Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What I've Done

What I've Done

Thought I'd post something a bit more light hearted, just because I can...the ones in bold are things I've done.
1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland (Disney World)
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo (Car & shower don't count, right? Oh, it means in front of other people, huh?!)
11. Bungee jumped (Will NEVER do this.)
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run (I suck at baseball.)
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language (I'm not fluent, but I know a FEW Japanese words)
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been a passenger on a motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Kissed a stranger at midnight on New Year’s Eve
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating (I didn't actually kill the deer, but I did help gut it and had to eat it- yuck)
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Got a tattoo
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Survived an earthquake, a hurricane, and a tornado (just not all at the same time, thank God)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

We are HERE!

After a very long (I think it was 36 hours total) trip home, Mallory, Maverick and I have made it safely to Texas. We are exhausted. I have no idea what time it is (here or in Japan, or in my own body) but we are glad to be home and know we will enjoy our time with friends, family and American food.
I have gotten emails from all the Japanese ladies I teach English to, and they are all so sweet and understanding and glad I took my little girl home for a bit. That makes it that much easier to know I made the right decision.
If you are in Texas, we'd love to see you! Email me and let's see if we can't get together sometime in the next few weeks. We will be mostly in the Houston area with my parents, but will visit Brett's family in Austin as well as friends in DFW.
Thank you for all your prayers and support during this difficult time. We miss Brett and Yokota like crazy already, and as soon as things are safe, we will return. (Well, Mallory and I will. I think Maverick will stay with my parents. It's stressful for a 9 year old dog to have to fly!) We love Japan and it's wonderful people. We miss it and are so blessed to call it home. It is a wonderful feeling to know that literally, we have friends all around this great big world.
Off to tackle this thing called jet lag and spend some time with friends and family (and who knows...maybe, just maybe, I'll get this blog caught up too!) Thanks again for all your thoughts and prayers. You never know how much they are needed until you go through something like this!

Friday, March 18, 2011

More News from the Home Front

In my last post I said I wasn't going to up and run unless I had to. I still don't feel like I'm "running" but we are leaving Japan tomorrow- Mallory and I anyway. After lots of (very sensationalized) news reports, all sorts of speculation, time with wives spreading a bit or truth and a bit of rumor, I finally lost my grip on it all on Thursday. I just had my own little version of a nuclear meltdown.
Brett had flown the night before and we'd had *yet another* quake that I felt (this was the 2nd one in 2 nights at about 10:30 and they are just so freaky to feel, esp when you don't know if it is gonna be another big one). It, combined with all the things I've heard about the nuclear plants, and learning that a few more friends had left town, I had a break down. When Brett got home, I cried to him and voiced my concerns over everything. I KNOW we are safe here right now, but the nuclear plants are still not under control, and things COULD get bad. I totally trust what our military is telling us, but the thing is, no one really knows what will happen. It's a fear of the unknown. So, with having the responsibility of being mommy to an 18 month old, we decided it was time for us to go home for a bit.
Sooo...Mallory and I are on a flight to the USA tomorrow. It will be a LOOOONG day of travel-I have to take a van to the airport with crazy traffic, wait in the crazy airport along with half the rest of the country, and fly a 13 hour flight to New York, have a 5 hour lay over and fly to DFW. Oh, and I get to do all that with a dog and a baby. Yay.
But, we will be safe and that is the most important thing. The hard part of all this- I have to leave my husband here. I know that it is his job to stay and help. It's what he WANTS to do. It's what they long to do as military personal (I don't mean he sits around wishing for natural disasters, but you know what I mean). He flies a cargo plane- they airlift supplies like water and food and blankets and rescue crews into ravaged places. He wants to do that with all his heart. I love him for that. But I hate to leave a place b/c there might be nuclear fallout, knowing my husband could be smack in the middle of it all. But I also know if and when it gets really bad (please pray it never does) they will get the military out before that.
Anyway, I just wanted to tell everyone our plans. Mal and I will hang out in Texas for a while until things cool down here (literally, we hope). Maverick is coming with us, and will be a Texas resident for a while (he'll just stay with my parents until we leave Japan in a year). Wish us well, pray for Japan. We love you all.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Earthquake- 4 days later

