Ganbaro Nippon.

1 05 2011

Maybe it surprises some of you that I haven’t written about the earthquake yet.  Others might just assume I’ve fallen back into my time lapse that can consume this blog.  The truth is I’ve thought everyday for the last 6 weeks about how to write this.  I open the site, I type a title and I just sit staring at the screen.  When I started this blog today, I deleted 8 drafts of previous attempts.  Please keep in mind this was my personal experience, and that I’m not speaking for anyone else…

Four days before the earthquake hit, I had been in mainland visiting some of my best friends.  I had gone to visit Brandon and Jewell Willett and meet their new addition, Ella.  I hadn’t seen the baby yet and it was time for a trip.  I planned it so it was in the middle of Jesse’s “army vacation” so that way there was no chance of me missing him if he came home early.  Well, well.  So much for planning.  He did in fact come home early and was only going to be home for 5 days before he left again.  That put him leaving on May 11th, flying through Tokyo.  I was at work and had no idea of what was going on in mainland.  A Japanese man, came running in the restaurant saying there had been a huge earthquake in mainland, please turn on the TV.  Sign 1 something was horribly wrong – he was panicked.  The Japanese do not panic.  We got the TV on a Japanese news channel and it was an ungodly sight.  It was like a horror movie had come to life.  My entire staff was standing around the TV so focused on what was going on, no one thought to turn on the big screen TV for the next 40 minutes.  There it was, ESPN playing in the background like nothing had happened.

Suddenly there was yelling on the TV and I was asking my staff what’s going on, what are they saying.  They just kept saying tsunami, they say a big tsunami is coming.  We were all standing there in shock.  We’ve had tsunami warnings a few times since I’ve lived here, and nothing has ever happened.  They are frequently issued as a safety precaution after a sizable earthquake.  No one knew if it was really going to happen or not.   Then came the wave.  Watching a natural disaster hit on live television is unreal.  The water was black and looked to be moving very slowly.  It’s hard to imagine how fast a tsunami really moves until you consider how high in the air a helicopter has to be to be getting the entire thing on film.

My immediate thought was thank god Jesse is off the ground.  Their connection had been due to leave before the earthquake hit.  I was thinking about his sister and her family who all live in Tokyo and of course Brando, Jewell, and the baby.  I tried calling Jesse a few times for reassurance that he was indeed in the air.  I was relieved for once when the phone went straight to voicemail.  I assumed the phone was off because he was in the air.  I was not even considering the possibility that the phone lines were jammed.  I ended up getting texts from him saying they had been taxiing out when the first earthquake hit and that they were getting lots of aftershocks.  They wouldn’t let them off the plane because Narita Airport was closed so there was no where for them to go.  No one on the plane knew the gravity of the situation.  Jesse made several comments about, “It’s just another shaker, ” or “Here we go again!  Hang on for a ride!” when the aftershocks started hitting.  They finally got off the ground 8 hours later and when they arrived in the States, they were greeted with the reality of what they had left behind.

And the aftershocks.  To date there have been 1117.  My question is when are they no longer aftershocks?  When are they their own earthquakes again?  I really hope that anyone reading this will go to this link.  The video is a map of all of the quakes they’ve had since March 11.  It’s truly a great visual of what’s going on in mainland Japan.  You see all of these little pings pop up of the earthquakes and you think, wow, those are really big!  Until of course you get to the big one.  The main earthquake ping literally takes up the whole screen and the amount of dots after that are unbelievable.

“Ganbaro Nippon” can roughly translate to do your best or try your hardest, Japan.  And my God do they ever.  There has been no looting, no rioting, no anything negative.  Turns out in Tokyo, people were so adamant about helping conserve the power, they were going to work early and leaving early so they wouldn’t have to use the lights so much in the evening times.  Things seemed to be as calm as they possibly could be.  With the exception of batteries and toilet paper, people were finding what they needed.

I don’t pretend to know what it was like to be there that day, or any of the subsequent days either.  This was simply my experience with the events on March 11.   In Okinawa, we literally felt nothing from the earthquake.  We’ve only had one earthquake since all of this began and I believe that most didn’t feel that one either.  My friends that I had been visiting in Yokosuka had been planning to visit Okinawa in the fall and decided to move up their little escape a few months to help put their family’s and friend’s minds at ease.  It was heartbreaking that while they were trying to take care of their family, they were getting backlash for leaving.  “Flyjins” I believe they are all being called, all of the foreigners that left.

