Apr 29, 2011

Monday, Monday...can't trust that day!

Monday morning started early.  Gray was restless and at some point during the night ended up in bed with me.  Which meant I was only half sleeping while getting kicked and worrying about him falling off the bed.  That's the only reason I was coherent and awake enough to feel the large aftershock around 4:30 a.m.  I lay there with the room swaying back and forth thinking "yep, I'm back in Japan!"

That morning we went down for our complimentary Western and Japanese style breakfast.  After all the delightful breakfasts I'd just eaten, I'm not gonna lie...it was a little depressing.  But, I consoled myself with the memory of yummy french toast.

Next stop, a bus to Haneda airport about an hour and a half away where we had something wonderful waiting for us:
My cousin WENDY!!!
Wendy and her husband are super famous traveling photographers (Blue Lily) who, with their two adorable kids, are currently trotting around the globe taking pictures of people.

And they came to Japan!!!
And they were GOING to come to Misawa.
Yes, I was THIS --> <--CLOSE to having MY FIRST and only visitor.

But alas.  The bullet train from Tokyo still isn't running all the way up here.  And every flight was completely sold out for weeks.  And driving would have taken extra, EXTRA long to get around the detours.

So we had to settle for an hour visit at the airport.  Which was awesome, but also sorta heartbreaking.


See, Wendy is not just any cousin.  When I moved from Salt Lake to Carlsbad when I was 16, I moved into Wendy's hood.  She is a year younger than me so we weren't in the same grade but she graciously welcomed me and shared all her awesome friends.  So I had an instant "in".  Wendy and I got to be great friends and we still are.  She is super funny, and silly, and genuine, and nice, and smart, and it turns out, now she's a great photographer.
(Kelly, your Christmas pictures taken by Wendy, get the most compliments.)

So I was really REALLY excited for Wendy to come so I could show her around up here, and make lots of yummy food for her, and stay up really late gossiping with her every night.  Me = :(

Let's take a walk down memory lane with the help of my totally awesome--decade-old--scrapbook pages, shall we?
We are soooo cute!
And so weird!
But mostly we're just awesome.
Sorry Rama*, I had to post all of these incriminating photos.  Even though there is now a n#de photo of us on the Internet.  Also, we had way too much time on our hands in High School.  Also, should I cut my hair real short and dye it red again?

Wish you were here!  Have fun back in the states!

*At some point during high school, I started calling her Wendy-Rama.  And then just Rama.  And I still think of her as Rama not Wendy.

Apr 28, 2011

I'm Itchy + Saturday in AU + Sunday in transit!

Itchy, itchy, itchy.  My skin is all sorts of itchy.  Unfortunately, I did NOT come home from my trip with a golden tan.  (as if!)  But I did get just enough sun that now, a few days post trip, I'm starting to itch.  And my back will surely peel.  (In fact, if (when) I ever get skin cancer, it will assuredly be on my shoulders where all the extremely large freckles are.  Sunburn lands there first.)

Yes, I know.  You're all crying me a river because I'm itchy after my trip to Australia.  Well, it's not MY fault you didn't get to go too!  In fact, I'm pretty sure it's your HUSBANDS fault!  So blame him for your pasty white skin and general malaise!  Not everyone can live up to Doug's standard of awesomeness!  (I also have an in-grown toe-nail if it makes you feel better.)

ANYHOO, to finish off my trip, I will quickly sum up Saturday and Sunday.
Saturday:  We stayed close to the hotel, went to the pool, and just took it easy--ending the night with dessert in the hotel lounge.  (How's that for record breaking succinct-ness!?!)

Sunday:  We went to the airport to fly home.  This is when we found out that our baggage weighed too much.  15 kilos too much.
Me:  "Oh, Doug...just pay the charge and lets get on with it."
Doug:  "It's $357."
Me:  "WHAT THE BLEEP?!?!?!!"

Doug tried to argue with the attendant at first claiming we weren't taking home any more than we brought.  (Besides a few didgeridoos, stuffed animals, boomerangs, bottles of Vegemite, bags of sand, and a tube-yes tube-of sweetened condensed milk.)

The lady wasn't budging.

So we took our bags and decided to see if we could lighten our load.  Turns out, 15 kilos translates into a lot of stuff!  A whole, large, duffel bag full of stuff in fact!  We were shedding everything we could possibly spare that might weigh anything substantial.  Shoes, clothes, and copious small half-used toiletries.

