From Hamahiga Island, way back in August... (playing catchup in my drafts folder)
From Hamahiga Island, way back in August... (playing catchup in my drafts folder)
Tens of thousands of Americans are in the path of a category 4 super typhoon, and all they're getting is this measley blog post!
Firstly...if you're an Oki person, just skip this. You have heard it and read it and reread it and been blasted with it in every Facebook post and FRG email and random-anything-notice and telepathic message and maybe Japanese community annoucement, but we wouldn't know, would we? I don't like the thought of you rolling your eyes in boredom at my blog. Please leave, now. Actually, don't leave; skip to the part about Haiti.
Early last week we started hearing murmurings of a storm headed our way, and while this has been a slightly busier typhoon season than the last 2, it's been total weaksauce. Laaame. Though Eva can now identify what a weather prediction of a typhoon is (she'll be on my lap, see someone's latest Facebook post from Weather Underground, and call out "Das a TYPHOOOON!") I don't know when we started paying attenion, but then the Pacific Storm Tracker guy at Stars & Stripes wrote this post, busybodies like yours truly started posting it to Facebook, and everybody really started paying attention. (Does Dave Ornauer know how much he probably boosted BX & Commissary sales this week with that little sentence about "worst typhoon to hit the island in 13 years"?)
So where we stand now (again, this is solely for friends and family back in the States who have only been hearing news about how the RNC might get a little breezy rain) is on the edge of a storm the size of Texas, with an eye 10 miles across and winds that could reach sustained speeds of 150 mph and gusts of 184 Sunday afternoon (it is now around 11 PM Oki time). There are some awesome pictures from some iPhone app people have called Living Earth, which I won't steal to show here, or maybe I will since I just gave them a free advertisement... (Okinawa is the bright spot)
And here's another perspective, from @typhoonfury's Twitter feed: (We're the long pink island at 10 or 11:00 of the storm)
But as I sit here, I can barely even here the wind outside. Not saying it's not windy, but I am saying that Okinawans know how to build for natural disasters. The worst that tends to happen is that people's plastic sheds blow apart or their houses leak (which is a HUGE PAIN, I am sure--I don't want to diminish that and pleasedon'tletithappentome). But there's no real fear. Other than an extended power outtage or water contamination, it's hard to imagine what there is to get us as long as we stay inside.
Typhoons do bring a whole lot of different-ness that is kind of welcome around these parts. For instance, last night was cool enough for a walk and sunset-watch:
Then there are all the creepy-crawlies that come in on our outside things. (Picture not available.) Mostly geckos so far this time.
There is the embarassment of riches: What to do when you have 2 dozen eggs and a possible extended power outtage coming your way? Egg soup; hard boil; scramble for lunch.
And there is the wind. It's been windy for a few days because we got in a sort of storm sandwich with another one passing on the other side of us (missed us but we got some effects). But today it jumped to a whole new level, of course.
Due to said wind, Eva did a perfect prow-of-the-boat-in-Titanic pose in the BX parking lot. I grabbed my camera, asked her to do it again, and of course this is what happened:
Part About Haiti
Over 300,000 people in Haiti are still living in tent camps since the 2010 earthquake. Today they found themselves in the path of a tropical storm, dealing with wind damage, mudslides and flooding. They live in tents. The weakest were supposedly pulled out and taken to shelters, and the stronger left behind to weather the storm. In tents. I think you get my point. (And we're worried about Isaac hitting the Republican National Convention?) Here's the most recent article I've seen on the storm.
Eva got a lot of cool presents for her birthday, but so far this bug-catching net/cage is the most photogenic.
Daddy has been on leave since her birthday, so he's been doing bug duty. I'm not super excited about when it's going to fall to me to wrangle moths from that net through that little hole without crushing them.
A toothless woman, leathery tan, miniscule, cruises around a corner toward us. "Hai!" She says, or maybe "Hi!"--each making as little sense as the other in context. "Kawaii-ne...eee..." floats behind her on the wind, her smile lingering on Eva's sunset-colored head.
That sunset shines in concave traffic mirrors. We pass the lawn where a man once brought out a pig and tried to make him sit on command for our amusement.
A boy powerwalks behind us, on a mission as all children here seem to be. He is probably eight or nine and has a black shirt and thick-rimmed turquoise glasses. I am at full pregnant waddle, pushing Eva on her red trike so slowly that even her lackadaisical peddling helps. He pulls even with us on the single-lane neighborhood road, stops and faces me, and gives us a full bow. "Konnichiwa," he announces in adorable seriousness, and I echo him although I'd thought it was already evening. Then he stutters a few words of confusion and corrects himself: "Konbanwa!" I parrot it to his purposeful little back as he strides on.
