her sights at the same.  By day three I was ready to throw a can of STFU in her face.  But I was good and held my tongue.

*The negative people are more negative- that is to be expected.  But they can get down right insensitive.  Quite a few people want to leave.  If I were pregnant or had small children- I would feel the same I suppose know.  I don’t want to HAVE to leave.  I want things to return to somewhat normalcy (things will never be the same as before regardless).  I would like to not have to worry about the power plants leaking radiation into the air.  I would like the ground to stop playing Dance Dance Revolution.  Complaining and saying how much they hate it here is very insulting to the Japanese, don’t ya think?  If we were in America, and had no other country to go home to, how would we feel about foreigners whinging about our country?  I don’t like the idea of people packing up and leaving because I fear that will only cause others to panic.  However- GOOD RIDDANCE!  There would be more power, more food, more gas for the rest of us.  Go ahead- max out those credit cards for a flight that may or may not leave.  Don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out.

6. Japanese people are amazing, strong and resilient.  I learned the term gaman from a Japanese friend.  Check out this article- Mr. Kristof explains it well.  They don’t complain or whine.  They mourn those they have lost and rebuild as soon as they can.  They know this is an act of Mother Nature, not something they can control- but something they accept fully.  No one is wasting time blaming the prime minister for causing this, or thinking they could have prevented the earthquake.  They pick themselves back up, and move on.

7. Japanese people don’t loot!  See the article I mentioned in number 6.  I have heard this from several other sources as well.  I love their honesty and integrity!

8. The media can really really suck.  I hate how they feed into mass hysteria and fear by over-sensationalizing everything.  If you watch some of these reports you would think the whole world is going to die from radiation poisoning.  I have had to tell family friends to turn off the TV, everyone was begging for me to go home.   And as Jaime so keenly pointed out- you can't compare Chernobyl to Japan's situation.  That would be like comparing a Ford Pinto to a Volvo.  I don't know- maybe it is not THAT extreme- but you get the picture.

9. I learned today that even though I am staying strong for everyone- especially my children, a good cry can make everything feel better afterward.  Today I was admonished for a simple and honest mistake I made.  No big deal really- but that is what broke me.  I sat down and had a good cry.  I didn't even realize I needed to cry until the tears came.  I had been too busy to think about it.

10.  People all over love Japan, as do I.  I found this today on YouTube- I think the flooodgates have been opened for the duration because this made me tear up as well.  It is actually cute, no reason to cry.  Check it out:

I will now leave you with a smile on my face.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Will someone please turn off the paint mixer? Earthquake in Japan...

Imagine it is a Friday afternoon, the sun is out, and the kids just got home from school.  You're getting stuff together for the sleep over your daughter is going to, doing some housework and thinking about the Pampered Chef party you are going to and how the food will be delish.  You have that care free feeling that Friday gives you because you have a lovely weekend planned out.  You sit down on the couch to fold some laundry and you feel the couch shake.  Whoa!  You stand up and call to your son, "do you feel that?"  He was walking down the hall and stops, "yeah, I do!"  This about the time the shaking usually stops and everyone carries on with their previous activities.  After all, this is Japan, and you feel earthquakes all the time.  Except today, the shaking doesn't stop, but intensifies.

That was how it all started for us at 2:46 pm, Tokyo time.  When I realized that the shaking was getting worse I called to my daughter to come downstairs and we headed under our large kitchen table.  My son called to our dog Brownie and all four of us huddled underneath the table and waited for it to stop.  The shaking would ease up, we would think it was over, and then the shaking intensified once again.  I realized I had left my iPhone on top of the table so I was reaching with one hand to try and grab it.  I couldn't find it so I let it be.

It lasted for several minutes.  That doesn't seem like a long time, but when it feels like Godzilla has picked up your house and is shaking it like a magic 8-ball, a few minutes feel like an eternity and then some.  All I could think about was the recent New Zealand quake and how this might be the "big one" they have been talking about in Japan.  My daughter started to panic and cry.  She wanted desperately to go outside, but we held on to her tight.  (On a side note this has been a topic of discussion here, which is better, outside or in?)  I grew up in California, we were taught to "duck and cover", so that is what my family and I did.  And no, Hubby was not home- he was in a different country altogether.  