I kept my flat iron at the last minute but it was a close one.  Clothes with any physical defect--small stain, loose button--were sacrificed.  Doug actually got rid of the Gap shorts he's had since we were dating!  (Hallelujah) 
I hope the janitor who came to pick up our stuff enjoyed the wind-fall!  Those were my favorite slippers!

When we got on the flight home, we confirmed what we already suspected from the flight over:  Jet Star Airlines stinks!
Take THAT Jet Star!!!

Fortunately, by Sunday night, we were home in Japan.
Tucked into a Seventies-licious Tokyo hotel.
Ready to see (if only for an hour) some welcome relatives, and finally, our three older kids Monday afternoon!

To be continued...

Apr 27, 2011

Friday in Australia - or - "Getcha swimmies own!"

Yes, we're back in Japan.  And I have a lot of catching up to do.  But first, I'd like to address a startling accusation.  My friend Lyana said "It sounds like all you did was eat pancakes."  Patently untrue.  I also ate French Toast three times.  And Belgian waffles once.  And lots of desserts.  And the occasional sandwich or dinner item.  Yes, I may be focusing a lot on food in these posts.  But you have to understand I've spent the last 2 years, 8 months in Japan and good fish-free breakfast is hard to come by!  So YES, I've been reveling in all of my yummy breakfast options.  It's my favorite meal! (One day I ordered breakfast twice.  And I don't even regret it.)
;)  Now back to the re-cap:

After my day of rest and Doug's day of SCUBA, we were ready for another adventure.  This time, we headed for the Cairns Zoo to have "Brecky with a Koala".  (This is where I got the Belgian waffle.  Doug got eggs and toast or something similarly boring.)
It's so FLUFFY!!

I almost tripped over this guy.

The zoo had lots of super cool animals.  For example, the Red Panda.  Also known as the "Fire Fox".  This was the first "panda" discovered but it's fame has been overshadowed by the discovery of the "Great Panda".
Even though I think it's cuter.
We also got to have our pictures taken holding a koala!
Anyway, I was a tiny bit nervous.  When I was little, I was very allergic to animal dander.  Which meant I wasn't supposed to touch anything furry, and if I did, I had to immediately wash my hands.  So I'm not much of an animal person.  I don't generally touch things with fur if I don't have too.
But I was brave and posed for the photo-op.  And when the koala lady took Buster back, my hand was covered in koala poo.  Squished right in there.  I looked at my hand, looked at Koala Lady, looked at my hand...she said "Oh, just shake it off."  and "Ah, it's good luck!"  And then I wanted to cry, boil my hand, and cry some more.  But I was brave and survived one more photo before running to the sink.
Donating money to wildlife preservation
Madagascar Ring-Tailed Lemur
Yay!  I'm eating a STICK!
Kangaroos are kinda gross.
Because we could!
Sweet little sleeping baby koala
Even sweeter little sleeping baby koala
After the zoo, we went to the beach.  Interesting fact:  Cairns proper doesn't have a beach.  Just mud flats!

If you want to go to the beach, you have to go up north a bit.  So we went while we were in the neighborhood.  The beaches were BEAUTIFUL.  BUT--it's still "stinger" season so the only place you can swim is where they've sectioned off an area in the water and surrounded it with nets to keep the jelly fish out.  So that's where we swam.  With every other person in town.  But the water was warm (hopefully not from all the kids nearby) and beautiful and the sand was pretty and we had a great afternoon playing in the water with Gray-Gray.  (And speaking of sand, we got some more to add to our collection.)
That evening we ate at a yummy sea food place.  I asked what the "catch of the day" was.  The waiter said (and I quote)  "Salmon!  Actually, it's white fish caught locally, but we call it Salmon!"  That's what I ordered, and it was the best white fish salmon I've ever had!

--The End--

Did you know...?
They use dollars instead of pounds here?  But all of their coins have Queen Elizabeth on them.

In Japan, people say "hi" a lot to respond to anything you may say.  Here they say "no wahrees!"  (no worries.)

Like Japan, the national policy is to NOT TIP!  Doug luuuuuuuuuuvs this.  He HATES tipping!  (I was a waitress once.  Only for a month, but I still leave big tips.)

