Saturday, October 29, 2011

My Mom's 77th Birthday

My mom celebrated another birthday. Actually, one of my sisters said everyone else was celebrating it, and Mom was wondering who all the people were.

We have a custom. When one of us five girls is not there for a group shot, a stuffed animal sits in our place. This time the two of us who live too far away to attend are there in the photo frames.  Sister # 3 is holding my picture (#1). Sister #2 is holding #4's picture and #5's three-year-old son. And next to Mom is Sister #5 with her 15-month old daughter on her lap.

We continue to be thankful and amazed that Mom has not suffered the usual pain that accompanies cancer. Her decline has been gradual, and much slower than the doctors first supposed it would be.  She can still eat regular table food, but someone has to feed her. She cannot stand and walk, and since she's always been one to get up and down all the time, I'm sure this is very hard for her. Also, she can no longer use the toilet, so one of my constant prayers is that her caregivers are keeping her clean and dry. The hardest of all is that my mother is pretty much incoherent now. It seems as though nobody understands anything she says.

The last time I visited her was last year for her 76th birthday. I'm sad that I cannot go there and sit with her now, but I am relieved that she is in good hands. And she is in Good Hands, too. She is baptized, and she believes that the One Who died for her on the cross, Jesus the Christ, has taken her punishment for all her sins. And while she is weepy quite a lot these days, soon she will cry no more. Glory be to God.

Friday, October 21, 2011

It's the Little Things

Here's a short conversation I had the other day.

Me: What music are you playing now?
Girl: We're playing English Fork Songs.

There are times when I really enjoy hearing things I'm sure I'd never hear if I didn't live in Japan!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Just Found This Neat Blog!

I like it! It's the Book of Concord in written bites!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Has it been five months since I last posted?

Hello. Long time, no see. No hear. No write. No read.

Only work. Make lesson plans. Drive. Cook. Do laundry. Check homework. Pull weeds. Go to church. Shower. Eat. Sleep. Repeat.

Of course, it was a real bother to do much with a computer that often had tantrums. Now that I have a spiffy new computer, and a new semester is starting up, maybe I can get back to blogging. I know that there are a few people who look in on me to see what's happening.

Must add "Post on my blog" to my list of perpetual acts.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

School Situations

Some things are settled, and some things are getting there. Since our family is nothing but teachers and students, and we all go to a slew of schools, we’ve been in a kind of limbo ever since the earthquake on March 11. Before I talk about my own family’s situation, let me explain some things in case you’re not familiar with some of Japan’s educational practices.

The Japanese school year begins in April and ends in March. Yes, school goes on (pretty much) the entire year. There are breaks, of course, but for most students even during the breaks there’s a reason to go to school once in a while, and there are usually homework assignments or tests to prepare for because your “job” at this stage in life to be studious and learn as much as you can (while it’s “easy”). So, when the earthquake hit, students were at the end of the school year. Things were coming to a close, students were looking forward to graduation ceremonies and having their spring vacation (the only 2 weeks out of the year that you could really feel FREE from teachers and homework).

Another function of school grounds in many areas is to serve the local community as an evacuation center in case of some emergency. Thus, since most of the evacuation centers were schools, the schools could not continue classes to the end of the school year. Actually, no one was psychologically able to teach or attend classes the first few weeks anyway. While there has already been a start in building temporary housing units for evacuees, there are still a lot of new homeless in school gymnasiums. There have been attempts to put up partitions, so that families can have some sort of privacy from all the others living practically on top of one another. (One TV program showed us how one evacuation center organized themselves into the same neighborhood divisions that existed in their normal neighborhood, so that people could be in proximity to the same people they always live near. It gave them comfort to be near the people they knew and could talk with freely.)

Ceremonies are a common and frequent part of Japanese culture.  Unfortunately, many schools decided to cancel graduation ceremonies. A lot of schools did not cancel, and there were programs on TV showing us the scenes of the graduation ceremony going on with all the evacuees sitting on the gym floor in the background partaking in the milestones of students whose living situations and future plans were now altered drastically. Especially poignant scenes were of parents receiving the graduation certificates of their deceased children. Every graduation ceremony has speeches. There’s the principal’s talk, the student selected to represent the graduating class reading his or her message to the principal, and a parent of one of the graduating students giving thanks to the teachers. Almost all of them tried hard not to break down for this year’s message was atypical: how do you give an inspirational message of a wonderful future in the middle of death and destruction? You cannot say the things you usually say. The things that are usually said would be rather trite this year.

