Saturday, May 21, 2011

Picture Uploads

I am pretty much bad at updating everything except for my Facebook status. So if you haven't found me there, good luck looking here. Sorry, I wish I were dedicated about these kinds of things but they are a bit hit and miss.

For springtime pictures, please go here!

And for pictures of my AMAZING trip to Cambodia, please go here and here! There are TWO albums because there are SO MANY PICTURES!!!!!

Here is a preview of the aforementioned albums.

Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms that covered the ENTIRE hill!

Shiraito Falls

The Reflection Pool at Angkor Wat

The strangling fig tree at one of the lesser temples
in Siem Riep, Cambodia

So where to next? I am debating between Morocco or Turkey.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Good News

Second Harvest Japan Volunteers

I thought I would post some "warm fuzzies" that all this work is not in vain.

Power Restored to Nuclear Plant in Fukushima
Source: The Japan Times Online, Electricity restored at reactor No. 2, March 21, 2011

Survivors Found After 9 days
Source: The Japan Times Online, Pair found in rubble in Ishinomaki, March 21, 2011

Overzealous Foreign Media vs "Timid" Local Media and Finding the Balance in Responsible Journalism
Source: The Japan Times Online, Foreign media take flak for fanning fears, March 21, 2011

If you feel so inclined to donate so that food and supplies may be sent to those in the Tohoku Region, please visit the Second Harvest Website and make your donation.
Over the weekend, two trucks packed with goods were sent and we'd love to continue sending more!

Saturday's Truck

Sunday's Truck

If you live in the Tokyo area and would like to do more, OXFAM Japan will have the Tokyo Yamathon in which teams walk/jog/ramble the length of the Yamanote Line.
100% of the proceeds will go towards assisting those in the Tohoku Region.
As I am not an organizer (go Joey!), please visit the Tokyo Yamathon website for further details.

Basic Details of Tokyo Yamathon
When: Saturday 9th April 2011
Where: Harajuku Station
Meeting Time: 06:15 am
Starting time: 07:00 am
Participation fee: 6,000YEN (One team of three or four members)

Distance: Approximately 35 km

Ganbare, Nippon!!!!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

After the Quake

UPDATE! (March 18, 8:30pm, Japan Time)

You are probably hearing a lot of numbers and statistics thrown around on the news but may not have an idea what they mean in "real terms". This update is thanks in part to my friend, Sonja, and various articles from the Japan Times newspaper.

To put things into perspective (μSv/h = micro sieverts/hour):
Current levels in Shizuoka (my area) are about 0.04μSv/h and fall in between the normal ranges for Shizuoka (0.0281-0.0765 μSv/h).
By the way, WHERE is Shizuoka?
I am near that black dot on the bottom left of the map.
Source: The Japan Times Online, Embassies launch emergency measures, March 18, 2011

How can I compare this measurement to stuff I already know?
A chest x-ray would expose you to 50μSv.
A round trip flight between Tokyo and New York would expose you to 200μSv.
A stomach x-ray would expose you to 600μSv.

For more details, check out this chart (click to enlarge) and article!
Chart Source: Gakuranman PDF File
Article: The Japan Times Online, What Exactly are the Risks?, March 18, 2011.

So putting two and two together, I would be exposed to more radiation on a flight home than staying put in Shizuoka, which has always been my intention.

Currently, there are two measurements used in these statistics: microsieverts and millisieverts. The foreign media (non-Japanese media) are using the form that has the larger numbers for their own purposes of ratings and web clicks on their sites.
I also hear of people in Japan and abroad complaining that the Japanese government has been withholding information from the public. This kind of talk is not only absurd, but harmful. To make such a claim would be to say that the government is not working in the best interest of its citizens, tourists, and foreign workers.

But then why did the U.S. embassy ask for citizens to evacuate 80km when the Japanese government only required 20-30 km?
Hello, McFly? Anybody home?

Put yourself in this scenario: there is a natural disaster crisis that has left people without power, limited resources, possibility of further aftershocks and tsunamis, nuclear plant issues, and oh, by the way, you can't speak the local language very well.

The Japanese government has supported the U.S. embassy's call on this one and said that they would instruct their own citizens living abroad in the same manner in such a crisis.

President Obama is chartering planes to Japan to evacuate U.S. Citizens. Shouldn't that be an indicator that things are bad?
The indicators I go by are my neighbors, my fellow co-workers, and the Japanese government.
Life has been going on as usual, but perhaps with an increase in the amount of time co-workers are glued to their cell phones. This is because we cannot use web-based email, blogging, nor social networking while at work.

True, Obama is sending planes to evacuate family members of diplomatic personnel and the U.S. government will foot the bill. HOWEVER, for ordinary citizens, you will be required to sign a waiver that promises you will reimburse the cost of your removal from Japan. It is very likely you will not get to choose the location of your removal and to get to your desired final destination would require your own arrangements. Sounds like an unnecessary hassle and expense given the proofs I have already provided of my safety.

-----------------------END OF UPDATE-----------------------

By now, many of you are familiar with the Great Tohoku Earthquake. It's been all over the news and there are fears of nuclear meltdown.

First of all, everyone please calm down.

Many international news companies are blowing this out of proportion and comparing the Fukushima plant with Three-Mile Island and Chernobyl. A lot of this is exaggeration. Please take all news you hear with a grain of salt. I am not denying the dire circumstances, but I am asking that you take into consideration everything that you hear and PLEASE EDUCATE YOURSELF, myself included, about the situation before you start to lose your head.

For your entertainment, I am including a video that will hopefully explain in simple terms the situation in Fukushima.