Diapers = nappies
Stroller = pram
Pacifier = dummy
Lolly = candy?  I have no idea what kind, but I don't think it means sucker.
French fries = chips
Chips = chippies
Ketchup = tomato sauce
Wood = timber (timbah)
Swimsuit = swimmies

Apr 25, 2011

Misawa Monday Preparedness Perspective

Meet Bridget.  Bridget is a good friend despite the fact that she lives allllll the way up on "North Base".  Bridget has four cute little kids, the youngest just a baby.  Her husband is a dentist here on base so we know them through church and work.   Before she was married, Bridget served an L.D.S. mission to Hokkaido Japan, so she has the added bonus of speaking Japanese while living here!  :)

My friend Jeana was in NYC during 9/11, was evacuated from Louisiana during Hurricane Katrina and now has experienced the biggest earthquake to ever hit Japan.  I don’t think I’ll follow her to her next duty station. :)

In Oklahoma, Thomas and I made a huge effort to be prepared for emergencies.  We had a one year food supply, 72 hour kits packed in hiking backpacks, and a huge supply of stored water (including a water drum).  Luckily, we never had to use it.  When we moved to Japan, we weren’t sure what we’d find, so we sold our food storage for 50% (I’m kicking myself so hard now.  You can’t find wheat for anything here), drained our water barrel and sold our propane tank among other things.

In the year and a half that we’ve been in Japan, we’ve been nudged here and there to take care of our emergency preparedness.  I might say to Tom, “We really need to fill our empty water drum” or “we should stock our pantry with food instead of buying just what we need for the week”.  We should....we should...we should became...If only...if only...if only....

Now, after having experienced “safe” emergency conditions yet watching the unfortunate situation of our Japanese friends who have gone through an earthquake, tsunami and nuclear reactor disaster all at the same time, I’ve learned a few things I’d like to share.

#1-This is obvious but...Don’t Wait!  It is hard to take time to prepare for emergencies on a sunny day, but it’s impossible to do it in the middle of a storm.

#2-Tom says “Unexpected things will/can happen, but we will be okay.”  We can make it through hard times with some positivity and being prepared helps us to be calm and our children to be calm.

#3-Being prepared allows us to serve others.  (We found ourselves with very little light and our friends brought us over two flashlights.  I asked if they needed it.  They said they had “enough.”  Meaning they could have used the lights, but were willing and able to share with us.  How humbling to be on the receiving end.  How wonderful if we could have been on the sharing end.  Within two days of the quakes, Misawa branch members scoured our cupboards for food to donate to the Japanese.  Luckily, I had stocked our pantry a little fuller than usual and was able to contribute.

#4-Don’t get too attached to “stuff.”  It can all be gone in a moment.  My friend had been watching about 20 items on e-Bay prior to the quake.  When the power came back on and she saw a bunch of e-Bay emails, she deleted them with disgust.  She didn’t need all that “stuff.” 

#5-Conservation is easier than you think and can save you lots of money.  During the last week and a half, Thomas has carpooled to work with four other people, I’ve driven almost no where, we’ve bought nothing online, purchased no gas and bought only what was necessary for food.  When the power came back on and we looked at our bank account, we were amazed at how “rich” we were.  What we sometimes label as "necessities" really aren’t. 

#6- Have a plan.  Go through the likely unexpected events that could happen where you live and make a plan of where you will meet and what you will do.  It makes Lizzie nervous to talk about these things, but I think in the end should make us all feel better.

#7-You can’t be over-prepared.  There are some things that are "gotta haves" in an emergency and other things are just nice.  However, I don’t think we’ll ever regret the “just nice”s that we have in our emergency preparedness. There is no such thing as being too prepared.

#8- If you do end up in an emergency situation, rumors will fly and the news media isn't always your best source of information. I think they created a lot of panic for people back in the states in the Japan situation. Know who you can trust, go there for information, avoid rumors and remain calm.

The “Argh-How could we not have this?” Gotta Have List
(we were saying “argh” a lot the last few weeks:))

1.  Flashlights, especially head lamps
     -In almost ANY emergency, it is likely that the power will      go down.  You need to be able to see.    
     -Thomas and I have a really powerful flashlight that has to      be charged.  There was almost no charge in it when the      earthquake hit. Argh! Charge your lights.  We also had      another smaller AA battery flashlight I had bought a few      months before, but we only had like two batteries for it.       Argh!  Don’t think you buy batteries when you need them      because there will be a run on them at the store.  (Trust      us).  Our friends brought over their head lamp.  We decided      this was a MUST.  We could actually do things with both of      our hands and see at the same time.  We are going to buy two      of them.