No sooner did the scenes of graduation finish, then we saw scenes of parents with children starting school for the first time. So many of them had already prepared, and now their preparations were for naught. People from all around the country began sending in their children’s old school bags, uniforms, gym clothes, and other supplies, so that not only brand new students, but any student who was in need, would have everything necessary to resume as normal a student life as possible in the upcoming school year. I was amazed at their efficiency in gathering and distributing it all.

So, where are we now? Maybe it would be easier if I went person by person.

Ai goes to a public high school in a town next to Sendai. Last week she went to school almost everyday, but she attended her club activity for the most part. She has two more days of club only then the official school year will begin on the 21st of April. That’s about 2 weeks later than usual.

Makoto goes to a public high school in Sendai. He will start classes on the 22nd. That’s also about 2 weeks later than usual.

Yuko goes to a public university in a town next to Sendai. I’m still not sure of the exact starting date, but I think it will be around the end of the first week of May. That’s about one month later than usual. (Note: Most educational institutions beyond high school have no classes for two months in the summer and two months in the spring.)

My husband teaches at three different universities. Two are in Sendai, and I believe they are both beginning at the same time as Yuko’s university. One is in Ishinomaki, and that school will begin the last week of May.

I teach at five different schools. My high school class begins this week, and my junior high school class begins next week. One university will begin the at the end of the first week in May, another (the same one my husband’s at in Ishinomaki) will begin the last week of May, and the Ishinomaki Red Cross Nursing School will begin some time in June. On March 29th, I learned that all of the staff and students at the Ishinomaki Red Cross Nursing School are alive and well. When I spoke with one of the teachers there by phone, I was on the verge of bursting out in tears of relief. I didn't realize I was so scared until I heard from her. The building is still standing, but the first floor was completely destroyed by the tsunami. They have to find some new facility (perhaps at the Red Cross Hospital itself, or at the other university in town where I also teach once a week.
Things are moving along, and it won’t be much longer before we have our school routines in place. Once again, because all of this earthquake-tsunami-nuclear stuff happened when it did, our household of teachers and students truly were not nearly as bothered or stressed as the majority of people who could not take time off from their vocations even when everything was a living hell. Our hearts still feel so much pain because there was not much we could do at that time to lessen their burdens.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Lunch with My LLL Sendai Friends!

 April 4th (Monday)

This morning I got a phone call from a friend (MK) I haven’t seen for about 3 years. And she said that another friend (KI), who I haven’t seen but once or twice since she moved about 15 years ago, was in town, let’s do lunch. I was sure it was a joke, and yet I knew it wasn’t…. since people wouldn't normally make such jokes when you're dealing with the aftermath of the fourth worst earthquake in recent history.  So we figured out where to meet, and about an hour before our meeting time, she called again and said she found another friend (YS) to join us.

Talk about excited! Twenty years ago, I was the one to start a La Leche League group here in Sendai. In those days, there were only a handful of LLL groups in all Japan, and in Sendai there were almost no breastfeeding support groups at all. KI was one of the first women that met me through a lecture I gave at a community center, and through her I learned about an alternative kindergarten her sons went to. Megumi joined Kangaroo Kindergarten, and KI joined LLL Sendai. We got to know each other really well. Through word of mouth LLL Sendai began to grow and MK joined. KI and MK became LLL Leaders at the same time, and soon after that YS joined LLL. In addition to our monthly meetings, we held weekly play group times so we could have a chance to just hang out with the kids at various mother/baby-friendly spots around town.

Though we all lived in the same city, we all live quite different lives and are scattered about so that our paths would hardly ever cross. And, of course, you know how it is, you take care of your own family, associate with the people involved in whatever schools or activities your kids are in while they're growing up.  And, in Japan, even your kids may not all go to the same schools! Then, too, all of us left LLL behind us since we all were employed outside the home as well.

