Fall Sweets! – Balls and Bones

Bones, Balls and Banana Bread

One of the little joys of being in Europe is the pastry shops.  Every town seems to have it’s own ‘special’ sweets.  Some are available year-round and others are available only during certain times of the year.  Everything looks so wonderful!

We’ve been going out for evening walks just about every day and we pass lots of pastry shops along the way.  After drooling for several minutes, we’d leave with nothing.  Well, one time we finally broke down and bought a bunch of stuff.   Now we have a new addiction.

Recently we bought what we jokingly call: “Balls and Bones”.  The “balls” look like munchkins and they are filled with different flavored creams.  They are actually called ‘Bunuelos de Viente’, or in English : Fritters.  These are darn good!  We absolutely LOVE these.  I think about them all day.  I really hope these are seasonal or we are in big trouble.  We’ve had the chocolate, the vanilla cream, the Dulce de Leche, and the whipped cream filled (which tastes like a mega cream puff!).

Cream filled Fritters

Inside of Bunuelos de Viento

Inside a ‘Hueso de Santo’

The “bones” are the white skinny things that are filled with different fruits or fillings.  The outside tastes like an almond flavored pie crust.  The lady in our pastry shop told us they are only available around All Saints Day and that they are called ‘Huesos de Santos’ or ‘Saint’s Bones’.  We’ve tried the coconut, chocolate, strawberry, carmel, and apricot.  They are very different than any sweet we’ve ever tried.  They are good but no where near as good as the ‘balls’.  I think they just take some getting used to.  The almond pastry has an entirely different taste than butter pastries – they are not as sweet and the flavor is pretty strong.  I like them, but Robert would much rather have my homemade banana walnut raisin bread. 🙂

I can’t wait to see what comes out for Christmas!

House Hunting Headache in Madrid

View from our bedroom window: Lots of Parks, Plazas, and a Palace!

As soon as we landed in Spain we couldn’t wait to start looking for a place to live.  After simply taking over a previous teacher’s residence in Japan we decided this time it would be fun to look for our own place.  We were able to research all the different barrios of Madrid and view lots of apartments for rent on the internet before we landed so we felt like it would be pretty easy to find a place once we got there.  We would even have people helping us with scheduling and looking at potential places.  We weren’t entirely sure if we wanted to live downtown or near the school but we knew we’d be happy either way.  We were very flexible and therefore thought we’d have lots of options.

Shopping galore on Grand Via in Madrid

We were warned it would be HOT and we’d be doing LOTS of walking so we were ready for that. What we were not prepared for was the fact that 90% of the Spaniards are on vacation for the whole month of August, thus making it very difficult to look at rental properties.  Every day we would make a list of 15-20 potential places to look at and end up only being able to view only 3 or 4.  We also weren’t aware that they doctored their photos to make their places look a whole lot nicer than they actually are.  Needless to say, after 4 days of searching and mostly seeing less than desirable options, we were very frustrated.  The one place we were interested in, no one could get ahold of the owners since they were in Mexico.  We decided to rent a serviced apartment for a week so we could continue our search.  We then realized it would be at least another week before people would return from vacation AND that we had to find a place sooner rather than later (since we had to register our permanent address within a month of landing in Spain).  We went into panic mode and started looking at ANYTHING that was available for viewing.

Luckily, we ran across a place that we liked.  We initally hesitated because it was smaller than we wanted (1 bdrm vs 2 bdrm), but everything else about it was great.  We figured we should try to reach the owner since that seemed to be the biggest hurdle.  After finally finding someone that could get us the owner’s contact number, we learned they were on vacation too; however, they were answering their phones and email and one of the owners even spoke English (a British woman who married a Spaniard).  This was a BIG positive.  She was extremely pleasant to deal with and very willing to work with us.  She still keeps in contact and has even added additional items to the apartment for us.

