Saturday, March 26, 2011

Remember that One Time When We Stayed Up Way Too Long?

I don't have the mental agility at this point to go into all the details of the story (though I did record them in my journal), plus I don't want to bore you with tales of waiting in lines for hours on end.  Here are the essentials.
Ellie and I, after much deliberation and prayer on the part of Ben and I, decided to take advantage of the "voluntary departure of dependents" being offered by the base to come back to the States for a few weeks. We aren't terribly concerned for our safety in Japan, especially since we are 200 miles from the broken nuclear reactor.  It was a ridiculously tough decision to leave Ben behind (he is "essential to the mission" after all).  But three things compelled us; 1) peace of mind for our parents, 2) better safe than sorry, and 3) we don't really plan on coming back for a visit until the summer of 2012. 
So at 2 am on Tuesday morning in Japan we waited in lots and lots of lines, got bussed to Yokota Air Force Base, and finally took off for the USA around 1 pm (note: it took longer to get from base into the air than it actually did to fly here!).  And may I just make a plug for the Air Force here; they are amazing.  They had treats and snacks and Red Cross volunteers to watch our kids and airmen and Marines to haul our luggage and car seats for us.  If ever I have a child that wants to join the armed forces I'll give my okay if it's with the Air Force.

Waiting in line to get on the plane.

The flight was definitely the longest of my life.  It was over 50% children.  Enough said.  Ellie did pretty great though, better than the poor little baby across the aisle from us (bless that mother, she had two other kids with her as well). 

Nothing is really playing, she just like to pretend and be like mommy.
Once we landed there were more lines and we even got interviewed by the local press! Then we hopped a bus to the Sacramento airport and took a flight to Dallas, finally arriving at 7:30 pm on Tuesday.  So all told we spent 30 hours traveling! We were pooped. I joke that Tuesday was so great we wanted to do it twice.  But seriously, no. But we are here and are so thankful for our wonderful family for letting us crash with them.  Ellie's warming up to everyone.  Here's the proof!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Where We Are and How We Are Helping

Bless our parents.  They have been fielding numerous phone calls and emails from loved ones concerned about our well being given the earthquakes, tsunami, and now trouble with some of the nuclear power plants.  Please know that we are quite safe right now.  Here's a nice little map so you can see where we are in relation to stuff that's happened.
We are a good 250 miles from the nuclear reactor
Were anything to happen, Yokosuka Naval Base (where been teaches math at the high school), has an excellent evacuation plan in place.  We have all of our things in order to comply with anything that might come along. We are on alert for rolling blackouts and are doing all we can to conserve energy.  Gas is being rationed, and we have a decent little food storage to sustain us for a bit should the military have trouble getting their regular food shipments in. But we are thinking very little of ourselves right now.
Given recent events, our thoughts have turned to how we can serve our brothers and sisters here in Japan who have been so devastated up north.  We received an email from Ben's school letting us know what they are especially in need of and where it could be mailed (which I've posted below).  However, probably a more cost effective way would be to donate items to and reputable local charities, particularly through the Church as they have very well established connections and means for transporting items.  Or, even easier is to go here and make a monetary donation.

We may not think of Japan as needing help because they are a well developed country.  But truly those hit by the earthquakes and tsunami are without everything. And they need as much help as can be offered.

We went through our boxes of baby clothes yesterday (because heaven knows we have more than Ellie really ever wears) and our extra blankets (does a family of three really need a dozen + quilts?).  It always feels so good and right to help those in need.
Thank you again for your love and prayers!

They really need :

1.Foods (instant foods, dietary supplements, baby foods)
2.Warm blankets (That north part of Japan is still really cold now)
4.Baby clothings, and DIAPERS!!!!

Attn: Earthquake relief supplies 
Miyagi Prefectural Office
3-8-1, Honcho
Aoba-ku, Sendai city, Miyagi 
980-8570, JAPAN

Attn: Earthquake relief supplies 
Iwate Prefectural Office
10-1 Uchimaru Morioka city, Iwate

Attn:Earthquake relief supplies 
Aomori Prefectural Office
1-1-1 Nagashima, Aomori city,
Aomori, 030-8570, JAPAN

Attn:earthquake relief supplies 
Fukushima Prefectural Office
2-16 Sugitsuma-cho, Fukushima City 
960-8670, JAPAN

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Earthquake

Japan gets earthquakes all the time. I personally hadn't felt one until yesterday (Friday, the 11th).  And then I felt at least two. I'm sure every single one of you reading this has already heard all the news, but I wanted to document my small know, for posterity's sake or something.  First of all, we are quite safe.  There was no damage to anything nearby.  We live in Yokosuka, which is south of Tokyo, which is 230 miles southwest of the epicenter to begin with.  So it was far away from us.  And we live up inside Tokyo Bay, so we are pretty well protected from tsunamis.  We did have a warning tsunami warning for up to 2 meters, but I don't think it ever really came to fruition.  Anyway, here's our little story.