An old man sits in front of a fan with his legs drawn up tightly in front of him in his aluminum work shed. Metal cables tether the whole contraption to the ground. Alien slums, my husband calls these rusty piles--metal slapped onto metal in quadrilaterals of convenience, expanding houses or adding garages or housing tools. They litter our neighborhood side by side, sometimes cheek-pressed-to-jowl, with the serious concrete boxes that Okinawans build for themselves. Even those who could afford architectural beauty don't seem overly interested in it. Each family is issued: 1 x stormshelter [comma] earthquakeproof [comma] multigenerational.
We pace alongside a walled yard, the concrete blocks pushing us farther out into the narrow road than I want to go. A tiny green van skirts us carelessly and I push back toward the wall. Small holes dot the edge of the road, and from them rise the odoriferous steam of humanity, warm ever-reminders that we walk on sewage. In this place where you cannot escape Americans and you can afford to give up on learning the language, open sewers are normal. We have permeated but we will never conquer.
"You're going to have a bath when we get home." And I shall have a shower.
Everywhere I live I look to the sky and think that the clouds here are amazing. I guess they're a gift that God gave everyone. Tonight the sky could be Italy's, featuring cherubs and painted by a master, except the clouds somehow look moister. The sunset is a blinding explosion of gold and gray behind a mass of powerlines and greenhouses. I have no camera, because these hands push my daughter and this burgeoning ex-waist carries my son and somehow someone is holding onto the dog, who is constantly losing one leg into the sewage holes or dashing into traffic. So I look as closely as I can to the sun andburn this moment to memory.
This place is stunningly fertile. Three colors of flower lean out over every wall, and things are far more overgrown than I expected in such an orderly country. We examine tomatoes and eggplants as we pass backyard fields. (Thanks to my friend who also walks this road, Eva knows that plants grow food.) The carrot field behind our house is long harvested, now a playground for wildflowers and birds and hungry wild cats. A goat bleats, sounding so eerily like a human imitating a goat. No one's ever seen inside that shed where he's kept, after all. The neighborhood baseball field is empty tonight--no boys or old men fielding anything, and certainly no us, since on our first walk in the neighborhood we got yelled at for trespassing with Max there.
The air clings wetly to my skin, my feet are brown with sun and grime, and the evening shadows are almost cool but I am glad to be feet from home.
Eva's airplane germs have moved from a fever to just a rash, and my own have now hit me full force. I even called in sick to church tomorrow, which I haven't done since I don't even remember when. I'm pretty woozy and probably shouldn't be blogging.
Kauai (Coconut Coast)
In the spirit of woozy, shouldn't-be-bloggingness, a couple of random notes:
(1) Here in Japan, we drive on the left side of the road (pretty old school post there). That leads to confusion when we visit the States; everything is thrown off, including which side your windshield wiper and blinker knobs are on. (Know what else leads to confusion? How we here call the rest of Japan "the mainland" but in Hawaii people call the contiguous U.S. "the mainland".) My Hawaii car mishap stats are:
Drove on the wrong side of the road: only 1 time
Had trouble parking because of miscalculating distances: ~ 50% of the time
Misused windshield wipers versus blinkers: blatantly
Walked up to the wrong side of the car to get in: 100% of the time
(2) We had the most wonderful This Is Asia moment on the plane to HI. As I was sitting there, barely suppressing moans at my inability to sleep, back pain, and narrowly-avoided calf cramps (I should mention that I am very much in the supersmeller stage of pregnancy right now) , the man across the aisle from me decided to remove his shoes and massage heavily scented oil into his feet. There were three separate instances of this.
(3) In a This Is Still Sort of Asia moment, we came across a Lawson Station in Waikiki. The nicest Lawson Station on the planet, of course. Although I guess J-Mainland people might have nicer ones up there. For you US-Mainlanders, this is a convenience store that is placed approximately every 10 feet in Japan.
(4) I had what I take to be a very Hawaiian (Honoluluan?) moment on our last day: Driving on the H1, stuck in stopped traffic, in a light drizzle, when a full rainbow appeared over the road.
First off, remember the Cave'o'Danger? Wait, we thought it was going to be the Cave'o'Fun & Baptisms, but then people started getting stung and I saw what I think was a little sea snake, so we moved on out to the blazing sun, dodging spiny black sea urchins along the way. I played it cool with Eva, pretending like I wasn't too concerned about their hundreds of thousands of venomous black spines and how they could just slip right through her flimsy water shoes. Well anyway, she and I escaped unscathed, unless you count my run-in with the venom of the sun. But the last couple of days I've been seeing some of the kids who got stung in the cave, and some of their legs are covered in scabby healing blisters because the thing that got them was a lion fish! This was confirmed by a doctor. Thanks but no thanks, Okinawa.