Our Complete Functional Kitchen 🙂

The rent was a bit more than some of the other places we were looking at, BUT we didn’t have to pay an agency fee (equal to one month’s rent) and they only wanted 1 month deposit (rather than 3 or 4).  The apartment is on the 26th floor so it has incredible views of the city.  It was totally remodeled last year.  The price also includes a great 24 hour gym, internet, TV, and a community room we can reserve for parties.  It’s close to a couple big parks, the new river walk, lots of shopping, and even downtown.  We really like the neighborhood and it’s very convenient for Robert to get to work.   Another great thing about our new place is that (unlike Japan) we actually have a real kitchen so we can cook! 🙂  We had to wait a week to move in but that was ok.  Once Robert started working, I continued to look at a few other places (just for the heck of it), but I never found anything that I liked better.

I’m not sure if we’ll stay here the whole time we are in Spain or if we’ll eventually look for another place but for right now it’s great.  I know one thing, I’ll never get tired of the views.

Here are a couple more views of the city:

View of the Northwest part of the city from the Gym

View of the Southern Part of the City from the Community Room

One of the many beautiful sunsets from our dining room. 🙂

 

The Chance to Live in Madrid

As noted in our previous post, there was a long pause in our blog due to a life changing event.   That life changing event was the the opportunity to live  in Spain. Robert received a job offer in January to work at a school in Madrid and we just couldn’t pass that up.  Had we known what that would entail, we might have stayed in Japan.  However, I can now happily say, it was all worth it.

City of Madrid

The whole process to obtain our Spain VISAs was incredibly stressful, slow, and inefficient.  It disrupted our lives like nothing else we have ever experienced.  We’ve lived in 4 other countries and none of them made it anywhere near this difficult to live there.   We started the VISA process on the 24th of January and we finally had both VISAs on September 25th.  It took 8 months for us just to get our VISAs.  By the time we both get our residence cards it will have been almost a year!  When we moved to Japan, the whole process took less than 2 months and required maybe an hour of our time.  Kudos to Japan!

In a nutshell, we were each given a list of 14-15 different things we had to do BEFORE submitting our application to Spain.  We had to get criminal background checks from both the USA and Japan, we had to get certificates of health, and we had to prove we had health insurance.  We also had to prove we were married, that Robert had a job in Spain, and that we had sufficient income for both of us to live there.   All these documents couldn’t be more than 3 months old when we submitted them with our application.  The school in Madrid had warned us that it would take 7-8 months.  If everything went perfectly, Robert would barely get his VISA before the next school year started.  If we made one mistake along the way, we’d have to start all over and Spain would not have happened.  On top of all that, what made this process even more difficult and stressful was that the governments we were dealing with primarily communicated in either Japanese or Spanish (of which we know neither ) and, in the case of the USA, it was a 17 hour flight away which made it impractical for us to deal with directly (so we had to ask family to help us).  Working with these three different governments was truly an eye-opener.  Japan is light years ahead of the USA and Spain when it comes to government processes.

Our VISA Application Instructions – one in Japanese the other in Spanish

The background check for Japan was easy.  It required us a visit to the police station, pay $5 dollars, and get a 20 second electronic finger print scan. They had the official report ready for us within 10 days.   The background check for the USA took 3 months and cost $50.  It required getting a set of fingerprints done the archaic way where you “roll each finger in ink and place on a card”.  Do you know how hard it is to find someone in Japan that still knows how to ‘roll fingerprints’?   Surprisingly, US Embassies don’t provide this service and the closest US military base to us was 2 hours away.  Fortunately, the office staff found someone in the Prefecture Police Department that still knew how to do it.  The finger prints had to be perfect, if they weren’t, we’d have to start the process all over….so we had 3 sets of fingerprints done – just to be safe.  We mailed them to the FBI in Washington DC on Feb 1st.  Ten weeks later, they sent the reports to Robert’s mom.  She then had to mail them back to Washington DC so the State Department could give it an Apostile (which is just another document saying the FBI report was real and authentic) which took two more weeks.  How inefficient and redundant does that sound?  I still can’t believe it took 3 months for the US government to issue non-criminal reports.  How sad and embarrassing for them. 🙁