2.   Candles are nice to have too.  We ended up having to use them a little because of our flashlight situation.  BUT...we had continual aftershocks during the two and a half days we were without power.  It is a little scary to have candles around when your house is shaking.  (Lizzie freaked out every time I lit a candle.  She was sure I was going to burn the house down).  Even so, I realized that I only had one lighter in the house and wasn’t sure how much fuel was in it.  Argh!!!!  Have matches or extra lighters on hand.  (I now have a pack of lighters).

3.   Water.  Immediately after the earthquake, the water off and on base was tested.  Wonderfully, the water on base was okay, but the water off base was contaminated.  All Americans off base had to boil their water for 10 minutes before use.  They could do this because they had gas stoves.  All water was cleared off the store shelves.  Our 30 gallon water drum sat empty.  Argh!  We did have a case of water bottles on hand.

4.   Emergency kit in car.  When the earthquake hit, we ran outside immediately.  We ended up in our car where it was warmer.   I had to run back into our house several times for food, water and blankets.  We should have had some of those things in our car just in case we couldn’t go back in our house.

5.   Extra food.  We weren’t sooo bad in this department because as I mentioned before, I had stocked up a bit.  When the power went out, we tried to keep our food cold by burying it in the snow outside.  All of the non-perishable food at the store cleared out quickly.  Tom waited in a two hour line at the grocery store the next day.  I know the Japanese people have been very worried about their food supply.  We are planning on having a 3 month supply of food here in Japan from now on.  You want to be able to help others too.  Don’t forget your can opener!  Paper products on hand is important too.  Especially if you can’t use a dishwasher or hot water.

6.   Medicine.  Rebekah got the flu during the “Crazy Week.”  We were very low on tylenol and we couldn’t have bought it off base.  (Can’t read the kanji on the boxes).  We often run out of tylenol here.  We should have stocked up.

7.   Radio, battery powered.  My Mom and dad bought us a weather radio for Christmas a few years ago.  It might have been put in our permanent storage in the states because we couldn’t find it.  I don’t know if it would have worked here, but we were so frustrated we didn’t have a radio.  We live in the north area of the base, far away from main operations and we lost phone communication for several days.  We of course had no computer or television so the only way to know what was going on was through the radio broadcasts.  Thomas had to go sit in the car in order to get important info. Argh!

8.   Gas.  Thomas feels really strongly about this.  He never wants to let our gas tank get below half-empty again.  Luckily, he had just filled up our van before the quake, but his car was almost on empty.  The gas pumps didn’t work anymore when the power went down and now because of the national situation, gas is scarce.  We can only fill up when our tank is 1/4 full and then we can only get 10 gallons at a time.  This is still happening a week and a half out.  When the pumps did come back up, people waited in line for 4 hours to get gas.  Have a full gas can on hand and keep your car filled up.

9.   Lots of blankets.  This is something that everyone has at least some of.  You really can’t have too many of these though.  (Especially if you have bed-wetting kids).  We needed these to keep us warm at night and was one of the biggest things being requested for donations in Japan.

10.   Cash.  Some of the credit card machines didn’t work on base when the power was out.  They were offering a hot meal at a dining facility on base, but for cash only.  (They were offering to let you eat now, pay later).  Still, we were glad that we had plenty of cash on hand.  We were thinking that we should probably have more yen on hand though.

11.   72 hour kits.  You never know what kind of disaster you are going to be faced with or whether or not you will have time to grab these.  In the case of a tsunami or radiation evacuation like Japan, there would have been time to grab this stuff and it would all have come in handy.  (Think about daily needs for three days, i.e. toilet paper, toothbrush, sunscreen etc.)  Our stuff was three years out-dated.  I don’t think our kids could have fit into the clothes we had packed. Argh!

12.   NEO Preparation- Non-combatant Evacuation Operation-
     This is a military thing, but the principle can be applied to anyone.  In the case of a mandatory evacuation of dependants, the military has NEO folders for each family.  This folder has lots of important information to help you get out of the country quickly and must be taken with you.  This needs to be in order.  I didn’t even know what this was. Argh!  Along with this, your other important documents need to be organized and accessible.  We feel like a fire-proof locked box is a good thing to have.  Along with this, we don’t have an official will yet.  Argh!!!  Taking care of it as soon as possible.