When it finally stopped I felt like throwing up.  It was an 8.9 magnitude (this number varies according to the source).  The epicenter was in Sendai, which is about 300 miles away I believe?  In other words, what we felt was much watered down compared to those in the Sendai area.  And check this out- there is a Wikipedia page already- I didn't realize they get set up so quickly!  

After the shaking abated, we got out from under the table and dusted ourselves off.  In no time we were shaking again, back under the table we went.  My daughter was in full panic mode by then.  By now I had my iPhone in hand and I was trying to get some info on what, when and where.  The next aftershock caught me on the toilet trying to pee.  There is nothing like a rockin' toilet!  I finished as fast as I could and ran for cover while still zipping up my pants.

Like I mentioned earlier, I grew up in California, but I have never experienced something like this before.  We continued to have one aftershock after another.  And I don't mean some little tiny tremors, but movement that would cause the door to our kitchen to swing back and forth.

We turned on Japanese TV and of course they are flashing a big tsunami warning on TV.  They are showing the shaking reported all over Tokyo and Chiba.  People are running from falling debris outside, those inside are taking cover under their desks.  
Taken from the Japan Meteorological Agency's website
If you look at the above picture you can see the widespread effect and how darn strong and powerful this sucker was!
This was the quake previous to the big one
So if you look at the quake that happened at 7:49 am, you can see the difference!  This one was a 4.8 magnitude and its epicenter was out in the ocean.

Going by this website, here is the info I have gathered:
1st quake: 14:46 7.9 magnitude, depth of 10km (they have this one listed twice- not sure why)
15:06- 7.0 magnitude, depth of 10 km
15:15- 7.4 magnitude, depth of 80 km
15:26- 7.2 magnitude, depth of 10 km
15:41- 5.7 magnitude, depth of 50 km (this they listed three times)
15:49- 5.8 magnitude, depth of 10 km
15:57- 6.1magnitude, depth of 20 km
16:04- 5.8 magnitude, depth of 20 km
16:15- 6.8 magnitude, depth of 10 km
16:29- 6.6 magnitude, listed as "very shallow"
16:38- 5.9 magnitude, depth of 30 km
16:54- 5.5 magnitude, depth of 30 km

I could spend a couple of more hours and write down the rest (there are 100s more since yesterday)- but I think you get the idea!  I was seriously feeling sea sick.  After the third aftershock my daughter set up permanent camp under the table.  She and her brother dragged all the pillows off the couch, grabbed blankets, snacks, drinks, and the portable DVD player with some extra books and movies.  My son declared during the second one that he would "like to get off this ride now".

Two summers ago, we got to ride on the earthquake simulator at one of the bases' safety fairs.  Let me tell you- that is EXACTLY what the real thing felt like, no joke.  Except the real thing is not as fun. *frown*

One hour later we are feeling sea sick.  My cell phone isn't working, but the internet is up still!  I never thought I would be so grateful for Facebook.  My friends and I were all able to check in with Facebook.  We chatted with family back home and we passed on info- the freeways were shut down, the trains weren't running.  Some people got stuck and used Facebook to contact friends to pick up their kids from day care.  The street directly out of our front gate became a parking lot.  Everyone was going nowhere in a hurry.

And while we worried about those trying to get back home, the images on TV were becoming more and more disturbing by the second.  We watched in horror as people tried to outrun the tsunami in their cars, and on foot.  It was all fire and flooding and sheer terror.  I am sure the whole world have seen the images, utter horror.  Mother nature is not a force to be reckoned with, and she knows how to humble us to our very core.