It’s amazing how quickly people here stopped watching the news channels like CNN and MSNBC and turned instead to things like Twitter and Facebook.  We truly are the social media age.  It’s a little concerning to feel the need to call your parents and say, please, tell anyone that’s watching American news channels to please stop.  The sensationalizing and the fear based reporting was unreal.  Of course it was a dire situation, and frankly, I don’t think it’s getting enough coverage now.  I know there are disasters happening all over the world, but if it is possible to not, I don’t think that one can really replace another.  Whether 10 people or 20,000 people die in a disaster, it’s still a disaster.  They all need help, they all need to heal.  What kind of world do we live in if something is forgotten simply because something worse came along?

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An explanation.

9 02 2011

I almost deleted this blog about 15 minutes ago.  You’re probably thinking, ohhh great, here we go again.  Another reason why she never updates this thing.  I don’t blame you at all if that’s where your mind is at when reading this.  I mean let’s be real, I finally finished telling the SCUBA stories that happened TEN MONTHS AGO last week.  That’s ridiculous!  But friends and family, I offer you an explanation – yes, another one.  This is different than the others as this is the honest-to-god truth.

It’s gotten incredibly difficult for me to write and keep up with this blog the way I had originally intended.  From the beginning of this, I wanted it to be about the adventure of moving to a foreign country, the trials and triumphs of that process and the crazy things I got myself into once I was in Okinawa.  And I did that fairly well.  I blogged about my time in Houston during training, about the painstaking process of learning the military ways and the fun I was having in the meantime.  It’s easy to write from an adventure standpoint when everyday brings you something new.  Then of course I met TB, Jesse, and my life changed even further.  We’ve had lots of adventures together: ziplining, traveling to Kyoto and Hawaii, furniture stores (yes, it’s an adventure), roller slide parks, casing the beach for sea glass, and making our own version of the holidays.  But eventually those days slow down and real life sets in.

Don’t get me wrong, real life is great.  Real life is better than it’s ever been.  I’m so happy with Jesse and the life that we are building together.  But I didn’t want to write about it.  This life was private, it was ours and I held very closely to my heart.  Maybe too close.  I was afraid that writing something overly personal would mess something up with us, or somehow push us apart.  Like if I was putting everything out there on the internet, it would be for everyone else instead of for us.  I talked to him about it, finally, after it had been bothering me for several months.  He simply told me, Steph.  Don’t waste your talent as a writer.  Write what you need to write, what you want to write.  That’s what makes you you and I love you.  And I said, well yea, I want to write about my life, but you’re a huge part of my life.  What if I write about us?  How do you feel about that – if I’m writing about the great times but the maybe not so perfect times?  And god bless him, he said, So?  Just. Write it already.

So here I am at a crossroads, realizing the way I write this blog has to change.  It has too be more about my day to day life, our day to day life, rather than just when we do a BIG adventure day.  What the hell’s an adventure anyway?  Webster says: “an exciting or very unusual experience; a bold, usually risky undertaking; hazardous action of uncertain outcome.”  UUUUUHHH, what?  Hey Webster, I didn’t sign up for uncertain outcome.  And hazardous?  I got my fair share of hazardous with the SCUBA don’t you think?  No, my idea of adventure has always been a little less awesome (or a little less dramatic) than all of that.  I just want to have a good time.  I want to love life and live it to the absolute fullest.  I want to share it with someone I’m madly in love with and someone that can share in my happiness and sorrows and vice versa.  I want to do things that maybe other people wouldn’t dare try, and I want to write about all of it.

So there’s my long winded, roundabout explanation.  I haven’t been writing because I’ve been avoiding.  I wasn’t writing about what I really cared about these days, so I wasn’t writing at all.  Lame?  Maybe.  But now at least you have the information and you can decide what to do with it.  I’m going to write more personally, more from the heart.  I hope that you all still read and enjoy, but if you just can’t stand another mushy blog, I won’t take it personally.  Not to worry though, I’ll still write about the “cool” stuff, too.  Thanks for stickin’ with it….