The health check was easy.  It merely required a visit to our doctor in Japan who signed a form letter indicating we had good health.  The proof of insurance and the proof of work & income involved filling out more forms, making lots of phone calls, and collecting lots of additional paperwork from the new school.  It was time consuming and at times very confusing.  The proof of marriage required Robert’s mom to go to the court house in Red Lodge to get a recent certified copy of our marriage license which then had to be mailed to Helena to get an Apostile from the State Dept in Montana.  She then Fed-ex’d all the US documents we needed to Japan.

Some of the many Documents we sent to Spain

Once we had all the required documents together, we had to get them officially translated into Spanish (and then make 3 copies of everything).  It was already April and we were running out of time.  Fortunately, the translation agency in Tokyo would accept scanned versions of the documents, and they could do an express service for us.  Four days later, we flew to Tokyo (which was the closest Spanish Embassy to where we were living) and submitted all these papers and our VISA application.  We were told it would take 3-4 months to process the applications… as there is no express service.  The applications were sent to Spain for processing.  Once approved, we had to return to Tokyo to pick up our VISA.  We had no way of tracking our applications.  Hopefully everything was right.  We later learned that they don’t process family applications together.  They do the working applicant first and then they start on the dependents applications.

Sample Spain VISA – What we waited so long for

There was a small chance that Robert’s VISA could possibly be done before July, so we stayed in Japan an extra two weeks in hopes that his VISA would be ready.  He got it the day before we left Japan.  I was not so lucky, which meant I would have to return to Tokyo from either the US or Spain (depending on when they approved it).  Every few weeks we’d email the Embassy in Tokyo to see if they’d heard anything.  We were already living in Spain (which was a little risky and presumptuous actually) when I was finally informed my VISA was approved and I had 2 months to pick it up.

Now, this is what confuses me about Spain:  Here they are in a depression and instead of enabling people to just pick up their VISAs in Spain (or anywhere close to them) they make us fly all the way back to where we applied.  Most people would pay them a LOT of money to avoid that hassle.  They could make even more money if they’d just offer an expedited VISA service.  Neither of these options would be that hard to implement.

Now, when you get the VISA – it’s not over.  Once you arrive in Spain, you have one month to inform them of your permanent address, and then go to the police station to apply for your resident card.  Fortunately, the school made this very easy for us.  We just had to show up when and where we were told.  Their lawyer met us there and we were able to skip ahead of the people waiting in line.  The residency card is only valid for one year, so next year we have to apply for a new one.  When I went to apply for my card, Robert’s was ready.  By December, I should have my card and we both should be official residents of Spain. 🙂

 

Our Japanese Baseball Experience

The Dome

Yahoo! Dome Stadium

I am not the most qualified person to write this post, but since my husband is always busy doing his two jobs, I will take a stab at it.

We didn’t have a chance to go to a baseball game last fall, so we really wanted to go this year.  Robert’s birthday was coming up (and he loves baseball) and my niece was coming out for a visit, so I thought this would be the perfect time to go.  The Yahoo! Dome stadium is only a couple of miles away from where we live and Fukuoka’s baseball team is actually pretty darn good.  It just so happened that they became the Pacific League Champions after their previous game.  The boys live and breathe baseball here…way more than in the USA.  They practice ALL the time and for many hours, so we thought the PROS would be amazing to watch.

It was an afternoon game, and we had just come from visiting the fish market.  It was a lovely afternoon, and we had a couple hours to spare so we picked up our tickets and had some lunch before the game.  The “official” English website said we weren’t allowed to bring in food or drinks, but we had extra munchies and brought them in with us anyway.  Within a few minutes of finding our seats, it was obvious that the official “Japanese” website said to ‘Bring in all the food and drinks you can carry’, because they were feasting.