Ellie was taking a nap and so was I, but around 2:50 I woke up with a start and realized that the house was kind of shaking.  Just a little bit.  I jumped out of bed and it was still going and growing in intensity.  I realized that somethings around the house were rattling, especially a sort of shelf thing in Ellie's room that is notoriously noisy. She woke up and started crying and I went and got her out and everything was still swaying and had reached the peak of it's intensity.  It leveled off and I jumped on Facebook and asked if anyone else had felt that.  I just assumed it was a small local quake, not necessarily a big deal.

Ellie and I went downstairs to eat snacks and watch "Sound of Music" (we're so cultured!).  I tried calling Ben (school got out at 2:20, but I knew he was staying after for a calligraphy class he had), but I kept getting weird messages in Japanese.  And then we felt the biggest aftershock, which was for us just a small scale version of the first quake. With that, I started to think this was something bigger.  I hopped online and saw the "Breaking News" on that there had been an 8.9 earthquake near Sendai, coupled with tsunamis.  Then I started getting a little nervous.

In Japan, at least in our area, they have a very widespread loudspeaker system to announce warnings in instances like this.  Shortly after this I heard announcements, in Japanese obviously, coupled with sirens, going off on the system.  I posted again on Facebook that we were all safe and sound in our neck of the woods, which turned out to be quite fortuitous as our internet went down about an hour later.  I kept trying to get through to Ben, but could never get connected. We felt a tiny little aftershock after that.

Ben came home when I expected him and I asked him if he had heard about the quake.  He hadn't heard anything, so he had felt it and had to evacuate his classroom where he was planning.  He said that they had closed off all areas of base close the shore, but that was it.  I told him how big it was and where it was and he was surprised.  We went to go watch the videos online, but then discovered our internet was down.

During dinner some church friends who also live off base called us and we discovered that power was out in their area of town.  They had apparently been trying for sometime to get through to other members in the branch. Luckily our electricity has stayed on the entire time.

One other interesting thing.  Japan has an "early warning system" for earthquakes too.  Apparently some areas at least in Tokyo got a warning about 30 seconds before it hit, but we didn't get anything.  But since then our phones have buzzed at least 3 times with "early earthquake warnings" though only one was for our prefecture (like a state, only much small geographically).  Luckily nothing has come of any of them, but it is nice to get a bit of a heads up just in case.  I'm not sure how they determine what merits a  warning being sent out, but it's nice to know it's there.

Our thoughts and prayers are with all those in affected areas and their loved ones.  I'm sure we will have ample opportunities to help those in need, with time, talents, and money.  We feel so blessed to be able to be of service in anyway, and that we have been spared any harm ourselves.  Our hearts and prayers are especially with the missionaries of the Sendai Japan Mission and their families, as they are the only mission that they have yet to contact each missionary and confirm their safety.  No matter what I know that the Lord looks after us in ways we cannot imagine, and comforts us with inexpressible peace when we turn to Him in faith.  Events such as this are always a reminder to me of the gift of mortality and the love of my Savior.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Catching Up in China: Nanjing

After our highly eventful time in Beijing, it was nice to go to Nanjing and take it kind of easy.  Crystal and Aaron are living there, so we stayed in their apartment and saw fun things around the town. First of all, a little history on Nanjing.  Before the Communist revolution, it was known as Nanking.  Pearl Buck lived here from some time with her husband. It was one of the ancient capitals of China. It was also where the Japanese invaded China just before the start of World War II and massacred hundreds of thousands of Chinese (but more on that later). And it's air is cleaner than Bejing, though the drivers are still crazy!
Puffing Food-click on it to see it larger
And of course, full of Engrish.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Making Delicious Messes

Ellie and I made cookies again and I remembered to snag some pictures of her enthusiasm for this activity.

She also found that Ben and I each have a "secret" stash of chocolate.

Needless to say, these have now been removed to more remote locations than the tops of our dressers.

And last but not least, this girl loves her beans.  I mean LOVES them!