So, on to my first world problems. I've been meaning for like forever to write about travelling with a toddler, because although it's been pretty well covered in the blogosphere I think that's one of those things that it's useful to get some different perspectives on before you attempt it. Instead, I'm just going to gripe about my pre-trip jitters.
Last week it was decided that we were flying to Hawaii for 10 days. Leaving in one week. I know that because I've said the H-word you're going to laugh me off, but actually it wasn't the easiest decision to say that yes, we definitely want to spend our last big vacation before leaving Okinawa on going to a different remote warm Pacific island than the one we currently inhabit, with the Pater Familias working almost the whole time, travelling for at least 16 hours with an increasingly un-potty-trained child. Especially with me pregnant and marthritic (read: chubby, sluggish, and swollen) and, with a mile between our hotels, unable to efficiently stalk Chelle Girl. She is a very game travel buddy* & she'll be there in the same boat, but because we made reservations at the last minute our hotel is a mile away from hers**. Would you believe it? It's kind of difficult to get hotel reservations at a government rate in Waikiki in July during two massive military shindigs.
Anyhow, I found myself not asking but telling my work that I won't be there for the next two weeks, so the chapel will be left with DVD music and I will be travelling with a small carry-on of guilt [for depriving them of my unmissable, genius-level musical talents].
And cancelling important appointments (read: my cleaning lady), Eva's summer camp, ensuring my constant stream of doctor's appointments won't be affected, and RSVPing no to Eva's friends' birthday parties.
And we've been scrambling to get the dog groomed, clean the fish bowl, arrange dog and fish sitters, and do all laundry. The Pater Familias is fighting with United over Skype because I have passports in both my maiden & married names and unless he fights, these many thousands of miles I'm about to accumulate will just disappear into the cold void of space also known as the Great Customer Service Vacuum (and when you're slightly tall-ish and have knees that aren't very bendy, those Economy Plus upgrades can be the difference between public airplane tears or not on long flights).
And these are all sort of normal-life activities, but when I have a deadline I freak out a little bit.
And right before we go we'll need to typhoon proof the house, clean the fridge, drop off the dog (not forgetting his food this time), and beat the tempermental iPad into submission so it will contain the promised movies (such as "Da Move-it Move-it", AKA Madagascar 2).
And of course I just had to arrange a last-minute playdate with Eva's oldest friend here, one of the ones we moved away from and I've been feeling guilty about it because we never see her anymore. One more small thing that was absolutely necessary to slap on the old plate.
Then there's the subtle, back-of-the-mind pressure to leave the house clean or at least not completely tornadoed. I gave up on this long ago, but the shadow of it still stresses me before every trip.
And did I mention that I absolutely hate making decisions? This one managed to involve large amounts of money, time Eva spent or didn't get to spend with Daddy, health concerns, which-non-Oahu-island-will-we-choose-as-our-one-and-only-one-to-visit, and the much-dreaded last-minute factor. I frequently wish I could be swept backward into the safe cocoon of infanthood. All of that is how I found myself weeping copiously, tears pregnant with pregnancy, in the hallway of a building of bureaucratic offices on post, where Eva and I have to go with all of our documenti to get a certain stamp to be allowed to leave and get back into Japan. I don't really wanna be a grownup. And I usually prefer to have my breakdowns in private, especially now that Eva asks what's wrong with my face.
All of these things that I'm dealing with are the trappings of my [overly] comfortable life. Straight-up blessings. Except the fish, but no, husband, you may not dispatch him to silence my complaining. And stepping back it's kind of ludicrous to complain about any of it, but if I weren't ludicrous I wouldn't be me now, would I?
Allora, decisions are made, nonrefundable plane tickets are purchased, frequent flyer miles are spent on car rental, Kauai is officially The Other Island We Shall Visit, and we're mostly set except for that vague feeling I'm left with that I should have called my mom to ask permission.
*To quote the GNG: Are you seriouslying me? I never blogged about going to Hong Kong. I just can't take the pressure of travel blogging, I guess. I did post this picture and, my favorite, this picture from the trip. But here's one more, with Chelle Girl--that's Eva's special name for her--in honor of our upcoming Hawaii-trip-crashing:
Also, I had to use an old picture in this post because my computer is broken and I can't import any pictures, and I feel partially dressed with no picture.
**No longer. We're splitting our time between three different hotels in order to more efficently stalk her.