Thanks Bridget!!!

Apr 23, 2011

Thursday in Australia - or - "si-za's, pay-pah, roke"

Thursday was going to be "the" big water day for us.  Buuut...
I sent Doug to Scuba Dive on his own.
After looking at about 20 different packages and possibilities, it was clear that I could go with Doug, snorkel in between his dives, watch Bubby, and have fun.
But, it would have been super busy.  And tiring.  And probably not extremely baby friendly.
And the dives wouldn't have been as great for Sugar Lips.
And I like to snorkel, but I'd already gone when we went to Green Island.

SO, I convinced Doug that I would be absolutely fabulously fine staying "home", sleeping in, and going for a leisurely breakfast.  And that's what Gray and I did.  While Doug fulfilled his life long dream to scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef, Gray and I went back to Perrotta's and this time I got the Ricotta pancakes.

We walked slowly and deliberately through some souvenir shops checking out every single item, (not Doug's fave thing to do...) and then walked down to the free City "Pool".

This set-up is really neat.  Right by the water, in the middle of the town "Esplanade", they've built this open air, salt water "pool".  More like a giant fountain or water feature that the public is encouraged to play in.

It's got a (very) shallow end and gets to about 5 feet at its deepest.  (If our metric conversion is correct.)  It has a sandy little "beach" on one side, shady areas, and a bench all the way around.  Baby Gray loved it.

Once he got used to it.

We had a nice relaxing day together while Doug was out swimming it up.

That night when Doug was back, we went to the very yummy "Raw Prawn" for dinner, and finished the evening by watching two episodes of "Survivor".

Two thumbs up!

Favorite parts of the day:  
*Chatting up the nice Australian lady next to us at the Raw Prawn.  She said she'd lived in Texas for awhile and it was great to hear our accents again!

*At the water park, two little girls were sitting next to me playing "siza's, paypah, roke".  (Rock, paper, scissors)  Loved listening to them.  They were adorable.

*While Gray took his afternoon nap, I watched the Australian version of HGTV.  Undercover Boss made me cry.  There was a commercial for  Relocation: Phil (Feel) Down (Den) Under (Unduh) and I really wanted to see it!  Actually, I wanted to watch ALL the shows they advertised!

Apr 22, 2011

Wednesday in Australia - or - Whe's the Dummy?

Sorry to make you all insanely jealous, but I'm not gonna lie...yesterday was pretty stinkin' amazing. (And by yesterday, I mean Wednesday since I didn't publish this last night when I started it.)

Really Kim*, how could I leave him home??

The day started off early when we took a shuttle to the train station.  We took the Kuranda Scenic Railway from Cairns**, through a RAIN FOREST, to Kuranda.

This fulfilled a dream I didn't even know I had:  Riding in an authentic old-timey wooden train car.

For a kid weened on Agatha Christie novels, it was like I had been transported back in time and was living an English murder mystery.  By the time we got to Kuranda, I was looking for Miss Marple, ready to opportunistically bump someone off, and craving afternoon tea.  (Peppermint herbal, that is...)

The scenery wasn't too shabby either!

We had a little time to kill in the mountain top village of Kuranda so we spent it eating!

Seriously.  Best EVER!
Hands down the best pancakes I've ever eaten.  The hot chocolate was yummy too, but it's more like warm milk with a tiny bit of chocolate.  I lean more towards the melted chocolate with a tiny bit of milk side of things.
After a little window shopping and a stop at the "Chemist" for a "dummy" (pacifier), we headed for our next activity:

A gondola ride over the real-life, no-kidding rain forest.  At this point I left Agatha Christie's England and jumped into "Survivor: Australia".


But WAIT, there's MORE!  Call now and get...
our last destination of the day!

Hartley's Crocodile Adventure!!!

(Isn't it amazing the fun that can be had when your normally tight-wadish husband is willing to book actual tours because he didn't have to buy plane tickets???)

This is where we came far too close to some large hungry crocodiles,

got to pet a koala,

and where Gray pinched the nose and pulled the tail of a good-natured Wallaby.
I was missing my big boys all day.  They would have LOOOOVED everything we did!  We've decided to start saving so we can bring them and all come back in a few years.  Or decades.