 

In the meantime, here’s a few more pictures of my life these days.  We are truly so happy.

 

 

There's nothing to do but love these two.

Happy Thanksgiving, Pufkin.

 

Daddy teaching little lady pants about fish.

We love angry birds. She can beat levels…she's 2.

Korean BBQ. The owner's gave us a Christmas present. Must have been for most frequent guests.

Adorable child. Her future boyfriends are already in trouble with Daddy.

Merry Christmas! from our little family to yours...

xo

steph





SCUBA – part one.

9 11 2010

(don’t worry.  there’s only two parts.)

 

How did I never write about this?!  Want to talk about a mis-adventure?  Here you go friends….

 

I found out over a year ago that I would be moving to Okinawa, and one of the first things I did was start researching SCUBA diving.  Several websites as well as books include the waters off Okinawa in the top 5, if not the top 3, SCUBA locations in the world.  Sounds promising, right?  Everyone has seen the amazing underwater photographs of ridiculously marvelous creatures, coral, and other life forms that you can’t quite decide between they are breathing or if they are just a really big piece of kelp.  And here  I am, little Miss Adventure, ready to take it all on.  I love the ocean, I love to swim, I love being near any body of water on a hot day.  How much more perfect could this new hobby be for me?!

 

Fast forward about 6 months to February of 2010.  My boss and I had been talking about getting PADI certificated since we met.  It’s the thing you MUST complete before anyone will rent you any diving gear (or at least, they are supposed to check my fancy PADI ID before renting me gear.  To this day no one has ever asked for it).  Finally (praise her), Cynde just signed us up and informed me I would be going.  Two of our managers were leaving and while I was the technical replacement for one of them, we had no replacement  lined up for the other.  After they left we would be busy busy at work and who knows when that would calm down.  She decided for both of us that we would do this before they left.  Hey, sounds good to me.  Let’s do this!

 

And do it we did.  We took on the bookwork and daily quizzes with gusto.  We were going to rock this SCUBA diving like there was nothing else in our lives that mattered.  We had two full days of nothing but videos, quizzes, and tests.  None of this was excessively concerning until we got to the pool days.  All of a sudden, I couldn’t remember if I was supposed to attach the octopus (regulator) to the tank before or after I put my BCD (or was it BSD? BDC?) on the tank.  Do I carry the tank with the air spicket spouty thing away from me or facing me?   Does the zipper on this wetsuit go in the front or the back?  Dilemma after dilemma.  Thankfully we were only jumping into about 4 feet of water the first time we were breathing underwater.  We had already practiced the breathing with our regulators in our mouths outside of the pool, mostly to make sure that our regulators were working, so we had that going for us.  Our instructor told had told us several times already, “you will never forget the first time that you breathe underwater.”  And about that, boy, was she ever correct.

 

Breathing underwater the first time was TERRIFYING.  My first instinct was to shoot to the top of the pool, take off all of that equipment, leave it in the water, strip myself of the wetsuit and go to my car.  Actually, RUN to my car.  Instead I stayed underwater with my heart beating about 5 times the normal speed.  I really thought I was going to pass out.  Now, of course I got used to this sensation.  But you gotta realize, my whole life (and I’m sure yours too…) I’ve been told you can’t breathe underwater.  It was always a challenge to swim to the bottom of the pool, touch it, and get back to the top before you had to gasp for a fresh breath.  And now all of a sudden, after 25 years of knowing something is literally impossible, you’re telling me with this stupid thing in my mouth, I can do the impossible?  Yes.  And once I got my head wrapped around that, I was more or less okay….for a while.

 

The pool days were ok.  Kind of boring really.  You get out all of this equipment, put it together, take it apart, get a new tank, put it together, take it apart over and over and over.  You start to do things like take your mask off underwater and swim around – reminding yourself breathing through your nose would NOT be a pleasant experience.  You learn to put the mask back on and clear it of water.  You also learn to breathe off of someone else’s regulator in case yours malfunctions for whatever reason or you unexpectedly run out of air.  I was good with all of these things, and then I freaked out.