Not much new to report here really. Just wanted to update and tell everyone we are fine. Aftershocks are still occuring, but I haven't felt them lately. Either they are weak by the time they reach us, or I've grown used to the feeling. Either way is just freaky.Here's a map that shows a few things. I knowit is hard to see. But we are the first red rectangle on the left side, under the black box.
The tsunami damage is almost incomprehensible. The pictures are truly unbelievable, and it is hard to know that just about 200 miles from here, people are suffering from cold, lack of food/water/shelter, have lost everything they own, and quite possibly everyone they know as well. It is just beyond sad.
Brett was working nights since the quake hit to help in-process other rescue/aid workers from all over the world who are here to help, and set up various ways for the people stationed here to help as well. He was put on an air crew as of tonight and is hoping to fly relief missions starting tomorrow. I know that is what they all want to do- help where they can.
Here are a couple pics of the planes that had to land here the day the quake hit, and the passengers that spent the night in the community center on base.
Around here, it is life as normal, or maybe a new-normal. I took Mallory to school today, but it took me 15-20 minutes longer as one whole lane of the road to get there was a line of cars (seriously, at least a mile long) waiting for gas. When I finally got to the gas station, it looked like it was out of gas. On base, we seem to have a full supply so we don'thave to worry about that.
Grocery stores have been wiped clean. I haven't shopped much off base since all this happened, but have heard that they are literally empty. (These are the bread racks at Costco- normally FULL of loads and loads of bread and rolls). I have gone to our commissary here, and other than bread, toilet paper, and batteries, it seemed to be fairly well stocked (and they said they would restock those things soon).
We are experiencing rolling black outs to help with the power issue. With the plant up north going down and so many people have their power knocked out, they are issuing rolling black outs across Japan in about 3-4 hour increments to help "save". I feel like it is the LEAST I can do help!
The only other concern is the nuclear power plants and possible meltdowns. We have been told over and over that they are monitoring the air here at Yokota (they do all the time, just because of some of our less friendly neighbors) and haven't found anything at all to worry about. I know they have a plan to get us out if needed, but as of now, they say it is not an issue. I'll be honest, I can't say it doesn't worry me a bit, but I'm not going to up and run if there isn't a reason to. I want to show the wonderful people of Japan that we are here for them and are ready to do what we can to help. That being said, if there was to be a problem, there are plans in place to get myself, Mallory and Maverick out of here.
But overall we are fine, and have food, water, shelter and heat. That's more than so many have right now. For some reason, all the pictures and videos finally got to me today and I just started crying for all those who are in so much pain right now. I have really grown to love Japan and it just is so hard to see so many suffering. I wish I could do more to help.
Speaking of helping, I think the biggest thing you can do right now is PRAY FOR JAPAN. It seems so simple, but I know it is powerful. The Red Cross is also a very good organization to donate to, and monetary donations are the best way to help right now. I've got a tray of cookies for workers and some hand/feet warmers to bring up to the RC office tomorrow (it is really cold up north still and some of the aid workers are spending the night in a building w/ no heat). If you want you can go online and donate, or if you'd prefer to send me a check, I can bring it into the RC office on base.
I hope this finds everyone well back home. We love and miss you all so much, and are so thankful for your sweet words and prayers.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Earthquake Update- 24 Hours Later

A little over 24 hours ago, Japan, a land that has become near and dear to my heart, experienced a massive earthquake. It is the 5th largest ever recorded and the biggest Japan has ever felt. I told the story in an earlier post of how I experienced it, and am happy to say that no one I know, American or Japanese, experienced any injuries or damage. Things are sadly not that way up north.

We continue to have aftershocks. We've had over 130 since the big quake yesterday and we can feel some of them, some are strong enough to wake us up from sleep. It's a weird feeling, because they are just strong enough to make you dizzy for a second and second guess yourself. I'm very ready for that feeling to stop.

Yesterday 11 commercial planes had to land at Yokota, as the 2 main airports were closed. 1 of the airports reopened late last night, so 9 of them managed to be able to leave from here and continue on with their journey. 2 stranded commercial planes with a little over 500 people couldn't make it out last night and the passengers needed a place to stay, so we opened the community center/ballroom and they stated about 15 hours total before they could head back to a different but open airport to continue on their journey. I'm sure they are weary travelers, but thankful for a safe place to stay. I was unable to go volunteer at the center as I had Mallory with me, and Brett had been called in to work (he actually never left for the day). But our wonderful Yokota community sprung into action and they had to turn volunteers away as there were so many. That is heartwarming to hear. I also know that lots of help will be needed in various ways as relief efforts have just begun to get underway, and I will help in any way I can whenever I can. It's my duty as an Air Force wife, temporary Japanese citizen, and human.

This morning the news was regarding the damaged nuclear power plants. One did explode, but it was only the outer shell not the inner shell that houses the core. Some radiation escaped, but not a dangerous level that will effect us. The power plant is located up by the epicenter which is about 250 miles north and east of us. The prevailing winds are carrying most of the damage and radiation out to sea. We are really in no danger of the radiation, maybe an x-ray dose if that. This is what I have heard so far. I pray that they can contain the damage and not have a meltdown or any worse catastrophe, or that the winds don't shift into a southerly direction.