What a sharing time it was. I mean, first you want to just look at everybody and be happy that you can see one another again! And then you all are surprised that everyone “hasn’t changed a bit!” (Except for the reading glasses that the two younger ones pulled out of their bags to read the menu!) Then everyone takes turns talking about … the earthquake, the tsunami, the aftermath, comparing experiences … and try to catch up on how old the kids are, what they’re doing, etc. It was such a strange, yet natural time.

And, for those in the States that might still need some reassurance when I tell them my family is fine, here are a few the things my friends (and their families) have gone through.

MK: She lives about a 15-minute drive from me. She lives in what the Japanese call a danchi, a suburban residential area on the outskirts of a bigger city. She has her own home, and her first two college-age children are living in Tokyo. She works as a Care Manager in a nursing home on the edge of the center of Sendai city. During the actual 3/11 earthquake, she was at work. During the earthquake there was one resident who was completely oblivious to this huge shaking going on, insisting that she had to go to the toilet right NOW. (I won’t go into all the rest of that, but you can guess…) So, for MK the past 3 weeks have been spent working at the nursing home, with the child-like elderly not understanding why there are only 2 meals a day, and why this and why that. Even the staff has been getting more irritable, since they, too, don’t have much to eat, plus have to deal with getting to and from work, standing in lines to buy 5 items of food (for whatever number of people are at home waiting for them to bring home something to eat), having to stand in lines of 2 liters of water per person per household, and not having electricity (for 2 weeks), running water (for 2.5 weeks), city gas (for 3 weeks). She couldn’t believe that our electricity came back on (and has stayed on all the time) within 48 hours. Her kids in Tokyo couldn’t find any food in the stores in Tokyo, so they contacted her (not sure how) and asked her to send them something to eat. She didn’t have anything to send them, but told them that at least in Tokyo they could find restaurants. They were told to go get at least one real meal at a family restaurant each day. Last week, MK went by bus to Tokyo to see them for a few days. And to finally take a bath.

KI: She’s the friend that sent me a care package because she imagined we were having as hard a time as her son was. Her first son works in Sendai, and actually he was working in one of his company’s office near the coast. (I think she said Onnagawa, but there was so much talking back and forth that I’m not sure now exactly which town it was.) There was one quick earthquake two days before the 9.0 hit, and since everyone in this part of Japan has been expecting the Big one any year now, his office established on that day precisely where to go to higher ground if/when the Big one comes. Little did they know that 2 days later, their escape plan would be implemented and be successful. KI’s son’s apartment is in the northern part of Sendai, which was not so badly damaged, and he still had his car. So, he and two of his colleagues drove bit by bit over the roads that were still just barely serviceable. What usually would be a 2-hour drive, took 2 days. There were too many people trying to creep away from the coast. Cars would run out of gas, and the people would have to ditch their car and continue on foot. When he got back to his apartment, he learned that it was all blocked off. He wasn’t allowed in it for a few weeks because it needed to pass safety inspections. Rather than go to an evacuation center, he and his friends decided to just live in the car until things got better. So, they would hear that at this place in town you could still buy some take-out food, in that part of town you could find some gas, in another part of town you could go take a bath, and so on. So drive somewhere and park and live and wait it out.
   Once KI knew that her first son was alive and safe, her worries turned to her second son. He was in Indonesia trekking around for a few months before starting his new job. How long and how bad could the tsunami be if/when it reached Indonesia? And, where exactly was he anyway? Since she was in Tokyo, she started her search on the internet. (And she found my son Makoto’s name. How odd.) Anyway, her worries were unnecessary we now know, but at the time….. freak out! But you can’t really freak out, because you have to keep calm.
   KI works at a daycare center and she’s in charge of the O-year-olds (babies you are under the age of one, I mean). Yes, the little babies, too, were very afraid and stressed out. (And I KNOW that they got lots of loving holding from this retired LLL Leader!) I don’t know how many she tends to at a time or how many others are on staff, but it brought to mind how important each person’s vocation is, no matter what. When your world turns topsy-turvy and you don’t know why, all you can do is look to the one in a better position and long for their help. Poor little babies, but she was there for them.