Beer Backpack

The father and son to our right had brought in 50 posters to hold up at various parts of the game.  Young ladies and gents were carrying around kegs of beer to sell beer to the fans.  Everyone came dressed in Hawks shirts (even though very few were actually in the Hawks color yellow.  Most were wearing baby blue or pink…we couldn’t figure that one out.)  They all also carried in  a set of small plastic bats, which they pounded together constantly every time the Hawks were up at bat.

The visiting team was never introduced or recognized.  They had a small cheering section in the back (probably the band that travels with them everywhere they go.)  When the visiting team was at bat, everyone was busy talking and pretty much ignoring what was going on for the most part.  However, when the Hawks were at bat, everyone stood up and followed the cheers of the main cheerleader who was equipped with a megaphone.  They would chant the name of the player up at bat until he either got a hit or an out.   This could have been a completely boring game had there not been the home run and extra runs batted in by the home team.  The English speaking announcer was also annoyingly weird and way too perky.

The balloons

The balloons

Then really strange things started happening.  At the bottom of the sixth, despite a no-hitter, the pitcher was replaced.  Then right before the seventh inning stretch, blue and yellow balloons were being blown up by fans all around us.  The man behind us gave us some balloons to blow up too.  All of these balloons were released at the same time. My niece was very concerned about the spit that was going to be released, but these are special balloons with a protective white mouth piece that prevents such an unsanitary event.  With the Hawks up by 5 and the visiting team looking weak, we expected some people to start leaving… but NO ONE did.  Even at the end of the game, with a guaranteed win….still NO ONE was leaving.  We had to stay, curious as to why.  Well, we got to experience another balloon blow-up and release (mostly white balloons this time), followed by fireworks, and then a ceremonial opening of the dome’s ceiling.  They still weren’t leaving, but we had had enough at this point, so we did.

Feeling like Home

Hanging out at the Beach

We’ve both been commenting on how different our second year of living in Japan is versus the first.  The whole ‘newness’ factor is gone, but so is the ‘stress and anxiety’ factor.  We don’t feel like complete outsiders anymore.  In one sense it has made it more enjoyable to live here, but at the same time it’s not quite as interesting. There is a sense of calm and familiarity about everything now; however, there is still a lot we don’t know or understand and I’m pretty sure no matter how long we stayed here, that wouldn’t change.   I can only imagine how much richer and deeper our whole experience would be if we knew how to speak and read Japanese – as I feel we are just barely scratching the surface.

Ichi_13

Yakatori Restaurant – yes, fish on a stick!

Despite that big gap, we do know enough Japanese to ‘get by’ and we are very comfortable using the subways and trains, going to the post office, booking hotels, shopping, and trying new restaurants.  We know the city well enough, that it would be hard for us to get lost.  All the clerks at our little local grocery store know us and we’ve even gotten ‘point cards’ at the places we shop the most.

We’ve been sort of limited on the things we could do recently, (given all the extra work Robert’s had to do with his new position at school and the fact we had to wait for our new passports), but that forced us to do a lot more exploring around our neighborhood.  We’ve met some new people, and found some interesting shops, quaint little parks and pretty little beaches.  And since eating out is one of our favorite things to do, this ‘down time’ has also allowed us to find a great Spanish restaurant, a fun yakatori restaurant, a yummy French restaurant, a Taiwanese restaurant, and a darn tasty Hawaiian restaurant.  We are really excited we’ve finally commenced our culinary tour of Fukuoka and I’m sure this will continue for quite awhile.  All in all, I think we both agree it now feels a lot more like home.

 

Back in Business

Happy News!  We are now fully capable of traveling again.

Our first order of business upon returning to Japan was to get new passports.  Even though they were not going to expire, we were both about to run out of pages.  The standard passport the US government normally issues has no where near enough pages to last 10 years, so our choice was to ‘add more pages’ or ‘get a new passport’.  For a mere $30 difference, we opted to get new passports (this time with 52 pages instead of 28, which, by the way, is the same price).  Also given the strength of the yen, it felt like we were getting them at a 25% discount.

