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*


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Food Fun Friday- Peruvian food in Japan

Besides the newly discovered Brazilian BBQ joint, Hubby's favorite restaurant is a little place in Yamato called Keimi.  It is a Peruvian restaurant- their specialty being lomo saltado.  

Essentially it is a dish of stir-fried strips of beef with red onions and tomatoes- served over French fries.  (I think the rice is the obligatory nod to Japanese tastes).  It is very good, and Hubby orders it each and every time we go.

I have no room to talk- I order the same thing every time as well.  I am in love with their ceviche.
This ceviche is made with a white fish and pulpo (octopus).  I am not really a big fan of octopus, because it is usually too rubbery.  But I really think that octopus was intended to be cooked in lime juice and served up with red onions, cilantro and whatever white fish they use (I'll have to ask what kind it is next time I go.)  The octopus is actually a little tender, and so tasty.  The red onions and the octopus give the ceviche a little bit of a purple tinge.  My mouth is watering as I type, it is that delicious.  If you like fish at all, this would be the dish for you.

The restaurant is on a side street off of a side street.  In the States it would be called an "alleyway"- but it is a bonified street.  It is one of those places that you find out about from a friend- who actually takes you there.  No one gets directions, but someone actually drives them there or at least shows them the way.  We remember how to get there by landmarks: "turn left at the bicycle shop, and then left again at the dance studio."  You can't park at the actual place, you will need to back track and park at the pay lots you passed on the way.

When you walk in, you may or may not be greeted by the restaurant's owners right away.  Sometimes you will sit there and wait a few minutes before someone pops their head out of the kitchen.  Keimi is owned by a Japanese man- "Caesar" and his Peruvian wife- "Mili".  They speak Japanese, Spanish and English- but mostly Spanish.  They know us by name and we are always warmly greeted as old friends.  Caesar is very charismatic and extremely intelligent.  His Spanish is perfect, and I believe he speaks more language then he lets on.  He loves loves to chat.  Mili is sweet and always has a hug ready for you. I was told she taught Peruvian grammar at a Peruvian university.  Last time I told that my son was ill- she made sure to tell me how to make him feel better.  She is one of those women that is everyone's mom. I adore her.

After being greeted, we usually wait another 10 minutes before they take our orders.  The food is served at all different times.  We once went with a large group, some people were done with their food by the time others were finally being served.  At any other place one might get angry- but for some reason it just makes the place feel unique and "quirky".

It is very hard to leave the place, even after the bill has been paid.  Caesar and Mili act as if they don't want you to leave.  They will talk to you all night if you let them.  If you want to go somewhere quick, this is not the place to go.

In addition to the lomo saltado and ceviche, they also make empanadas on the weekends.  Wow, they are the very best.  They make their own drink made from purple corn- "chicha morada".  Hubby loves this drink, it is very different, but very good.  Caesar and Mili say it is good for people with high blood pressure and it lowers cholesterol.  It is probably true- but we drink it for the taste.  And they do serve Inca Cola- it seems to be what everyone looks for when they eat Peruvian.  It is good, but I like the chicha morada better.

This place has become very dear to our hearts.  I don't think we will ever find another restaurant experience like this anywhere else.  This goes on our list of things we will miss when we leave Japan.