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three weeks in…

April 1, 2011

I have been having a hard time writing for the blog this week. It seems that every time I sit down to write a post I draw a blank on what I want to say and blog about. I think that I’m currently finding it difficult to know when to transition from being so earthquake-centric and return normal blogging.

As of this afternoon it has been three weeks since the earthquake. Here in Tokyo things have been very much returning to normal.. or, well.. more like we have been adjusting to our new definition of normal. Radiation levels being part of the weather reports, power saving activities and dimmer lighting, and shortages on specific items at random don’t really seem to faze us much any more. One of the most amazing things about human beings is our ability to adapt to our circumstances and environments, and these are now just part of the new daily routine.

Unlike the week before, I had no waffle problems before we headed out to Eric’s first session since the quake.

I definitely think that those of us still here have been finally settling back into life again recently. Things around us have been normalizing more and more with each passing day, but through it all thoughts of the earthquake, radiation, and the heartbreaking situation in Tohoku are still very much a part of my daily life and always close to the front of my mind. This has been causing some problems with perception for me.

Tokyo is so relatively unchanged that as more time passes I have begun to feel downright dramatic and guilty for focusing so much on disaster related issues on this blog and in communication with others. But I also know that the feelings and experiences that we have from this, even here, are very real and not imagined or trivial.

Gingerbread waffles with homemade greek yogurt, nuts, coconut, maple syrup, and mango slices.. yum!

I have been describing my feelings to others as “non-survivor’s survivor’s guilt,” as that is the best way I can explain it. I feel some guilt for being affected so much by what has happened, but at the same time I don’t believe I deserve to feel anything like survivor’s guilt when I’m not an actual survivor– I don’t have any right to considering how far away and unaffected I am. However, I know I am still very close to things here, and not being directly in the path of the tsunami does not render my experiences illegitimate. We are still living as close to the disaster area as you can get without being directly affected, and Japan is such a cohesive and connected country that any destruction of such a massive scale to part of it is felt very strongly throughout the entire nation.

Finding a balance between these extremes is proving to be quite difficult. But I do know that being here during this time has redefined my entire understanding of shared pain and collective determination to bond together to recover.

Leftover waffles for Monday morning breakfast, this time with strawberries.

For the first two weeks after the quake I had a very hard time with what I’ve heard referred to as jishin yoi, or ‘quake-sickness’ (literally earthquake drunkenness or intoxication, which is kind of awesome). This is similar to motion sickness, and in my case involved feeling like the earth was moving much more often than it actually was. It was most noticeable for me when I was walking in straight lines on the street, in the underground, or standing on train platforms. I often felt as though the ground was rocking gently back and forth, almost like a hammock, under my feet, and I’m fairly certain that I ended up doing the drunk-walk and weaving side to side as a result. This has not been an issue for the past week, though, thankfully.

The aftershocks (which as of writing this number around 865) have been steadily decreasing and weakening in strength, and there have been whole days during which I’ve not really noticed any tremors at all. I’m sure this is partially because of the actual decrease, but I suspect that it’s also because I’ve adjusted to the smaller ones. There have been several instances in which I have been sitting quietly at my laptop and received warnings on my phone and via twitter of quakes felt here in Tokyo that I did not notice at all.

If you have not seen it yet, this interactive quake map gives a very good idea of what I mean when I mention the aftershocks. I highly recommend checking it out. It is a bit slow-moving by default, so if you do check it then it’s probably a good idea to speed it up a bit using the buttons on the right side.

Lunch for most of the week involved an uber-salad with a half portion of three-bean chili on the side.

News from Fukushima continues to be bleak and not moving in the direction we’d like it to move, but I still don’t feel directly threatened by it. As I’ve remarked on many occasions, I think that I’d cause myself more permanent and long-lasting damage drinking a can of diet soda each day than I would exposing myself to the current levels of radiation we’ve got going on here at present. But, as always we continue to keep an eye on said levels.

Savory cottage cheese oats topped with black beans, cheddar, avocado, and a fried egg for dinner on Monday.

The supplies and panic buying haven’t changed much recently. There are still shortages on certain items at certain times, but nothing that really impacts our lives too much. The hard to get item for us this week is my favorite brand of cottage cheese from Hokkaido, which has been totally sold out for a few days now. Whole grain english muffins are also missing from the shelves, though we did find regular white ones at Seiyu.

The train schedules took a further step towards normalcy today on several lines. I’ve heard that the Fukutoshin line, which connects Shibuya with Saitama, is finally running trains along the whole line again, and I was surprised to see Express trains on Seibu Shinjuku this morning as well. In addition to that, certain stores that had been closing early have gone back to regular hours; such as the Starbucks in Seibu Shinjuku Pepe, which had been closing at 6 pm for two solid weeks.

Oatmeal makes me happy: Scottish molasses oats with yogurt, strawberries, nuts, and coconut.

Eric finally returned to his office after nearly two whole weeks of working from home, but my week was not terribly eventful. I went to the gym, ate lunches and most dinners at home, and taught a few private lessons in the evenings. Nothing too out of the normal other than one bout of extreme retail therapy.

This weekend we have a few fun events planned, including a concert featuring our friend Sabrina. For now I’ll leave it at that and hope that blogging starts coming to me easier going forward than it has this past week.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 3, 2011 3:55 am

    I think it’s fairly normal to feel like you are. The situation is normal but not normal and really you are still dealing with the day to day fall out. (no pun intended) It is constantly on our mind here even though we are across the Pacific.

    What are the savory cottage cheese oats. Something you made up as a patty or ?? All of your food pictures look amazing!

    • April 4, 2011 1:08 am

      Very true.. but each time I read a first hand account from those who were actual in the areas hit by the tsunami I feel like I’m reading it from a much greater distance than it is physically. I lived through the same tremors and have my own earthquake stories and memories, but the details they describe make me feel like I have no more of a connection to it than if I had been back in San Francisco when it hit. It’s very surreal..

      Thanks so much for the compliment! I have always meant to make oat cakes at some point, but in this case the savory oats are just a bowl of regular oatmeal with savory toppings. I cooked the oatmeal with water, ground flax, a touch of salt & smoked paprika, and stirred in a few tbsp of cottage cheese at the end, then topped it with cheddar cheese, black beans, avocado, and a fried egg. I think a spinach & mushroom version would be rather good as well. :D

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