The whole process ended up being incredibly easy and miraculously FAST (especially considering it involved both US and Japanese government agencies).  All I had to do was call the US Consulate and make an appointment to drop off our completed applications (I could have mailed them, but I just didn’t like the idea of putting our passports in the mail).  I arrived at the Consulate building about 10 minutes before the assigned time.  I had to go through an XRAY machine, buzzer locked doors, and wait in a jail like room until exactly 2pm.  They told me it would take about 3 weeks, maybe sooner, since it was a slow time of year.  I passed the necessary documents and payment through a small window and was on my way.  To my delight our new passports arrived at the school 10 days later.  It was like I had gotten express-service for free!

However, after checking our new passports out, I was pretty sure we weren’t quite done since all our ‘important’ Japanese documents were still in our old (and no longer valid) passport.  After some failed inquiries to our business office, Chieko came to my rescue and was kind enough to call the immigration office to find out what we needed to do.  It turns out we had to go back to the Ward office ASAP and inform them, since our Alien Registration card now had old information on it.  We thought they’d have to issue us new cards, but the 10 minute procedure simply meant filling out a form and having the new information written on the back.  The only other thing we had to do was to go back down to the Immigration office at the airport and get our ‘important’ documents transferred into our new passport.  We filled out another form and about 30 minutes later we were done.  Amazingly, neither the Ward Office or Immigration Office charged us for the services.

We are quite excited we have 9 years before we need to worry about our Passports again, and that we have a LOT of pages to fill!

Old Passport – New Passport

Year Two Begins…

Robert & I have officially arrived back in Fukuoka after spending the summer at our home in Montana.  And even though there is no better place to spend a summer (and a dramatic summer it was!), we are truly excited about being back in Japan and starting another school year and experiencing more of what this part of the world has to offer.

Traveling back was (thankfully) uneventful.  The weather was perfect everywhere and all our airlines (Horizon, United, and ANA) were on time.   20+ hours of travel isn’t so bad when you expect the worst and psyche yourself up for all the waiting in lines, going thru security (3 times!), sitting in small, uncomfortable seats and eating awful plane food.  In the end, as long as we arrive safely at our final destination, that’s all that really matters.

I’m happy to announce that our building was still standing, our unlocked bikes were still there, we hadn’t lost our home key and our little home was in perfect condition (minus the one clothes rod that had fallen and thus crushed all my work clothes onto the bottom of the closet floor.  Oh well, maybe I can convince everyone that wrinkled is in style. 🙂 )  I must admit, after hearing some horror stories of other teachers returning to moldy houses last year, I was totally relieved that our place had no issues with that what-so-ever.  We are also thrilled that (so far) it isn’t as dreadfully hot as it was last year when we arrived.  We can’t wait to see everyone and get caught up on everything they’ve been up to!

Montana Summer 2011 – A Reminiscence (nice word, thanks spellcheck!)

Cow on the way to the butcher.

Death Next Door – but Tasty!

We had a great, but very dramatic summer.  We returned to floods all over Montana, record snow fall, a deer that took up residence in our backyard and a leaking pipe in our basement.  Shortly after getting everything back in good shape, we had a long, violent thunderstorm with golf ball size hail that wrecked havek on our yard, house and truck – which now requires us to get a new roof, new gutters and our deck repaired.

The events kept piling on.  There was lots of drama on the family side of things, including fires threatening family homes in AZ, a dear uncle dying, and a cousin who shot his 40+ dogs and now is dealing with the law.