We got back to the hotel in time to find some yummy dinner then went to bed early.

Definitely a day for the record books!

P.S.  We met a nice family on the train ride.  East Indians, from Florida, living in Hong Kong.
Also, our tour bus driver was hilarious and we spent a lot of time chatting him up and learning all sorts of interesting stuff about the area.

P.P.S.  Most commonly asked question:  "Whe you from?" followed by "Weh you affected by the uhthquake?"

P.P.P.S.  At least half of the stores, shops, and restaurants I've walked in/past have had a jar or bottle out for Japan Relief.  Very cool!!!

*KB:  I couldn't bare to leave him home.  He's only 12 months and still nursing.  18 months, sure...but this was too long a trip to leave him.  Couldn't do it.  Although we could have done a zip line over the rain forest if we'd left him home....

**I've now heard it pronounced by locals as "Kens", "Cans", and "Canes" but never "Cairns".

Apr 20, 2011

Misawa Monday(ish) Preparedness Perspective

Pretend I published this two days ago, okay?  Give me a break...I'm on vacation.

I'd like to introduce you to Sis. Shelle N.  Shelle is our branch Relief Society President.  And let me tell you, she's had her work cut out for her these past few weeks!  Shelle's kids are all grown and out of the house and her husband is just finishing up his Navy career and preparing to retire.  I work with Sis. N. in the R.S. Presidency and I can personally attest that she is 1) Amazing 2) Hilarious and 3) A spit-fire!  Here's her response to my request for "perspective"!

Well what I wish I'd had was my radio.  I couldn't find it anywhere, so I ordered a solar powered, with car charger and battery back up, radio, light and has a cell phone charger with it.  We had a campstove, w/butane bottles, so we were good as well.  I did however go and get a small bucket with a handle to use for washing hair and body like the Japanese (100 yen store), but I needed a couple more lighters due to candles and the stove being in two different places, (again 100 yen store).  But I also got matches (store them in a bottle or vacuum seal them so they stay good and dry).  

I have also been thinking about "dry" shampoo, but most of them come in aerosol bottles, so I looked and you can make your own, but something so you don't have to use water and then you could wash your hair once a week.  I think that must be what the women years ago did, or else they just looked ugh!!   Oh yeah, I did improvise and used the car heater as a blow dryer and my hair looked half way decent!  :)  

I did have eternal flashlights (you shake back and forth), so no batteries needed, and they have ones that you can wind up as well.  I would get each one of my kids one if they were still at home. 

Because we had water the whole time, we were in much better shape than we would have been without it.  I did get some small plastic bags in case we had to make our own latrine.  I had several candles, they were in jars so they were a little safer to use than just candles alone.  I think I would make sure that I had some of the votives and then a couple of holders that are heavy duty because they are going to be burning a while at night or else a few candles in jars (these will burn many hours)

Obviously, we were still in our houses too, and this might be the biggest type of emergency that we all face, no electricity but still able to live in our house, so there are many things that you have available that you wouldn't have if you had to leave your house.  Lightweight foods, granola bars, ramen, maybe a package of the individual drink packets (this might feel like a treat after a few days), crackers/peanut butter/cheese packets.  Something to relieve stress a game or cards or chocolate!  

I was grateful for warm blankets, and my bed!  I was grateful that I had recently done laundry as well, but if the power outage had continued, it could have been interesting.  I do have a small clothes hanger that I would have used. 

Okay that is all my brain is able to process right now. 

Thanks Shelle!  You rock!

Apr 19, 2011

G'day from Australia!

Traveling always has it's ups and downs.  This trip is no exception.  Mind you, I'm not complaining.  Not a bit.  We're having a great time.  But the facts must be recorded!

Up:  Free trip to Cairns, Australia.  Free plane tickets, bus tickets, and accommodations!   (Thank you SO MUCH for coming to Misawa, Survivors!!!)

Down:  Left my prescription medications at home.  Dang.
Down:  Red eye out of Tokyo was less than restful for Doug and Gray.
Up:  Empty flight meant I got to spread out and sleep!  (Sorry Doug and Gray.)
Down:  Flight regulations that require waking sleeping babies every time the plane hits turbulence!