YS: Although I had once approached her about becoming a LLL Leader, she was preparing to begin her career as a hula dance teacher. For about 15 years now, she’s built her dance studio and has become known around town as THE hula teacher in Sendai. And, you can imagine how she knows this person who knows so-and-so who’s related to somebody’s best friend from another part of the country. (And I thought Lutheran circles and LLL circles knew you and everybody else!) So, she was able to fill us in on all the details of anything you wanted to know. Even if you didn’t know you wanted or should want to know it! Her family of 3 lives close to one of the subway stations in Sendai. It’s in a hilly area, and got pretty cracked up, I guess. So, although I couldn’t figure out if or how long she was in an evacuation center, I do know that she had lots of evacuation center stories which the other three of us didn’t have.  (I’ll write about evacuation centers in another post later.) I’ll share one story she told.
   There is another hula teacher she knows well who lives in a small rural town on the way from Sendai to Ishinomaki. She and another person in her car (I’m not sure who it was), were driving away from the tsunami, but the tsunami crashed over her car. The car was in the water, but the car was still on the ground. She didn’t even think, but suddenly forced her car door open, grabbed the person in the passenger seat by the arm and pulled her out of the car. They were able to run away, but she lost her home and her car. I don’t know if she went to an evacuation center or not, I suppose she did at first. But, now she’s in a city about an hour north with her husband’s relatives (I think). Even though she lost her house, her dance studio was still standing. (I’m not sure if the studio was near her house or in another location.) It was all muddy inside, but the mirror wall was in perfect condition. And there was a painting on an easel (I don’t know anything about Hawaiian culture, but apparently this picture is akin to a Hawaiian saint or goddess or something.) And the painting also was not damaged, so, of course, she protected the studio. (What can I say: I have friends who don’t think the same way I do.) ;-)
   Now, on to the reason I chose this story to share. This dance teacher, who now has no domicile, wants to begin collecting whatever she can so that people in that area can get back on their feet. THIS is what I have been waiting to hear ever since March 11th. Sitting in my house while being nearly unscathed and witnessing the travesty all around has been just about one of the worst things. I mean, you know how it is, you see some God-awful scene somewhere in the world, and you don’t want to be helpless. You wish you could DO something to help. To make it better. To fix it. To make it GO AWAY! But, most of the time, it’s somewhere else. It’s bad, it’s hell, and it’s not supposed to be that way. You want to stop it and put things right again. But what can you do? Nothing. But look at the TV and be numb with your jaw hanging open and fighting the tears. Or just letting the tears flow freely and not care about wiping them away or that anyone notices you’re crying. So, now YS has my number, and she knows I drive out to Ishinomaki twice a week, and I know that I can start collecting things that people are willing to give away. (I mean, even the evacuation centers will not take used clothing. Everything you donate to the evacuation centers has to be brand new and the packages can never have been opened. I understand their reasoning behind it, but most people have a lot of good things that could be donated to these people who are going to be struggling and suffering for some years to come.)

And that pretty much sums up my lunch outing today. How blessed I am to have such friends. ;-)
                                                            MK, Me, KI & YS

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Stay or Leave?

March 31st (Thursday)

Sorry for the long silence. We have been trying to clean up and normalize our lives a bit since my last post.

Actually, I had been drafting the nuclear issue that ensued after the tsunami hit two plants pretty hard, but it's been an ongoing event. Quite a few people in the States have been wondering how my family is faring, whether we would stay put, what would we do if such and such happened. How do you answer those questions? How do we know, how do we try to disseminate the information coming to us, how, when, what, where, why, and more? I admit I was tempted to go back to my dear Michigan, and several nights I could not sleep. Thoughts flooding my mind of what would it be like to leave our home and mortgage behind. Well, the home we could leave behind, but the mortgage would follow us anyway. What would it be like to live in Jackson again? In, perhaps my mother’s house, where, perhaps, she could come live with us (instead of at my sister's) in her own house, and we would all live happily ever after. Sure. What would it be like to yank my three kids out of their lives here (although they often tease me about if America’s so wonderful, why are we in Japan), and get them situated in U.S. schools where they would have more adjustments than high school students who change schools for their last year or two of high school from one English-speaking school to another English-speaking school. They would manage, but it wouldn’t be without lots of struggles. What would it be like to look for work over there in Michigan, one of the states with a high unemployment rate already? What would it be like to NOT be able to start receiving my Japanese (Koji’s, too) pension? I’ve paid 23 of the 25 required years of premiums, and I’m going to give that up? What would it be like to leave my husband’s parents behind? They are nearly 90 years old, and I can’t imagine they would be eager to leave Japan and start over somewhere else. They need their son so much these days. How could we abandon them?