Suddenly it was a totally different day with the same date.  My daughter, after I coaxed out from under the table (we were still getting aftershocks, just not as bad as before), decided she still wanted to go to the slumber party.  I let her go, she would be a few blocks away, the worst had passed us (we were never in tsunami danger), and it was a good distraction.

The rest of the evening was complete nuts.  I never made it to the party, I just couldn't leave the house, and leave my son at home.  I would have been only across the street, but you know how it is!  I was constantly chatting with people, skyping with Hubby, it was non-stop.  My good friends from Misawa texted me asking me to call their family stateside, which I did.  They had no phone or power, but somehow they could text.  At least it was something.  We finally went to bed, and I intended on watching something distracting- like Army Wives.  But I couldn't tear away from the news stations.  Luckily my son fell asleep pretty quickly (with a pillow over his face just in case), and I eventually did too.

4 AM this morning: my phone rings.  I was so drowsy I couldn't make out what the noise was.  I picked it up too late so I missed the call.  I had a feeling I knew who it was (no number on caller ID).  While waiting for a call back, I checked email and scanned Facebook.  I wondered if we were still having aftershocks when the bed started shaking. Yep, it is still going on!  The phone rang again, it was my daughter.  10 minutes later she was back home and cuddled up next to her brother in my bed.  After calling my mom to let her know I was ok (I did send an email earlier just in case), I went back to sleep.

8 AM I woke up again to more bad news, now they were worried (and still are) about the nuclear power plants.  A friend was asking for donations to be brought to the commissary.  I scanned our pantry (which held not a lot of non-perishables I realized), and I headed to the commissary with my daughter.

What started out as a small group of wives asking for donations turned out to be a huge base effort.  Operation Tomodachi was in full effect.  Tomodachi means friend- referring to our host nation Japan.  After buying groceries for my house and also some more things to donate, we hung out to help for a while.  I had to go home and put away my food.  I wanted to donate some blankets and what not, thinking I could fill a trash bag to take back over.  I ended up with four.  All those sweaters I have been hanging on to but never wore?  And those extra jackets we don't need?  How about those old towels?  It never felt so good to purge before. Knowing that these items were going to be loaded onto a helicopter and taken directly to the victims really motivated to give all we could.

The rest of the day we spent helping with the donations.  I have to say I am really proud to be a part of this community here at NAF Atsugi.  Everyone was so willing to help.  I think we all feel so grateful that we were spared, and so sad to see our Japanese "tomodachi" in pain.  We started off in front of the commissary with a small box and some grocery carts. We ended up with tri-walls on pallets.  I believe we filled 7 pallets with food, huge bags of rice, baby stuff, personal hygiene items, clothes, jackets, blankets, the list could go on and on.  People would ask what was needed and we kept thinking of new things.  Honestly, when your home is destroyed, don't you need just about everything?  

I gave my daughter a new camera yesterday- just before all of this happened.  Well today she brought her camera with her everywhere and took pictures and videos of our food/clothing drive.  I think she is a budding photo journalist!

Rice was a huge ticket item today, probably one of the number 1 needs....
diapers, formula, baby food, even a stroller
5 of the 7 tri-walls we filled today.
Just a small sampling of all the people who came out to help today.
all clothes and blankets
No room left on the forklifts, we loaded the donated water on the truck bed of one of the trucks from Base Security.

The Nex made signs for the donation boxes.
Another volunteer picture- including our base CMC and some of the kids that helped out today.
The kids were awesome today.  I think they must feel helpless during times like these, so being able to really help must give them a sense of control over their world.  The boys were lifting boxes out of people's cars as they pulled up to donate.  I think were all in awe at how much people were donating.  The collection box in front of the Nex was full of brand new blankets, towels, pillows and all sorts of other things.  A few times today I had to stop and just breathe.  I didn't know if I was going to cry or if my heart was just going to stop beating.

Looking at how big the damage is and how many people are left homeless, I wonder how much we can really do.  But even if we are only able to help a few people, at least we have taught our children what it means to be a part of a community and what charity is.  I am going to take that as my silver lining from this horrible dark cloud.

