Monday, March 14, 2011

Earthquake report March 14

Good morning from Japan.

This morning I am alone in the house with only the cats to keep me company. Lorraine left in a whirlwind yesterday morning when trains started running again. She bravely faced hours of travel and two train transfers in uncertain conditions and after a 5 hour trip (it was supposed to be 2 hours) arrived safely at her son's house. I am sure she was met with hugs and tears.

Compared to northern Japan, we are relatively untouched by the earthquake and tidal waves and nuclear fall out. However it looks like we will be feeling the struggle of the whole nation in the coming weeks. As of this afternoon we will be under a controlled blackout and from 12:00 noon until 4:00 the area that I live in will have no electricity. This is expected to continue for weeks. So I will not have computer contact during those hours.

It is going to be a challenge figuring out how to live without electricity for even a few hours everyday. Cooking... Heat... Information from the outside world. The news is giving instructions about how to keep things cold in the refrigerator without electricity (store everything in the freezer during those hours). Even gas stoves need electricity to light so those will be unusable as of course rice cookers. (I bought rice yesterday... I guess I can go in the forest and collect wood.) How to shop. No vending machines will work. No ATMs. No cashiers in any stores. All refrigerator services will be suspended. The gas pumps can't run without electricity but there is no gasoline anyway. Reminders to recharge cell phones during the electricity on hours. Instructions on how to deal with appliances that might turn on automatically when the electricity comes on resulting in fires. The trains won't be able to run during blackout hours... It was a good think Lorraine got out of Nikko while she could. Even the signals at the intersections won't be working so the city hall called me to say be especially careful if the children should be going to school during those hours (Signals were working as usual this morning.)

The children by the way, came cheerfully to school this morning. More cheerful than some days! And none of them had the yellow hats that they usually wear nor the regulation backpack because that had all been left at school on Friday. Many mothers walked with the groups all the way up to the school and a few of the teachers went part way into the neighborhoods hidden by forest to walk the children to school. This will all be done in reverse at 12:00 today because school will only be held in the morning.

I managed to wait in a street line for gasoline yesterday and now have a fairly full tank again. A few cars after me the gasoline station ran out and were turning cars away. So with my precious gasoline I made the 30 minute trip to see Tetsu's mother who was virtually untouched by the earthquake and has very little idea that things are such a mess. She said a few papers fell off the shelf but nothing on the cupboards and her Buddhist altar with vases of flowers and picture frames moved hardly at all. She lives in a fairly new apartment building so it must be sturdily built. I really cheered her up with tales of my adventure in the Oya rock quarry! Got a big smile out of her. This picture is for Takumi and Leiya to let them know that Obaachan is well and as happy as she ever is.

On the way back home I had to drive through the town of Oya and I noticed the entrance to the Oya museum and quarry was blocked off and a police man was stationed in front of it. There were three or four people chatting and trying to get information about what had happened in the quarry but no information was coming out. Only that it had been labeled a danger area and citizens were not allowed inside until specialists could assess the damage. I became the center of interest when I piped up that I was one of the few people that had been INSIDE the quarry when the earthquake struck. Wow, the look of respect in their eyes! They were plying ME with questions about whether rocks had been falling around me etc. I could report that no rocks fell inside the quarry while Lorraine and I were escaping but there was a lot of dust which coincide with the rumors that part of a hill collapsed.

Back in my immediate neighborhood there are walls that have fallen over and the gravestones that have collapsed. Hand written signs are posted warning people to stay clear of debris and not try to right the broken gravestones.

Tetsu put our house pretty much back in order and he is getting little sleep what with running the convalescent home and napping in front of the TV trying to gather information about what services will be available. Can they cook for the home? Can they get gasoline for their vans that pick up people from their homes? He was a bit snappy with me when I asked if he thought I should cancel my activities (English) or go on as normal as long as my gasoline holds.

"That is the least of MY worries. Go on with normal until someone tells you they don't want to be studying English at a time like this. As for gasoline, use it while you have it. Go buy out the store or something. There is going to be a food shortage. And no, I can't give you a list of what we might need because the stores aren't going to have anything anyway. You'll have to think that one through yourself!"

Anyway... I may not be blogging (reporting) as much as I'd like since electricity will be off in a few hours. But we have so few worries compared to others in Japan. It is a very little inconvenience.

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