Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Today over yesterday

Kinou yori mo kyou

Today I got up 15 minutes earlier than yesterday and went outside and walked for 15 minutes. Not ran, walked. Not an hour, 15 minutes. Still, this is more movement than yesterday. Or, for that matter, pretty much any given day in the past 4 months.

Monday, April 18, 2011

You haven't changed much!

Zenzen kawatte nai ne!

Life goes on. Seasons change.

This past Saturday evening, I went to a party of sorts for my university's crew (not crew as in group but crew as in rowing team) alumni. Alumni is the key word here, crew in my university is now defunct. The youngest person there was something like 34 or thereabouts. An interesting collection people, all beautiful, but some more self-assured of their beauty than others (a select few obnoxiously so). Youthful dreams broken by realization of one's own limits, disease, divorce, or just good old fashioned circumstance. The "cool" people then are not necessarily the cool people now, and the uncool people then are sometimes today's coolest. Or hottest. Or both.

I was told by my one of my favorite crew members I hadn't changed much. This is somewhat true, but as I have previously mentioned, I'm a plain person. Keeping your youth is not equal to keeping your beauty, if you only had so much beauty to begin with. Still, I can't help but think there must be a point where the "beauty levels" of a plain girl who stays happy and youthful, and a beautiful girl whose sorrows and meanness work their way into her face cross and the tables turn...

One person said "my contribution to the quake relief effort is to party and shop. It creates tax revenue, and it will boost the economy, which will create more tax revenue." The man does have a point.

I came home to an empty house as the Pumpkin Daddy had taken the Prince and Princess to his parents'. I bathed and went to bed, and got up the next morning at around eight. I had breakfast, did laundry, dusted and swiffed, and then set off to declutter one of the hall closets. I tossed two large trash bags of things that hadn't been used for a whole year, tops. It was a really productive time.

About that same time, one of my newer imaginary friends hosted a walk-a-thon for quake relief. I agreed to sponsor her and her sons, and they (especially the sons) out-performed my expectations. I've paid up as agreed, it's all for a good cause.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Do I smell?

Watashi niou?

I had the chance to see "Wicked" quite a while back. It was absolutely wonderful, and I had really great company. But I think I am quite the cynic and spoilsport, because in the scene where Fiyero and Elphaba finally reunite and they sing this beautiful song about how "every moment as long as you're mine, I'll wake up my body and make up for lost time" I was thinking "you know, she's been on the run for quite some time, she's probably not showered in a while..."

(This concern only applies to the musical version, in the original novel, water is dangerous to Elphaba and she won't go near it.)

It's been a whole month since the quake, but there are still something like 150,000 people in the refugee shelters, for whom things like baths and showers or even frequent hand washing are luxuries. I think in the Hanshin-Awaji quake in 1994, a lot of the survivors were in temporary shelters within the month. Of course, the area and number of people affected by the quake is nothing like 1994.

So keep us in your hearts, and please remember, and if you see it in a store or a restaurant, it's safe to eat/ drink/ use, even if it's Japanese.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Quake orphans

Shinsai koji

Foreigners looking to adopt Japanese earthquake orphans need not apply

I wouldn't have chosen this title if I were the one who wrote this article, but the article itself presents an interesting east-meets-west phenomenon. The current head count for children with both parents killed or missing is 82, and this number is expected to grow as the count becomes more complete. The standard issue tragedy is "kids at school, parents at work, kids successfully evacuated, parents didn't." This means that there are very few healthy baby girls less than six months old to begin with, and those who survived when both parents didn't will probably be taken in by aunts, uncles, and grandparents.

There was this news segment on TV the other night, about three kids (a sister and twin brothers) who followed the sad pattern of "kids at school, parents at work". Their uncle (mom's younger brother) and his family helped them look for their parents without success. After a week of waiting and searching, their uncle said to them, "starting today, Uncle and Auntie are going to be your Mom and Dad." Uncle and Auntie already had children, and they themselves were tsunami survivors, but it never so much as even entered their minds to do otherwise.

This is probably what will happen to many of the tsunami orphans. Yes, some of these orphans will end up better off than others, but that is something that can be said for children all over the world. Local and Japanese governments should give the extended family and friends the support (financial and otherwise) they will need to welcome these children to their new families before overseas adoption is considered as a means to find a new home.