 

We were practicing running out of air which by nature is not enjoyable.  You are swimming around under 12 feet of water with your “buddy” and your instructor comes up and turns your air off to simulate running out of air.  Now, you know all of this is happening, so does your buddy, so it shouldn’t be a huge deal.  Well, well.  Turns out it scared my buddy more than it scared me.  All SCUBA regulators actually have two regulators so that if your buddy runs out of air, you have a back up to “share air” with them.  So in this case, I was to quickly signal I had no air, grab my buddy’s extra regulator, and then we would slowly make our ascent.  Well, I ran out of air as I was exhaling.  First not awesome thing – I now had no breath to do all of this signaling and grabbing with.  But that’s okay, I can hold my breath for a while.  So I signal, I grab for the regulator and as I’m about to put it in my mouth, my buddy smacks it out of my hand!  WHAT!?  So I am fumbling around, she’s realizing what she did, we’re both grabbing for the regulator and finally I just stop.  I just stare at our instructor like, now what lady?  And man, she was fast, praise her.  She grabbed her extra regulator and shoved it in my mouth before I ever knew what was happening.  I thought she had grabbed my buddy’s regulator it had happened so fast.  She held onto me as she turned my air back on and handed me my own equipment back to put in my mouth.  Now, I’ve just had to give up my own air supply to have another withheld from me to have another shoved in my face.  And you want me to go back to square one?  NO.  Absolutely not.  So we just swam around for a few minutes, me attached to her (and her air supply) like there was nothing else happening in the world.  I finally got back to my own air supply with no further ado.  Later, the instructor informed me she was shocked that I hadn’t shot straight to the top of the pool.  Honestly, the though never occurred to me.  I was supposed to be in the pool and underwater, that’s where I was to stay.  If only I followed directions so easily in the rest of my life…

I think one freak out is expected, you know?  But two?  Maybe it’s a sign…

 

We finally got to the ocean.  We were doing easy dives, nothing too big of a deal.  What sticks out in my mind during the whole thing was that I consciously knew I could shoot to the top without hurting myself in case there was any danger.  Anything above 60 feet and you’re alright.  No exploding ear drums, no getting the bends (yes, its a real thing), no popping blood vessels.  We were at 55 feet.  I suppose this is another point in this training that I really should have stopped and thought, I’m already figuring out how to bail out of this, should I really be here?  But there I was, pushing through my fear.  I’ll take yet another moment to recognize the fact that this was supposed to be FUN.  This was not fun.  I wanted this week to be over.  Get my certification and get the hell out of there.  Again, what was I thinking?!?!

I digress, let’s get on with the trial and tribulation, shall we?  We had to practice gaining buoyancy in the water.  We had to lay on the ocean floor and fill our BCD up with just enough air that when we breathed in, we rose just a little and when we breathed out we went back down just a little.  The goal was to be able to lay flat but never crash back to the bottom of the ocean floor or to float away far enough that your fins left the ground.  Quite an awkward experience if I do say so myself.

 

More awkward?  The sea snake that swam up to me in the middle of all of this.  There I am, bouncing around on the ocean floor more or less under control and then a sea snake swims right up behind me.  Now, we’re talking his body was paralleling my body.  So I didn’t know this was happening until IT WAS HAPPENING.  Did I tell you sea snakes are poisonous?  Well they are.  You have to provoke them first but I feel like laying about on the ocean floor maybe wasn’t my best bet.  I got out of there and FAST.  Strike two, SCUBA.  Strike.  Two.

 

I made it through the certification process(and through all of the underwater drama).  I received my very own ID card saying that I am responsible enough to take on SCUBA by myself. HAHAHA.  But alas, this post has gone on long enough.  Just to keep you interested though…you should know that I do NOT dive anymore.  Mostly by my own choice but also because of a promise I made to Jesse after he saw my face after the last time (literally, the LAST time) I dove.  I went diving three times and I hurt myself twice.  Check back tomorrow friends for that little gem of a tale….   🙂

 





Not to get all sad on you…

11 09 2010

but today is in fact 9/11 and TB has just mentioned that he has basically been at work for 9 straight years since that day. That’ll make a girl stop and think. Especially when the bags are being packed for yet another trip, not one week after returning from the last.

