Friday, March 18, 2011

One Week Later

It's hard to believe it's been a whole week since the earthquake and tsunami. Who would think a 9.0 earthquake would only be the beginning of this disaster...

Yesterday the base announced the beginnings of voluntary evacuations for military families who want to leave. They say for now we're still safe with regard to the Fukushima nuclear plant, but at this point it's a quality-of-life issue as the base's resources are dwindling, more and more focus is getting put on recovery efforts, etc. The future up here is very uncertain and it's possible that there will be some tough weeks ahead. We won't starve or freeze, but we might be a bit uncomfortable. I can live with that, so I've decided to stay. I'm confident that if radiation conditions worsen or a more obvious threat begins to affect Misawa, they'll get us out at that point. For now, there's that whole "for better or for worse" thing and while a hot bath and long hugs with my friends and family sound great, I don't think I would enjoy those things much knowing Corey was here all alone.

I think my contribution to the functionality of things around here is going to revolve around helping with childcare as daycare centers and other childcare options dwindle when people leave, and local (Misawa and Hachinohe) cleanup efforts. I don't know what's going to happen or what we'll have to deal with over the coming weeks, but I know it'll be far less than most in the region, so I'll be thankful for what we do have every day.

My heart still breaks so much for Japan.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Aftermath

Man, life sure feels different.

Everything has changed so quickly here. The worst part is that if I'm saying that and feeling the effects of the aftermath (in one of the least affected towns in the Tohoku region), it's hard to fathom the position of the millions of people facing so much more. As we get caught up on the rest of the country's status and more news stories unfold, it becomes more and more obvious that we got unimaginably lucky. It's a strange position to be in; of course we're extremely thankful, but it's hard to escape a sense of survivor's guilt or something of the sort knowing what's going on around us. The following is a video circulating around FB that was taken 17 miles south of our house in Hachinohe. 17 miles. And Hachinohe hardly scratches the surface of the devastation.

Here's a rundown of our status in Misawa:

First, the base is in full swing supporting "Operation Tomodachi." It's establishing itself as a hub for relief operations and several international relief teams arrived here today and have headed out to the heavily-damaged areas. Volunteer plans, donations, etc are being coordinated. Everyone is very eager to do what they can to help. Right now it's a matter of figuring out how to best help without getting in the way or becoming more of a liability or burden to the Japanese people.

As for our personal situation, we have all our utilities up and running right now (although rolling blackouts are likely). Our landlord came by a while ago to tell us there is no more kerosene in Misawa (the storage tank cracked somewhere) and no way of knowing when more might become available, so we'll be losing heat and hot water at our house soon. Gas is being heavily rationed; we have about a half tank in each car, so that should last us for a while. I don't think food will be a problem for us personally (the only things being rationed currently at the commissary are water and bread), but it's rapidly becoming a big issue for the Japanese. Store shelves are emptying very quickly.

The aftershocks have slowed way down. There was only one sizable quake today. There was a false-alarm second tsunami warning at one point today and there's still a 70% likelihood of a 7.0 or higher happening within the next 3 days, so there's definitely plenty to keep us on our toes. In fact, our toes are getting pretty worn out. It's exhausting constantly being on the edge of our seats waiting for the next disaster to strike.

Speaking of which... there's that whole pesky nuclear situation in Fukushima. Yeah, I don't know what to say about that one. If you listen to the news, it's either the end of the world or nothing to think twice about. I'm no nuclear physicist, so I've given up trying to figure out what the real dangers might be. The official party line up here from the powers that be states: "Official studies indicate that Misawa is far enough away to never be impacted by a nuclear disaster at the affected facilities." So... there you go. Since there's nothing we can do about the situation whether that statement is true or not, I'll just pretend it is and not think about the alternative. No sense crying over spilled radiation...

In the end, we have the base and the American government taking care of us. They've done a great job so far, and I have faith they'll continue to do a great job as time passes. We have it easy. This isn't our catastrophe, our pain, or our loss.

My heart is so very heavy for the people of Japan.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Big One

Wow. It's been a crazy past few days. At our house we're thankfully back up and running with power and heat. The ground is still shaking. And shaking. And shaking. Who knows when that will stop. We're counting our lucky stars that we are safe and not suffering the devastation that so much of the rest of the country is in the midsts of. I hear the tsunami wave was "only" 18 feet high along the coast of Misawa and didn't get close to our house, although (from the rumblings I've heard) the fishing ports here and in Hachinohe are destroyed? I have no idea what the real damage is around here, but I'm sure we'll be finding out soon. I'm sure I'll be writing with updates soon.

I wrote my last post 2 days before all heck broke loose. To think that was just a little hiccup before the real thing...

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


There was a magnitude 7.2 earthquake today 120 miles off the coast of Japan. Luckily it was far enough away that nothing bad happened, but we still felt a big shimmy! It was seriously around 2 minutes long. Definitely the biggest earthquake we've felt during our time in Japan so far. There have been a couple of aftershocks, so we've had a motion-filled afternoon. The ride has been kind of fun!

Thank you, earthquake, for happening where you did and not 100 miles to the west. That probably wouldn't have ended up being very fun.