The article is right in saying that Japanese emphasize blood ties. Actually, that's an understatement. I once had the chance to visit an infertility clinic (long story, I am not infertile, well, maybe I am now, but with a Pumpkin Prince and Princess to raise my current fertility is not an issue). The doctor there explained to me the various processes, including artificial insemination and IVF, and said that anonymous donors were the norm in the Americas and Europe. He proceeded to say that many Japanese parents-to-be preferred to have some kind of blood connection to their children, and it was pretty common for a brother-in-law or father-in-law to be the sperm donor. It involved a great deal of self control to refrain from running away from the clinic screaming bloody murder at the idea of a father-in-law donating sperm. Having lived in Japan as a Japanese person for two and a half decades, this method of having a child you have a genetic connection with (when the traditional means have failed) now feels much more (but still not entirely) logical.

The "25,000 orphans" in orphanages in Japan as a pre-quake head count are probably not all orphans. Many are probably children with one or more living parents whose immediate or extended family can't (or worse, won't) give them the care they need. This is an educated guess based on how the situation is similar in many developed nations, and how this is the case in the orphanage run by the church that runs the Pumpkin Daycare. Of course, there are those who are orphans consistent with the strictest definition.

If this disaster triggers discussion on how to help these children, it would be one small fragment of good left behind in place of all that has been swept away.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

I can't find (his) pants!

Pantsu ga mitsukaranai!

I tried to buy the usual high cost-performance diapers I get for the Pumpkin Prince, but they were sold out. I ended up getting the high end diapers by the same manufacturer (Mammi-Poko vs Moony, for those of you familiar with Japanese diapers). This is obviously part of the sanitary napkin/ Kleenex/ toilet paper shortage that has come about since the quake. The shortage makes sense to a limited extent, as several high output paper mills have shut down because of the quake. No big deal, the Royal Bottom will be wrapped in more expensive stuff than is usual, but it's an interesting phenomenon.

I think this quake will be one of those things that you either remember or you don't, kind of like how the previous generation talks about WWII. "Right after the war, we had sweet potato skins for breakfast, and nothing else. And we were glad to have them." "For a couple weeks after the quake, we had blackouts, sometimes up to 7 hours a day. And we were glad to have them."

I'm an academic, or at least, my job description says that I am. Last week, I got an e-mail from a big American organization in my field, saying that if you live in Japan and were affected by the quake, submission deadlines for this year's big conference will be 2 weeks later for you than everyone else. We had very little quake/ tsunami damage, but we started discussing the definition of "affected by the quake."

1. Not directly hit, but had trouble peeling self away from the TV and news websites until fairly recently

2. Not directly hit, but couldn't get any work done because of blackouts

3. Not directly hit, and could have got work done but was feeling so hopeless and depressed over everything (and the blackouts didn't help)

4. Not directly hit, and did manage to get quite a bit of work done and would have made the original deadline if the lack of heat hadn't caused you to catch a cold

What do you think? Do any of these count as "affected by the quake?" If you were the selection committee, which explanations would you accept as valid and worthy of a deadline extension?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The temperatures are getting milder.

Kion ga odayaka ni natte kimashita.

A whole week blackout free. I guess the warmer weather is helping.

Thursday evening, I pulled into the self-serve gas station I always use. All the pumps were being used, but there were no lines. I was in and out in 10 minutes.

There still are shortages. Buying bottled water in the supermarket is a pipe dream, mostly because of the fear of radioactivity.

"You know, according to this book on statistics, they're totally reporting the radiation levels wrong. The highest reading in and of itself doesn't mean anything. I would go with the mean or the mode..."

The Pumpkin Family has decided to take their chances with the tap water. Milk is in short supply, as are eggs, but if you hit the stores in the morning, you'll probably find what you need. An interesting shortage is yogurt. The milk shortage is an obvious issue, but the bigger problem is the electricity (or rather, lack thereof) needed for temperature control.

Stuff at work completely unrelated to the quake is going on. It's so very political and so very petty. Like, you go home and see this father on TV who lost his wife and his babies, and you get a feel for what is really important in life, and then you go to work to face stuff that seemed important a couple weeks ago, but now could really dig a deep hole and jump in it for all you care, but still has to be dealt with.