Up:  Arrived in time for breakfast and ate a FABULOUS meal at "Perrotta's at the Gallery".
Me:  French Toast with caramelized pear, King Country Vanilla Yoghurt and raspberry syrup.  Yep.  It was divine.  (Doug had a yummy fritatta with mushrooms.)

Up:  Beautiful hotel!

Up:  Doug took me right to Target (a few blocks into town) as requested.
Down:  It's super expensive here--even at Target.  Plus, it's the wrong season.  I was looking for a few casual t-shirts to wear while here.  They have out the long sleeve flannel shirts for fall!  D'oh!  (Always good to be back at Target regardless, though...)

Down:  Had to visit the Cairns 24-hour Clinic.
Up:  Got my prescription.
Up:  Got to explore the Cairns ghetto and meet a sampling of the indigent population!  (Now really...how many tourists can say that?!?)
Down:  Out a cool $110.
Up:  Made me that much more grateful for health insurance and free prescriptions back home in Misawa!!

Up:  It's warm and humid and warm and warm and delightfully warm!!!  I'm soaking in as much vitamin D as possible!
Down:  It's still a bit rainy--got rained on all day today on Green Island.  (It was still beautiful and fun.  Just wet.)

Up:  Gray is so so so so cute and adorable.
Down:  Gray is one.  Not good at walking, swimming, napping on-the-go, or communicating.  Makes traveling with him a little tricky.  But he's still been remarkably cute and happy despite the crazy shift in his routine.

Up:  Cute new travel shoes!
Down:  Million new travel blisters!
Up:  38 band-aids later, NO PAIN (practically).

Up:  I love love love the different accents and dialects and colloquialisms and idioms!!!   It's so fun to listen to people talking here!  Doesn't even matter what they're talking about, it just SOUNDS awesome!

Up:  Little kids (and some adults) keep calling Gray "Bubby".  It's adorable!   i.e.:  "Hey Mahm...It's eh Bubby!" and "Hey lil Bubby, wahs yo neame?!"

Down:  My Australian accent.  I keep trying to perfect it, but it comes out a cross between Swedish and East-Indian.

Up:  We're in a tropical paradise surrounded by beautiful blue/green water.
Down:  We're on an island surrounded by bad-evil-killer-death water.  The first thing we did was discuss our plan of action should we hear a tsunami warning.  (Okay, so maybe it was more me demanding to know which direction I should run if sirens started going off...)

Down:  We miss the big boys lots and wish they were here with us!  :(  (Gabe is currently crying himself to sleep in an attempt to guilt me into coming home immediately.  After our Skype conversation tonight, I'd get on a plane right now if I could...)

Up:  We're having a fabulous time!  No down-side to that!!!

Apr 15, 2011

3/11/11 - Earthquake Journal

Five days ago, Monday, we had the one-month "anniversary" of the quake.  The base had a one-minute long "Moment of Silence" at 2:46 p.m.   Since then the base has started playing the Japanese and American National Anthems again at 1630 as usual.   I haven't looked to see if the flags are still at half-mast.

Thursday marked our 1,000 aftershock since 3/11.  (Or "pre-shock" before the next big quake according to some.)   In an e-mail this morning, I read that they've lifted the "voluntary departure" and they're going to start arranging for people to come home.  And life goes on.  This morning I read a copy of Doug's "earthquake journal".  It reminded me that I never finished or published mine.  It's a little long, but I wanted it recorded.

Here it is:

Friday:  Quake hit at 2:46.  It was even bigger than the one two days previous.  I was already upstairs so I immediately grabbed Gray out of his crib.  Gabe, downstairs, was scared and started crying and looking for me.  We met on the stairs and stayed huddled in the stairwell.   Probably not the best idea, but I figured if the ceiling started coming down, we'd just run right out the front door.  And there was nothing near that could fall or shatter on us.  The big boys walked in from school in the middle of it and I yelled at them to go back outside.  (We had just received an Earthquake Protocol email following the previous quake.  It said "If you're outside, stay outside.")  The boys were all smiles thinking it was "cool".
I did NOT think it was cool.  It lasted SIX MINUTES and the whole time I was praying "Please protect my family.  Please protect my family..."

Evidently a neighbor saw some teenagers act like they were surfing when the sidewalk was rolling.