On the positive side of things, it was absolutely wonderful to see our families, friends and pets (which we missed very much) and we spent lots of time outdoors and doing some great hikes.  Rose got to fly down to AZ to see and spend time with her mother and a couple of sisters.  We enjoyed having friends visit and we got to eat some really great meals (sorry Japan, we still prefer American beef) and drink some fantastic wine.  It was the fastest two months we’ve ever had.  I can’t believe it came and went so quickly.  Hope you enjoy these pictures highlighting our summer (click on a picture to seem them all).

4th of July in Luther (Parent's House)

Spending Time with Family & Friends

I’m not sure either of us were really ready to leave our beloved Montana yet (as fall is also spectacular here), but at the same time, we were both excited to get back to Japan and the adventures of teaching and travel.

Rock Creek Valley

Our Playground

Road Trips!

Hanging Squid

Hanging Squid

Robert & I decided to rent a car one weekend in April.  The purpose was to get out of the city and see some areas the train doesn’t go to and for me to practice driving on the left side of the road before my sisters arrived.  We picked up our car Friday night and had to park it in a pay lot even though we have a parking spot associated with our townhouse (we don’t have a contract for the parking space so we can’t park there, even though no one else uses it either- seems rather silly to me).  We requested an English GPS, but they didn’t have any available, so we had the Japanese version instead.  It was actually very useful (once you figured out all the buttons), because as long as you know how to use a map, you can still figure out how to get somewhere and where you are.

On Saturday we drove along the coast past Kuratsu to a little town called Yobuko.  We first stopped at their little farmers market to look around, and then further up a dirt road (it was under construction), we happened upon the town which was buzzing with activity.  It was an incredibly charming old fishing town on a cute little harbor, so we just had to stop and check it out.  In the parking lot a couple of older women were passing out maps of the city (rolled up on a pretty scroll) and they pointed out where we needed to go.  This town is known for their squid and the little buggers were hanging everywhere or spinning or being cooked or dried.  We ended up on the street behind the main road which was lined with little stalls of people selling all kinds of squid products, seafood, produce, gifts, pottery, clothes, etc.   We watched sea urchin being opened, picked out of the shell and boiled in it’s shell. I’m not sure if this was a special event or if every Saturday is like this, but it was fun.  We eventually came upon the city shrine and stepped up for the view and the cherry trees, and walked through the town one more time before deciding to leave.

Closeup of Cliff Layers

View of the Coast’s Cliff Layers

We took our time heading back and made several stops to view the beaches and coastline and check out the interesting rock formations caused by the wind and waves.  Some of the rocks along the cliffs reminded me of the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland…the pentagonal shaped basalt rocks which were created by volcanic activity.  The rocks here just happened to be sideways rather than up and down.  After visiting the National Park, and the Nijomatsubara Beach, our last few stops were in Itoshima to view the ‘couple rocks’ shrine and get a bite to eat at one of the restaurants.

Dogs at Lunch

Dogs at Lunch

The most interesting thing that occurred while we were at the restaurant was watching two women touting over their three dogs.  It was if they were in their own little world, and no one else was there.  All the dogs were dressed up in ridiculous outfits (one could barely move around normally).  I personally think this falls under ‘cruelty to animals’.  Anyway, they kept propping them up in different chairs and taking pictures of them with different poses and backgrounds.  The eventually sat the dogs on cushions in their own chairs at the table and put ‘biscuits’ on their plates.  The poor boy dog (in a blue jean outfit), jumped down and tried several times to “mark his territory” only to be frustrated that it wasn’t working.  Shortly after that, we unfortunately got the opportunity to watch him get his ‘diaper’ changed.  While all of this was mildly amusing, I hope I never have to witness it again.

View of Shiraito Falls

The beautiful Shiraito Falls

On Sunday we headed up into the mountains to a farmer’s market that one of the teacher’s showed me a few weeks earlier when Robert was in Brussels.  This time, however, I was able to load up on veggies since now I had someone to help me eat the large quantities they sell.  We left there with lots of lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, onions, and chives.  The roads up there were much more narrow and curvy than the day before and I’m sure Robert got a few gray hairs from my driving, but afterward, I felt pretty confident about driving around Kyushu by myself.  He eventually had enough of my driving and took over the wheel when the road narrowed to just one lane (shared by both directions).  On the way back we managed to find Shiraito Falls and take a short hike in that area.   I’ve never seen so many hydrangea bushes in one place, I’m sure it is simply gorgeous in June/July when they are blooming.