The what-if list and the what-would-it-be-like lists can go on and on. They are places the mind and heart can lead you far and wide. It is good to think about these things. It is good to know your options. It is good to be prepared for the worst and hope for the best. But it is not good to dwell on them and despair. It is not good to look within yourself when you should be looking at Jesus.  Let me share something a friend of mine sent me on March 21st. I’m not sure where she read this, so I’m unable to credit the original source.

Life Thought for the Church: March 20 – Second Sunday in Lent Faith in God’s love for us through Christ brings eternal life (John 3:16). Faith in God’s love for us through Christ brings strength and help for living this life. God will not abandon those for whom He paid such a holy price. This is our hope as we deal with life’s struggles and pains. God’s love is certain no matter what! You can believe it!
This helped me sort out some of my thoughts. I guess, the biggest one being, that there are so many circumstances outside of my control. I don’t believe that all this chaos is God controlling the universe. That’s not what I mean. But, He does allow bad things to happen, and uses even these events to draw people to Himself. C.S. Lewis said in The Problem with Pain, “Pain is God’s megaphone to a dying world.” Wherever I am, I am a little Christ to those around me. (If you ask me, I’m really not a very good one, but that’s another post. And don’t hold your breath waiting for that one!) So here I am until I know otherwise. In any case, all because of the grace of God.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Day Four

March 14, 2011 (Monday)

Another sunny morning! A sunny day always means we can air out our bedding, so everybody had to be up and moving so we could pick up the futon in the tatami room and drape them over some chairs so that air could circulate and freshen them up. Our tatami room is next to the living room, and it’s also the room where my husband and I sleep. Now, though, all five of us were sleeping wall to wall. Talk about the “family bed!”

The kids got to fetch LOTS of water, and I was able to wash two loads of laundry. It sure took a long time! I had to operate the machine manually since we didn’t have running water, and had to keep dumping pickle buckets of water into the machine every time you turned around! What usually would be a one hour task in which you put the clothes in the machine and push a button and leave the machine to do everything on its own until it calls you with it’s I’m-finished beeps, took nearly four hours. There must be a better way to do this! (Hopefully we’ll have running water again soon so I don’t have to hurt my head thinking how.)

In between dumping buckets, I tried to get our a.m. meal ready. That was a bit easier because I could cook on my IH range top and even use the microwave as usual. But when it came time to wash the dishes, that too, took a lot more time than I was expecting. I was having a hard time remembering which buckets of water were for cooking and which were for washing. We were using water from different sources. The water from one neighbor’s well was not yet clear, but it wasn’t sandy. The water from another neighbor’s spring was a little cloudy, so we didn’t want to use that for cooking. Oh, and we also had river water in the buckets to use for flushing the toilet. It gave me some insight into those times and places where people (usually women) had to go to a community well to secure water for their family. We are so spoiled.

Back to fixing our A.M. meal (I call it that because we decided we would eat only twice a day until we are sure that we’ll be able to get around and go shopping). I was listening to our emergency radio, and all of a sudden there was a song. It was the fourth day since the earthquake happened, and the radio was always reporting on the earthquake and tsunami horrors. For the first time I cried. A song. I don’t even remember what song it was, but it touched that place in my heart that reminds you that there are depths where no one can go. No one, and sometimes even you yourself dare not go there for fear that what you see deep down there is too much for you to handle. They (who are they?) say that music soothes the soul. I suppose it does, but there are times when I’m listening to Tschaikowsky or Mozart when I have to stop everything I’m doing and just BE in that music. It pierces my heart and makes me yearn for whatever it is that is good to be true and to come now. That’s what happened when I heard that song. I cried and was glad, because it gave me, and not only me (I mused), but all the other listeners as well, hope. Hope that this would soon be over and we could resume our lives in spite of all the damage done.