I’m not going to go on and on about 9/11, there are blogs for that and this is not it. But my thoughts about that day have changed drastically since living on this island. I talk about “my people.” We all have them, we all need them. They are the ones that you talk to when you are having a crappy day, the ones that make you smile when you thought it wasn’t possible, the ones who tell you it’s okay to cry or to suck it up when frankly, the crying just has to stop. They are family members, colleagues, and best friends.

Of course I still have “my people” Stateside. Mackenzie, Coppy Copp, English Jack, Gail, Stuie, Papa Long.  But now.  Now my people are military.  They are enlisted, they are officers, they are wives and team leaders.  My boyfriend, my best friend in Okinawa.  All of them related to the military in someway, and all of their lives forever changed on THAT day because they knew as soon as those towers fell, the ones they love would be leaving or that they would be doing the leaving.  And they were proud to do it.  They did it because it was their job or their calling (depending on who you talk to).  They love this country more fiercely than you can imagine.

9/11 was a tragedy unlike any this country had ever seen.  Attacking civilians, methodically and purposefully, who could do such an act?  While you remember those who lost their lives on that day, please also remember those who continue to risk their lives on a daily, month, yearly basis to keep us safe.  I never realized how much I truly took my safety and my freedom for granted until my life was flipped upside down by a member of the United States Army.  He will be embarrassed by this, I’m almost sure of it.  But it’s not just me that experiences these feelings of my world twirling around.  It’s everyone who has a loved one in the military or is in the military themselves.  They know THIS feeling, the one that you can only truly comprehend when suddenly your life is entwined with that of a service member.

Remember on this day those who lost their lives by acts of violence unforeseen and those who lost their lives trying to rescue the injured.  Remember those who have given their lives for this country because of that day 9 years ago, those who fight the daily battle for freedom and safety.

Phew.  I’m off the soapbox…..  love you all.  TB has (finally) given me the green light to use his real name on here after much prodding on my end.  Jesse, thanks for sharing your life with me, I love you.

xo

steph





My apologies.

30 07 2010

I would like to make an apology post.  I have slacked.  I have said over and over again I will post blogs on a regular basis so that the people in my life can know what’s going on with me.  I realize it is important to stay connected, but unfortunately, life has gotten in the way.  Which is sad and ridiculous but is so so SO true.  Somewhere between running a restaurant, finding TB, visits to mainland, and adventures on island, I have stopped writing.  So here is my grand apology to those of you who read this on a regular basis – I’m sorry.  Now, since I’m on the other side of the world, you have to forgive me.  I think that’s how this works.

I would like to offer an abbreviated list of things I have done in recent months (months, I haven’t written in months.  Sheesh).  Then, perhaps someday soon, I will expand on these stories.

1. Kyoto.  TB and I made a trip up to mainland to see something new and to get off this island for a few days.  Why did we need to leave tropical paradise you ask?  Well because.  I get antsy.  And I have found a guy that realizes when I get antsy, it’s serious.  So he took leave, I took vacation, and away we went.  Our timing was less than stellar as we arrived at the beginning of monsoon season in Kyoto and left Okinawa at the tailend of ours.  Humph.  Figures.

2. Adjusting to the military.  I’m not entirely sure that anyone will ever understand this that hasn’t dated someone or had family that was in the military.  I’m not usually one to say you wouldn’t understand, but having been on the non-military side of the coin, I’m saying it.  If you’ve been here, you get it.  Adjusting to this life takes a serious amount of work and dedication.  And I’m fine with that.  It’s the random trips to random unknown places for an undetermined amount of time that will get to you.  It’s the alarm going off at 5am everyday and the late nights and the uniforms and the lack of communication for “security”.  Well, let me back up.  The uniforms are hot – that’s the saving grace in all of this.  If it wasn’t for that uniform, see ya later solider.  (TB – I kid.  I also stick around for the sushi dates).

3. Monsoon.  Have you ever been through an actual monsoon?  It’s depressing as hell.  It rains more or less nonstop for about 25 days.  No kidding.  And you’re on a beautiful tropical island no less.  So it’s even more depressing because while you could be outside, doing all of these amazing things, instead it’s monsoon-ing.  UGH.

I’m going to stop with the list now.  Not because I’m out of things but mostly because I’ve had a glass of half Baileys, half Ameretto on the rocks and I’m getting tipsy.  I swear I will write soon.

Swear.

xo

steph





well, shoot.

15 04 2010

I’ve done it again.