We ran a few errands before eventually dropping the car off.  It was really fun to do this and I’m glad we did it.  I still prefer train travel (it’s less stressful, and we both can enjoy the views), but cars truly are necessary to get to those places where the trains do not go.

So Ready for a Vacation

One week ago we were informed of the earthquake outside Tokyo.  When I first heard about it I thought they were referring to the 7.2 that occurred two days prior.  When I was informed it was another one and registered 8.9, I still didn’t think anything of it…no one felt it and no one at the school seemed alarmed.  We went out to Happy Hour at the Hard Rock Café and afterward to a friend’s house for some more conversation.  It wasn’t until we got home that we realized the magnitude of what was going on – given the missed Skype calls, emails and posts on Facebook.  We immediately called our parents who could barely talk due to worry and concern.  Even after hearing our voices and assertions that we were OK, it probably wasn’t enough to put them totally at ease.

We watched the videos of the earthquake and the even more destructive tsunami.  It seemed surreal…more like a Hollywood movie.  The casualty numbers were amazingly (and gratefully) very low – given the magnitude of what just happened…a testament to how well prepared the Japanese are – even for something they hadn’t imagined.

We immediately checked the tsunami warning charts, and learned that Fukuoka only had a slightly elevated tide level.  Since we were over 700 miles southwest of the disaster area and on the opposite coast, we were very fortunate to be in one of the safest places in all of Japan.  We actually had a decent night’s sleep.  I recall hearing about the damage at the nuclear plants, but it sounded like it wasn’t too serious and that it could be stabilized.

Saturday was a gloomy day and we were glued to our computers absorbing all the news and information we could.  Sunday was so beautiful we had to get outside and joined some others for a barbeque on the river.  At that point, the extent of what had happened was still sinking in, and it still seemed like they would get the nuclear plant problems under control.  They were still expecting a significant aftershock, so that kept things unpredictable and very unstable.

Arriving at school on Monday set the emotional rollercoaster in motion.  There was a solemn feeling around the school.  Not knowing who at the school knew someone in the affected area.  But beyond that, even if you didn’t know someone, somehow it cut to the heartstrings.  Here it’s about ‘us’, it’s not about ‘me’.  And everyone feels it.

We don’t have a TV, and even if we did we wouldn’t know what they were saying, so our news sources are the same as those in the US.  The local sources were saying stay calm, no reason for alarm, no danger.  Our sources were saying- apocalypse and evacuate.  I imagine it’s somewhere in between and probably closer to the Japanese being more accurate because American news sources are the equivalent to the modern day ‘boy who cried wolf’.  They exaggerate the story so much you can’t believe them.  For some reason, they all want to be actresses and actors instead of news people.   The story is still unfolding, so maybe I shouldn’t be so critical, but if I were in Vegas and making a bet, I think I’d be sitting pretty.

Back to the emotional rollercoaster: I can’t explain how often this week my brain was doing backflips from stress, to panic, to sadness, to helplessness and frustration, to fear and confusion and then back again to relief and some state of calmness.  I was constantly exhausted….mentally and physically.  It was hard to concentrate at work and I was subconsciously always thinking ‘what if’’?  In the back of my mind, Spring Break couldn’t get here soon enough, and I was hoping things would stay stable so we could leave for Thailand.  We are really hoping the situation sorts itself out over the next week, so Japan can get on with it’s rebuilding and recovery.  While we still think everything will be OK and have every intention of returning, we will take with us everything we absolutely need (which isn’t much), just in case we have to extend our vacation.