We continue to shake, even as I type.  I feel like we are living in a paint mixer.  I finally got my daughter to go to sleep.  I have a feeling she is going to be sleeping my bed for a while.  My son was scared too, but my daughter is the panicky one in the family.  I think she is a worrier like her great grandma was.  I told them they can no longer watch the news, it has been too overwhelming for them.  They totally get it, they know this is bad.  My son even told me last night that this is history in the making.  Indeed it is, I just wish it was a happier kind.

I have some videos to share, but I really must get some sleep, it has taken me a while to type this all out.  I wanted to do this while it was all still fresh.  Now I have a terrible kink in my neck and an early wake up call looming over my head.

Like I have told my family and friends back home- please don't worry about us, we are fine.  Please keep the quake and tsunami victims in your thoughts and prayers.  If you want to donate please contact your local Red Cross.

I am going to bed now, it is starting to shake again.  I hope I can sleep through it!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

It's Wednesday! (random nothingness)

It's Wednesday, but I really wish it was Friday.  This is one long week for some reason.  If you are stateside- then it is still Tuesday- my apologies.

I always say I am half-Catholic.  I say that because my dad's side of the family is Catholic (my dad used to tell me how he was an altar boy back when they held Mass in Latin), my step-dad was Catholic, and my mother and I attempted to become Catholics.  I attempted because I went to CCD as a teenager (I was quite lost not knowing all the prayers for the rosary), and my mother met weekly with the monsignor of the church for her Catholic education.  However, she could not become Catholic because she was "living in sin".  She was "living in sin" because her marriage had not been blessed (?) by the Catholic church.  Her marriage was not blessed by the Catholic church because my step-father was "living in sin".  My step-father was "living in sin" because he was still "married" to his ex-wife, in the eyes of the church.  In order to not be "married" to his ex- they had to go through some process that would require him to contact his ex.  He did not wish to contact his ex because she had finally stopped harassing our family- probably because she didn't know where we had moved to.  I never became Catholic because I thought they would find some reason I couldn't be Catholic either. Therefore I never went to talk to the monsignor as I was directed to do, if I wanted to go through the process.  So that is why I am only half-Catholic, it's by blood and circumstances.  

Now it is Lent and I was thinking of something my half-Catholic self could give up.  But obviously I am not a true Catholic because I couldn't think of anything that was an actual sacrifice- only random silly things, like:

1. crack 
2. bunjee jumping
3. body piercing
4. cigarettes
5. roller skating
6. hitch-hiking
7. liver
8. pole dancing
9. cannibalism
10. soap operas

Seriously, I applaud those who give up their true vices- like sugar and soda- or chocolate!  They are better people than I.

On a totally unrelated note- I found something a couple of weeks ago that I thought had been lost forever!  It was the CD with all of our digital pictures of my kids when they were really small.  Not only did I find one CD, but two copies!  I was practically in tears when I saw that the CD was actually readable (I had found a different CD months back- but it was damaged and it wouldn't read.)  I must have spent at least an hour looking through all of the pictures.  When hubby came home, I did the same thing all over again, except this time looking over his shoulder as he went through the picture files.  This picture now graces his wallpaper on the PC monitor:
Brother enjoying a popcicle in our backyard- back when we were stationed at Ft. Huachuca, AZ, circa 2000.
He wasn't even two yet here.  I love this expression, it makes my heart all melty and nostalgic and sad that he is growing up so fast!  He will be 13 this year. 13!  Like I said, we were so happy and relieved that these pictures had not been lost to this world!  I promptly copied them to our external hard drive.  Where is another good place to back up all of our pictures I wonder?

On another unrelated note- I am down 7 pounds!!  It is not all due to Crossfit- I had lost 5 before I started last week.  But I have definitely noticed a huge difference already since I started working out last week.  I have had 4 workouts and I feel so much stronger already.  I am sold, hook-line-and-sinker. 

Stay tuned for more random thoughts and adventures.. or not. *wink wink*