I do all of these cool things and then fail to write about them in a timely manner.  But you know, I’ve been busy.  And trust me, I know I need to update.  This is now the 4th time I’ve started this blog because I wasn’t sure how to go about it.  Where to start, what to include, what to leave out.  But we’ll start with the important stuff and work from there shall we?

I swore to myself I would never talk about my love life on this blog, but alas, rules are made to be broken.  There’s a guy.  He’s great.  He’s smart and funny and sexy and pays attention when I talk.  Like, really pays attention. He knows my favorite color is orange, that I drink carmel macchiatos, and how important my family is to me because of the pictures he sees when he first walks into my house.   He organizes my shoes when he thinks I’m upset (or more accurately, KNOWS when I’m upset) and he holds my hand in public.  And he’s in the army.  Shocking I know.  To think I would end up meeting someone in the armed forces.  Don’t worry, I’m baffled, too (please note the sarcasm – do you know how many servicemembers there are on this island?!).  We met at the local watering hole, managed to talk – like really talk, for 3+ hours and just hang out.  It was nice.  Then lo and behold, we did it again!  AND I didn’t want to run in the other direction, make up a death in the family, or claim to have a boyfriend.  In fact, I did just the opposite.  I wanted to hang out, I wanted to go to dinner, and I wanted to meet for lunch.  So things are good on that front.  I had a moment when I really thought, What the hell am I doing?  Military?  Deployments?  Are you insane?  I told him I needed my space, he gave it to me, and an hour later I sent a text message that read, “I’m done with my space.  Can we go to dinner?”  So now we’re cute and obnoxiously happy.  I wish some of you were around to see this, make fun, whatever.  Really I just wish you could meet him. Perhaps someday.

I can hear my friends now.  Yea yea Stephanie, sheesh.  Enough with the mushy stuff, okay?  So, back to the adventuring.  I wandered off to a coffee farm a while back.  Of course it was one of those days when I thought, I’ll get up early, hit a beach on the drive up, hang out at the coffee place for a few hours while I read, and see a beautiful sunset on the way back down.  Instead I woke up at 11, screwed around until 2, and finally left the house.  Mind you, this coffee farm was not near – we’re talking a 2+ hour drive.  And did I mention it was in a jungle? When I say jungle, I kid you not.  It’s beautiful there, yet slightly terrifying driving there by myself.  I don’t tend to play the girl card, but this was definitely one of those moments when I wanted a guy around just in case I blew a tire, I found a snake in my car, or the engine exploded.  Because those are all likely things that would happen when I was alone with no cell phone service in the jungle.  But my god, the scenery.  Unbelievable.  Mountains and jungle and beach and beautiful ocean all around.  Which was great because this was not an easy place to find.  Take this turn and that one next to the green sign and drive for 4.7 km and take a hard right, another left in 9 km and then you’ll see the Hiro Coffee Farm sign.  Uh, yea.  Sure.  See ya later coffee farm.  Alas, I made it and it was well worth the trip (and the irrational fear). It’s a family owned shop, can’t remember quite how long they have been growing coffee beans, but they are the sweetest people.  You can tell that they truly care if you are taken care of, if you are enjoying their coffee.  Those kind of people.  They even brought out a blanket for me when I got cold, mega points for the Hiro family.  A few pictures from this adventure:

my corner

came with my own coffee pot and warmer. and a cookie!

Oh, and look at this little gem they gave me as a present:

My very own coffee bean plant!  It came with instructions that said, “you’ll be able to enjoy your very own coffee in 4-5 years!”  Uh, please.  It’s a miracle that plant’s still alive after 4 weeks.

Since my coffee adventure, I got SCUBA certified.  That’s right.  I’m officially allowed to breathe underwater and people trust that I will not make my brain or my lungs explode.  HAHAHAHA.   More on this in the next blog.  Let’s just say I almost quit not once, but twice in the 6 day course.

I also found “my” restaurant, Sushi Zen.  This is another one of those things that requires it’s own blog as the owner, Yuki-san, has taken on the role of my Japanese father.  His words, not mine.  He’s come under fire lately for the way he runs his business (to be explained in the next blog).  I think because I go there 3 times a week I took this as a personal attack, though I imagine Yuki-san doesn’t really care.  He is my Japanese pops, don’t mess with him, alright?