I tried to update "Facebook" with a message about the quake, (something like "Okay, that earthquake was NOT COOL!  I'm ready to get off this island!") but the power was already out and didn't come back on for over two days.  At this point, (obviously) we had NO idea how bad things were in other areas or that a tsunami was coming.  We got shaken pretty badly, but didn't sustain any significant damage on base--besides the power going out.  (I heard later that water was pouring out of the doors of the Himberg Pool building.)

Doug came home at 4.  I was so happy to have him home so that all of my family was with me:  "safely gathered in".  I had already found one 72-hour kit and put it by the door.  When Doug came home, I was frantically searching for our "can safe" containing $1,000 in dollars and yen.  I finally found it in the pantry and we put it somewhere handy.

Around 5:30 we went off-base to see if there was power or an open restaurant.  We didn't know how bad anything was and I was really wanting a hot, comforting meal.  Once we realized lights were out all over town, we drove to Tami's house to see how they were doing.  She was already making plans to come over to us, so we headed back home.  I got the only "meat" we had out of the freezer--five small salmon fillets--and grilled them on the BBQ with some carrots which I steamed in foil.  (Realizing, when we saw the whole town was dark that power might not be back on any time soon--better cook the perishables.)  Turns out couscous just needs to be added to boiling water so that was super easy and much quicker than rice.  (I was looking for something filling.)  Used the single burner camp stove on the kitchen counter to boil water for it.  And even made hot chocolate for the kids.  By the time we ate, Tami and kids were here and the kids were just running around like crazy.   (Of course, Wes was still at work and we barely saw him for days to come.) No movie or music to turn on to get them all settled or entertained, so while the moms were stressing, they were running laps around the house gleefully.

Since Doug is the Elder's Quorum President, Branch President B. (the leader of our local church branch--same as a Bishop, just for a smaller congregation) came over to coordinate how they would track down all the church members.   I fed the adults the salmon and the kids had sandwiches.  Wes had gone into work and wasn't back yet.  Even though he's on his way out of Misawa soon, he still manages to shoulder a lot of responsibility and is always working (or flying) loooooong hours.  I was so glad to have Tami to keep me company because I immediately got stressed when Doug left.  One thing you don't anticipate.  In a major emergency situation like this, even if you're not separated from your husband, your husband might get called to help with relief efforts.

Doug and some other men from church went out to make sure every branch member was safe and accounted for.  People from work were doing the same thing--trying to get 100% accountability for everyone on base.  This is something they practice for when they have "exercises".

Eventually we got the kids all settled by candle light.  Madeleine got to have a "slumber party" in Gabey's room.  Cameron got Gray's room (Gray moved to our room for the first night) and Camille slept down in the family room with Tami and Wes.  (One on the couch, one on the spare twin bed, Camille on the Lazy Boy.)

The house was getting colder by the minute, the temperature went below zero that night, but we had plenty of blankets and body heat to keep warm.  All were safely gathered in.

Apr 12, 2011

A Few Little (earthquake/tsunami related) Things

I've been meaning to jot these things down...

About a week ago Sam (almost 7) came downstairs after already being tucked in.  I asked if he wanted to cuddle with me on the couch for a few minutes and started talking to him.  I asked him about school, his new teacher, etc.  Then I asked "How's Alexis?"  Alexis is the girl that he declared to be his girlfriend a few days before the earthquake.  I said "Is she still in your class?"
Sam:  "No..."
Mom:  "Is she in another class, or did she go home?"
Sam:  "Well, when the earthquake happened, I just turned around and looked at the playground, and she was just GONE.  Sooo...I think she died in the earthquake!!!"
Me:  @(#$(@!!! in my head...
Me:  "NO Sammy, she didn't die!  She just went back to the states to visit her family!  Just like Miss W.!  (his teacher) She's probably staying with her grandma and playing with her cousins!!!  NOBODY from our base died!  Everyone in Misawa is safe, but a lot of them didn't like the earthquake or the power being out so they went home to visit their families for a vacation...!"

My heart about broke thinking he'd been carrying that around for weeks.

Also last week:

After Max's recital in Hachinohe, we drove down the the sea shore to check out some of the damage.   Gabe (almost 4) started freaking out whenever we went by the water.  He didn't want a monster to get him.  Turns out, he thought that the "tsunami" he'd been hearing so much about was some sort of sea monster/dragon that was going to jump out of the water and get him.  Yikes.

Here we'd been thinking the boys knew what was going on...