Then, after finishing the morning dishes, and getting the laundry out to dry, as though I hadn’t even had that tearful moment, I was irked because it started to rain and to feel cold. The weather report said it would turn to snow and continue until the weekend. Oh, that’s just great!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Day Three

March 13, 2011 (Sunday)

Sunday morning arrived with a long list of things that need doing. And even though the list was long, most things would not get checked off. Usually I try to go to the 9:00 a.m. service at my church (and I rush back home to get lunch for my family), but this day I didn’t go. We did have our pancakes as we tend to do on Sundays. Some frozen blueberries were thawing out right there in the freezer drawer, so we plopped them five per pancake. They tasted really yummy. I think it was the ashes from our outdoor fire that added the right touch. We ate something else, too, but I can’t even remember now (I’m writing this 5 days later) what we had.

The bulk of the morning was spent getting water, and boiling it over and over and over again, so that we all could wash our bodies and shampoo our heads. Not knowing how long we’d have to live like campers, we tried to gather more wood, too. Dad and Ai went up the hill to a neighbor’s house to use their well, and when they came back, they brought Ayumi-chan. She was the cute little granddaughter in the family, and it was our first time to meet her. She told me that she and Ai had already become great friends. When I asked her how old she was, she told me she was six, and that she’d be starting first grade when the calendar turns to the 4 page (in other words, April).  After a while, she noticed I was different. She exclaimed, “Oh, an American mother!”  Yuko came into the room, and Ayumi announced that she and Ai were friends. Yuko pouted a little and asked if she could be friends, too. Ayumi cheerfully agreed. But then when we said there was one more kid in our family, a big boy, Ayumi quickly said, “Oh, I’m not good at [being friends with] boys!”  It was fun having her here. I love how kids are just plain real. They got out our Red Flyer wagon, played games in the yard, and could just have some fun for a few hours. It was like the good old days. ;-)

As it was sunny and clear, it was a good time to finally go upstairs and see what to do about the place. There are four rooms and a toilet closet. The toilet and the hallway were the only places where you could see the floor at all! None of the furniture had fallen over, but some in my room had moved away from the wall. The closet doors in all of the kids’ rooms had been thrown open, and the contents all jumbled and/or tossed into the rooms. The most I could accomplish was to clear a path in my own room so that I could get to the south window where I have a laundry pole set up to dry our laundry indoors when the weather is bad. Then I folded laundry, other clothes that were scattered all about, and untangled hangers. Then it was time for a coffee break!

After our break, I was sitting in the tatami room where we had all of our futon airing out and soaking in the sunshine. If it were a regular Sunday, I probably would have taken my ritual nap. Instead, I read for a while in my Treasury of Daily Prayer, and prayed that those that were worried about us would soon learn that we were fine. Then it was time to do some kitchen work and make sure we would have a decent supper. During that time, I was listening to our emergency radio. The reports were so awful, so much damage done, so many lives lost, so many needing to evacuate, so many, so many, too many! Then I tried to read the newspaper. Yes, the newspaper had been delivered. It was only a few pages, and all the news was about the Great Tohoku Kanto Earthquake. As I was taking in the enormity of this disaster, ---

Ai gasped, “The electricity is on!” She was looking at the air conditioner on the east wall of our living room, and we could see the little lights blinking and the vent flaps closing. Oh! We scrambled up, she to try to recharge her cell phone, I mean PHS, and I to turn on my lap top. We shouted out to everyone else. The lap top needs time to warm up, so during that time, I ran all over the house testing switches and feeling happy. Just the day before, my husband had gone out and bought these nice little flashlights that have a strap and clip (like a pen does) so we each could have our own, but now we would be able to save our flashlight power for another time! Turning on my lap top these days usually means my cyber life is beckoning me, so, of course, the first thing to check is whether or not I can get online. Success! THAT means the telephone lines work, and THAT means I can call Megumi! So, I did. And she cried joyful tears of relief. And the phone got passed around. And I was able to let others know via the internet* that we were alive!