I think I’m going to call this good for now.  New blogs to come on SCUBA and Yuki-san by the end of the week…..eek.  Let’s be real, end of the month.  Love you guys, talk soon, yes?

xo

ps- if you ‘re reading this from Okinawa Hai, thanks dude!





so, earthquakes.

8 03 2010

So let’s have a chat about natural disasters, shall we?

(disclaimer: again, this is one of those I started a while back so just put yourself in a setting about 9 days ago please….)

In the past 72 hours we have had or been under the following:

  • 7.3 earthquake
  • 9 aftershocks which have all been between a 4.6 and 5.6
  • 2 tsunami warnings (one of which was major)
  • and something about a tropical cyclone (typhoon)

Now, let’s talk about what that really means.  If I can be frank (which we all know I’m going to do anyway), the 7.3 earthquake was a bitch.  It occurred at 5:31 AM which means that most people on this island were fast asleep in the middle of their REM cycles when they were so rudely awaken by mother nature.  The USGS website says that the shaking lasted for 14 seconds, which I assure you is incorrect.  The shaking started vertically, died off, and then got stronger again.  Only this time, my house was shaking horizontally.  Now, I haven’t ever been in a major earthquake period.  But I do know that if you can feel the earth shaking one way and then all of a sudden it’s shaking the other way, your bed is no long centered under your window, and one picture has removed itself from the wall, that’s not pretty picture.

I quickly discovered I’m terrible in a disaster.  I think I did everything that you are NOT supposed to do in an earthquake.  I ran downstairs, opened my front door, ran back upstairs and went out on my balcony.  Not once did it occur to me to stand in a doorway or to just stay still.   I do remember the entire thing fairly well, though.  I remember having the thoughts of alright, if the balcony falls off, no one will be hurt.  If this shaking from side to side doesn’t stop, the 10 floor apartment building next door will smush my house if it comes down.  What is that noise (it was the chains on my giant chair creaking)?  Who do I call if there’s a gas or water leak? What’s the emergency number in Japan?  To be fair, I didn’t know the answer to any of those questions.  Trust me, I do now.

Wait, what’s that?  We’re under a tsunami warning?  Neat!  You know what else is neat?  American news channels freaking everyone out.  The first tsunami warning was issued after our earthquake here in Japan.  It was cancelled before I ever even got to work an hour and a half later.  The second on the other hand, was for the entire Pacific rim from what I hear.  Turns out I REALLY need to get my TV hooked up or at least get a radio – I didn’t even know about the Chile earthquake until 1130 pm on Saturday.  The tsunami warning was cancelled everywhere except Japan and Russia mostly because we have had pretty bad tsunamis here before.  I think that they also wanted to use the technology that they paid so much for, just sayin’.  Anyway, part of the base closed down including 2 gates.  Anything under 30 feet above sea level was evacuated.  The best part?  I still had to go to work.  Upon arriving there, what do I see?  A group of about 100 Americans standing on top of the headquarters hill.  Staring at the wrong ocean.  So sad to say, I did NOT get a picture of this.

Clearly, we were fine.  The “tsunami” ended up being 20 cm high, or about 6 inches.  The earthquake broke 2 water lines and 2 people sustained minor injuries.  All in all, we were lucky.  Chile, not so much.  To be honest, I think that I went into a mild state of shock during all of this.  I was very aware of what was going on, but in a surreal kind of way.  A, this isn’t really happening kind of way.  More of a, I’m freaking out so I’m going to get ready for work as fast as possible and get out of the house, kind of way.  It’s hard to describe what it’s like to be sitting in bed watching a hanging lamp shaking back and forth.  Or what the sound of rice paper doors sliding along their rails is when your house starts shaking without any notice or warning.

I feel a little ridiculous saying this, but I have woken up every night since then thinking an earthquake is going on.  Last night I was so convinced, I got out of bed to check the USGS website (shows earthquakes across the world) and to see if my water was still running.  I’m sure this will weirdness will wear off eventually.  I’m hopeful anyway.  But damn, just when you think you are getting settled….BAM.  Natural disaster #383 hits the island.  See ya later normal sleep patterns.

Until something else nutso happens…..sayonara!