As for us, we are getting around fine, there hasn't been much if any damage in the area here so its a little bit business as usual. In fact, it is weird to watch the news and see horrific pictures of devastation only 200 miles away, but look out our window and see nothing here has changed. I'm thankful for that, belive me, but it is still an odd phenomenon. Our mail service is going to be a little rough until things get better. We may start experiencing blackouts because of the power plant accident, but we can handle that.

Tokyo in general is still in fairly bad shape. The airports are slowly coming back, the mass transit that was at a complete standstill yesterday is slowly coming back as well. They are inspecting all the rail lines by hand and walking all the miles of lines so that takes a massive amount of time.

So that is what is currently happening. The base is preparing for the US response by getting housing ready for those helping. Brett hasn't been called up for flying responsibilities. They will probably use him on the ground for plans and procedures. He is working all night tonight as I type this, and I am sure all of our military will be putting in many long hours here in the days and weeks to come.

All in all, we are completely blessed and God's protective hand is settling on our family in incredible ways. We are together, and we are safe. Mallory is, of course, clueless to any changes going on around us (although she did fall asleep in my arms as we were saying our prayers tonight- guess my list was a little longer than normal). Please continue to pray for the Japanese and the devastation currently. It is like nothing I've ever seen. It is heart breaking and overwhelming. Japan has been brought to it's knees, and the scenes of those hard hit areas bring tears to my eyes. But I know that "your knees are a great place to be when tears can't be held back." Also please pray for our military spouses, many of who have small children and are dealing with the stress of a natural disaster without their husbands home. As if the military community hasn't been an extended family, it is now even closer. Please pray for us that we can continue to have the strength to be the hands and feet for those around us, give aid to those who need it and help whenever possible. Pray for the wisdom of our leaders as they make decisions and for the men and women dealing with the nuclear reactors that they may stay out of harms way and have the knowledge and ability to contain and control that crisis.

I have to say it is humbling to see all the "we are thinking about you's/take care's/be safe's" on facebook, email and telephone. We feel very loved. Thank you for thinking of us. I will update more as things go on. For now, we love you and are so grateful for all your prayers and encouragement.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Our Family Trip to Nikko, Japan

Over Columbus Day weekend, we decided to take a family trip up to Nikko, Japan to see the waterfalls and famous temples there. It is about a 4 hour drive, so we loaded up the kid and the car and headed off. Mallory was thrilled, as you can tell-ha!
It rained pretty much the entire drive there, which had me worried for the weekend. All the activities there are outdoors, so it could put a damper on things. Mallory at road trip cheetos and didn't seem to mind :)
We checked into our hotel, which was right in the heart of the little town of Nikko, by the train station. We wandered around the town a bit in the rain (but as Japanese citizens we were prepared as you learn to pack umbrellas and rain coats when you go places around here), and then went to dinner at a ramen shop. Yummy!! Mallory got a kid's ramen meal, complete with a bowl of ramen, orange juice and a toy.
The adult ramen bowl- there was a LOT!
Daddy and Mally share a "Lady and the Tramp" moment :)
After ramen for dinner we headed back to the hotel and just hung out and chatted. The bonus to going out of town in Japan is that, even though there is a tv in your hotel room, there aren't any English channels, so you are pretty much forced to turn it off and chit chat with your family! Mally played with her "happy meal" toy from dinner and then we all settled in for a good nights sleep on the tiny, rock hard hotel bed, hoping for better weather in the morning. Luckily, we woke up the next day to bright and sunny skies! Yay!
The view of the train station "square" from our hotel room.
Tori gate into town

We set off to see the waterfalls and Lake Chuzenji. There are 3 main waterfalls along this drive up thru the mountains. M fell asleep as we reached the first, so we decided to drive to the top and work our way down instead of waking her up. We passed the lake as we drove along.

There is another, smaller lake at the top, so we got out and took some pictures. I'm no photographer, so my photos do not do justice to how beautiful it is in Nikko. We also went right as the leaves were beginning to change colors in the fall, so it was just gorgeous.

I love this pic of M and Dada walking along.
Out of the carseat and stretching her legs a bit.
Checking out the lake from the "good seat" way up high!

So beautiful and serene!

After a stroll by the lake, we went to see the first waterfall. It was amazing.

There were some shops set up by the parking area. Fish stick anyone? (I will never think this is an acceptable food- gross!)
Driving back down the mountain to waterfall #2.

Aren't the fall leaves gorgeous?
Walking to the second waterfall. I will never get over what the Japanese wear sometimes. Here we are, on a mountain that is totally surrounded by nature, and these girls choose these outfits to hike around in...check out the heels on the boots....seriously???