*Kudos to Mr. Gore for inventing the Internet!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Day Two

March 12, 2011 (Saturday)

Hubby was up and ready to go sooner than usual. He still didn’t really know where to go, though. He went to the same spot where he had dropped Makoto off the previous morning, but there was nothing there. When he told me that, my mind started suspecting all kinds of foul possibilities. (But we won’t go there!)

He went (I think to one of our local evacuation spots) to see if he could get directions from someone in Atusya’s neighborhood. Somehow he found Atsuya’s house, and even though they were very worried about their grandfather who lives in a coastal area that was severely hit by the tsunami, his mother told him and his older brother to go with my husband and seek out the head office to see what information they could find about Makoto’s whereabouts. I think they were gone between four and five hours trying to maneuver in traffic that was hardly moving, people carefully creeping along and taking turns yielding to other drivers at intersections where none of the traffic lights were working. (Think back to last night! Driving in those conditions in the pitch blackness of a city full of lights throughout an ordinary night!)

I don’t remember what time Makoto got home, but someone from his workplace brought him home. He was fine. And I could breathe again. (I have to confess that I was a bit forlorn that he didn’t want to hug his mommy.) My boy was okay, and his first words were, “Where’s Dad?”  “He’s out looking for you.” “What for?”  ARGHHHH Can you tell he’s 17?  ;-)

The rest of the day was spent inspecting the house. Dad determined that the foundation was still safe, no gaps or cracks anywhere, no broken windows, and the roof seemed to be fine. The Chair of our neighborhood association was making his rounds, and he was glad to hear that our son was home. My main job was to prioritize perishable food and eat that before it would spoil. The kids gathered firewood. (We can do that since we live in a rural area.) We had to set up a bucket toilet system, and hubby went out to see if he could get any other supplies we might need. We had plenty of water which I had been saving up over the past few years for the BIG earthquake that everyone knew would be coming. And spring was in the air.

Day One (at My House) of The Great Tohoku Kanto Earthquake

March 11, 2011

We (my husband, 16-year-old Ai, and I) had just finished a late lunch. Ai was brushing her teeth and I was getting my things ready to take her (and me) to the dentist. And then the shaking began. It was 2:46 p.m. Japan Standard Time. It was the strongest and longest I had ever felt. Hubby stayed in the kitchen, holding our tall filing cabinet so that it would stay in the little storage area under the staircase. I shouted out for Ai to get to a safe place, and I scrambled under our living room table. Most earthquakes are a quick swaying or a shudder or a jump and might last up to 15 seconds or so (at least that is what the fireman explained at my last Fire Prevention Club ( 防火クラブ ) just the previous Sunday), but this one must have went on for a good three minutes. I wondered if it would never stop.

All over the house you could hear things falling, bouncing and breaking. Not all, but a good number of glasses and dishes fell out of the dish cupboard in the kitchen and crashed into smithereens. When it quieted down, I quickly wiped up some Worcester sauce that had spilled in the kitchen, but in the middle of that task I had to dive back under the table in the living room for repeated rumbles. The following hour was spent picking up the broken glass and cowering under the table. Ai had been hiding in the toilet room on the first floor, but then came and joined me under the living room table.

Around 3:40, we decided Ai and I should get in my car. It would be safer there since nothing could fall on us. So, Ai and I huddled in my car while the man of the house took his car to two different neighbors to check on the great-grandmothers who may have been all alone. (They both seemed to have already been fetched by other of their family members.) And there in the car, Ai and I watched the car TV. We saw the tsunami come into Sendai airport, and I immediately thought that Megumi would have to cancel her plans to fly into Sendai airport in another two weeks. Then we saw more horrors of tsunamis extending far beyond the scope of where we thought the earthquake was really taking place. And I began to be frightened about where Yuko and Makoto were.

By 6:00 p.m., Dad decided it was time to go looking for Makoto. We had no idea where he might be! Dad had dropped him off at a meeting place near Izumi-chuo station at just past 8:00 a.m. It was his first day of a part-time job as one of hands of a team of movers. After reporting to work, he would be told where the moving company would be using him that day. So, we truly had no idea where in town he could have been. I can’t even remember the time slots, but my husband went out three times – once alone, once with Ai, and once with Yuko. He and Yuko returned at 2:00 a.m.

Yuko had come home at 6:30 p.m. She brought home some bottled water, bread and batteries. And in the dark, we three gathered something to eat. I don’t even remember what now. We still had running water, but the electricity went off exactly when the earthquake began and we sat in the candle light at the kitchen table trying to put ourselves in Makoto’s place wondering what he’d do if he were in this place or that. And all we could come up with was that we had no idea how he might do anything at all! It was still possible to send text messages via cell phones, but our family uses PHS. (Oh, we are such a backwards, not-with-it family!) So, we texted Makoto every hour (or maybe it was more), and Yuko sent Megumi an email to let her know that 4 of us were fine. Oh, I felt just awful telling Megumi that we didn’t even know where Makoto was. They are so close, and with her on the other side of the world….. She was quite stressed out for a few days trying to get some news about our happenings.

to be continued...

My Family and I are All Right!

If you haven't heard by now, Japan had a 9.0 earthquake last week Friday. We live fairly close to the epicenter, but are more inland near the mountains in the northern part of Sendai. We've been able to stay in our own home, and our neighbors have offered to let us share their fresh springs and well water. I will try to post some of our experiences in the next few days, but in the meantime.....

Please consider helping by sending a donation to the site mentioned in this video. I work in Ishinomaki twice a week. One of my classes is at the Ishinomaki Red Cross Nursing School, and this video will give you a glimpse of some of the roads I travel when I go there.

Tonight my family was watching tv and in a scene of the tsunami washing away this part of Ishinomaki, there were two things that were left standing. There was a Statue of Liberty (I have no idea what that was about. It may have been a restaurant?). And the Russian Orthodox Church (which is not the building the Ishinomaki congregation uses anymore) which is of historical significance in this once booming port town in the northeastern part of Japan's main island.

Be not afraid. God will waste not one thing in spite of all that goes on around us.

Friday, February 25, 2011

My Mom and 4/5ths of Her Girls

My Mom celebrated her 76th birthday on 10-10-10, and here are two pictures of me, 3 of my 4 sisters, and my mom.

While we were arranging ourselves around mom and her chair, someone in the family looking on commented on how we looked just like "Little Women." Well, maybe...

Then some smart aleck relative (which could have been any of us, come to think of it) said he thought we looked more like the "Golden Girls!" And that got us going...

I think I laughed the hardest.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The 2010-2011 School Year is Over!

My grading is finished. Now I can put away my school books and papers for a few weeks, and get to some serious housework, quilting, blogging and planning the garden. Watch out clutter, here I come!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Coming Up for Air

Happy New Year!

It's been several months since I've posted anything at all.  After spending most of September in bouts of crying about not having been to go be with my dying mother since her battle with cancer began, we decided that it was time for me to go see her as soon as I could.  I was looking at my schedule to see how to juggle my classes to get there for Christmas, but my husband said Christmas might be too late.  So, I juggled my classes and squeezed in a ten-day visit in October.  Her cancer had entered her brain in the latter part of August, and she began living with my first younger sister's family.  Although she's not suffering any pain, her life is basically walking to and fro from her bed in the bedroom nearest the livingroom to her chair in the livingroom.  We celebrated her 76th birthday on 10-10-10, and I saw relatives that I had not seen since I've come to Japan.  (One of my aunts was shocked to see me drinking beer.  She still pictured me as an under-age teen, I guess!)

Mom is still about the same as she was when I saw her in October, so I guess I could have gone for Christmas, but...  Hindsight is 50/50 they say.  And they are right. 

After returning from seeing Mom, I never got around to blogging again because I had to catch up with my regular everyday vocations!  I'm still not caught up, but wanted to come up for air to let you know that I am still around and hope to be a better blogger in 2011.