The second waterfall, Ryuzu Falls
Just gorgeous

After that, it was lunch time, so we stopped at a cute restaurant about 1/2 way down the mountain. It was very Japanese, but cute and we had some more noodle bowls and some curry for lunch (pretty much always a safe bet- at least you know the main ingredients). There was a porch outside, so Brett walked out there and took our picture.
Front of the restaurant
After that, we drove back down towards the bottom of the mountain to the last waterfall. We passed this building covered in red ivy that I thought was really pretty.
The last waterfall is called Kegon Falls. There was a line to get into the parking lot and we debated about even stopping (I mean, it's just another waterfall, right?) But I'm so glad we did. We had saved the best for last, without even knowing it!
It is simply breath taking, and amazing!
Family shot by the falls- clearly M had fallen asleep again.

The sides of the mountain by the waterfall were pretty incredible to look at.
The sign says that the amount of water falling on that day was 1 ton per second. Incredible! It is 97meters high, 7 meters wide, and 4.5 meteres deep at the basin. Wow~
The falls and lakes were beautiful and so worth the days drive. Very relaxing to spend the day with family seeing them all. On the way back to the hotel, we passed this bridge, which is famous and sacred in the town. I'll admit, I have no idea the story or history behind it really, but it is pretty. We didn't get out and walk on it as you have to pay, and we are cheap like that :)

We went back to the hotel after a full day and had dinner at a little cafe near the hotel. Apparently Nikko shuts down by about 7pm, and it was literally the only place we could find open. It was either that, or random snack food from the 7-11 up the street. The next morning we got up at ate breakfast at the hotel, in this little lobby area.
The front of our hotel (not a bad place, but it was no Ritz Carlton either).
The next day was Sunday, so we were going to see the famous temples in the area and then drive home. I'll admit that after living in Japan awhile, and not practicing the Shinto or Buddhist religions, after a while a temple is a temple is a temple. But these are famous and listed on the world heritage sites, so we figured we should go see them. So off we went.

The tori gate into the temple area.
Another set of Japanese ladies sporting some interesting "temple wear"
5 story pagoda- you can't go into these but they are always very pretty and Japanese looking to me
There was a horse outside one of the temples. For a few hundred yen you could buy some carrots and feed him, so we thought we would see if Mallory would get close this time. (She was petrified of the horses at Tama on July 4th). Daddy was close by, so she didn't seem to mind too much.
She did close her eyes when the horse started to munch on the carrot.
Dada can feed him and then she was ok.
This was about as close as she got and I think she was glad when we decided to move on to other parts of the temple.

The main reason these temples are famous is this right here: hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil. Pretty cool to see the original. Although I'll admit, I thought it was going to be much bigger. The monkeys were just carved onto the side of the wall, and weren't very large at all.

This horse was inside one of the temple buildings. You couldn't feed him. Actually, I didn't realize he was real, as he literally didn't move. Kind of a boring gig for this horse, if you ask me :)

The shrine with the monkeys carved into it. See, they aren't very big, are they?
A family tori gate picture (with about 20 of our closest Japanese friends :) - it was pretty busy at the temples that day.
Me outside one part of the temple. They are very ornate and amazing to look at.

This is a "fortune". Basically you pay 100 yen (about $1.20 these days) and pick a piece of paper. There is a Japanese character on it that tells you "how much luck" you have. We didn't pay to play, but I thought it was an interesting concept.

My husband, the Samurai Warrior- hahaha!
This huge circle wreath is also a good luck symbol for the people who practice Shinto (the religion is based a lot on luck and the earth and things like that). Basically, you had to walk thru it clock wise and then counter clock wise and then straight and then write a wish and hang it on the side.
We pretend to take this pic of the tori gate and me. Really, we wanted to get the back of that girls' shirt behind me. "There is, at a glance, dynamic yet delicate"....huh? I crack up here at shirts sometimes. They want to wear things with English on them, but I'm not quite sure who their translator is!!
One of the places of prayer at the temple. The 2 people facing the building put a coin into the box, clap and offer up prayers.
The "lightning bolts" are also a Shinto symbol.
Brett in front of the entrance to yet another part of the temple (these temples are huge and have lots of buildings).
I think Brett was trying to look like this guy. Kinda hard to do with a baby hanging off your chest :)

So ornate

After touring the temples completely (or as completely as these 2 Americans were going to do) we hopped in the car and headed back home. It was a wonderful family weekend filled with Japanese culture, food and language. We really enjoyed Nikko and I'm glad we took the time to go up there and see it. I'm really going to miss Japan when it is time for us to leave here.