I am putting my faith into knowledgeable people who are experts with nuclear know-how. I also am putting my faith into the Japanese government to communicate the truth of the situation to the Japanese people.

Have you heard the amazing things about the Japanese people? They line up in an orderly fashion outside supermarkets, waiting for their 10 items rations. They accept the round-robin power-outage rotation because it is for the best of the community, for the nation. They still go to the train station to commute to work even though the irregular power situation has caused fewer trains to run.
Today at work, a strawberry farmer came by to sell her fruit at discounted prices to cheer up the people in the neighborhood. By the way, they are delicious!

I have heard that President Obama is chartering planes to take U.S. citizens home. While that is a generous gesture, it is not one that I think I need to take. That opportunity is for those in the directly affected area. I am more than 300 miles away from the nuclear plant and radiation readings in Shizuoka have not been abnormal. Until I hear from my JET advisers and direct higher-ups, I will stay here in Japan to finish what I started.

I appreciate your prayers and messages of concern.

Also, I cannot immediately answer your emails and messages because my workplace has blocked all web-based email providers, Facebook, and blogging. Please give me time to process your message and prepare a thorough answer.

Lastly, I want to bring attention to those who are at the nuclear plant site. I don't know what levels of risk they are putting themselves into, but there is a chance they will come away with health issues. They are acting on behalf of the country. Whatever your stance is on nuclear energy, these people are doing their best to protect its citizens. For that, I am most grateful.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Flying by the Seat of My Pants

I took a random, not-well-planned trip to Osaka and Kyoto.
Here are some pictures of that adventure!

That's my train! The Hikari 463!

The shink! By the way, "shink" is short for "shinkansen"
meaning bullet train.

And a little bit later, Osaka Castle!

Eskimo me!

Osaka Castle from a different view.

This is called a Capsule Hotel.
Obviously, my "room" is nothing but a capsule.
Not too bad and quite roomy for a little girl like me.

Shinsaibashi Shopping District.
It's especially popular with the young generation.

Shinsaibashi Shopping District

That's a mall. It's pretty sweet looking.

I was swept away by my friend, Junko, and her family to Kyoto.
And I FINALLY got to see Kiyomizudera,
one of the most famous temples in Kyoto.


Because it was a 3-day weekend, the temple was crowded with visitors.

Thank you, Junko, for a wonderful trip!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Funny Things Students Say

Today ~
Me : You aren't wearing a coat! Aren't you cold?
Student: Are you kidding? Look at me! I am a hot boy!

Last week ~
Me: Let's discuss this topic: "Who would be your perfect Valentine's date?"
Student: YO' MAMA!

A while back, reading students' compositions of Japanese Folk Tales:
"Then the God of the Stars said, "Oh no, you di'n't!"

During summer English camp ~
Student : If I were an animal, I would be a snake because I am a dangerous boy.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Golden Week 2011 Outlook

Golden Week? Yes, Golden Week.

In Japan, Golden Week is (usually) a week of consecutive national holidays that provides a golden opportunity for people to travel abroad. This year, the holidays are as follows.

April 29th (Fri) - Showa Day. HISTORY LESSON! Japan divides its time periods according to the reign of the emperor. The Showa Period dates from December 25, 1926 to January 7, 1989 under Emperor Hirohito. Showa Day is ALWAYS on April 29th because it corresponds with Emperor Hirohito's birthday.
Side Note : The current period is called the Heisei Period and the Emperor's Birthday is December 23rd. I suppose on his passing that Day will become Heisei Day. Who knows?

May 3rd (Tues) - Constitution Memorial Day. The Constitution of Japan was put into effect on this day in 1947. Also, this is the ONLY DAY the Diet Building is open to the public. Ooooooo.

May 4th (Wed) - Greenery Day. As the name suggests, this day is to take in the joys of nature.

May 5th (Thurs) - Children's Day. Also known as Boy's Day, this holiday is to celebrate children's personalities and to wish for their health and happiness. You can often see carp-shaped kites/flags dancing in the wind.

SO! Why do I write all this?

I am THRILLED to say that I will be spending my Golden Week (taking Monday and Friday off) in CAMBODIA!

Did you read that?


I guess the reason why I am so excited is because I will be the only one in my direct family to have traveled there. There's so much to see: Angkor Wat, Siem Riep, and beautiful beaches. I am from ARKANSAS and I will be traveling to CAMBODIA. I feel as though I am living the life of a celebrity. I dare you: go to the Google website and search "Cambodia" under images. Yeah, that's me in 3 months!!!!

Then I thought some more...
I've been fortunate to travel A LOT in my lifetime. By the time I get to Cambodia, I will have visited 26 countries by the age of 25! WHAT?! Yeah... TWENTY-SIX

Somebody pinch me.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Hakuba Ski Trip 2011

A while back (January 14-16), Shizuoka Prefecture ALTs and Yamanashi Prefecture ALTs met up in Hakuba, Nagano Prefecture for a weekend of skiing fun! The drive took about 4 and a half hours (forecast for almost 6 hours) thanks to good directions and generous speeding on the expressway. Shh! Don't tell!

We arrived about 10:30 at the Lady Diana Hotel in Hakuba. There wasn't much snow on the ground, but it was forecast to snow all night and all weekend.

This is what we woke up to on Saturday morning!!!!
Talk about a Winter Wonderland!

Sophie, Drew, and I are ready to hit the slopes!!!!!

Making some new friends with the Yamanashi ALTs.

My apologies that I didn't get any pictures of me actually skiing this time. The snow was coming down VERY hard and it was difficult to maneuver poles, gloves, cold fingers, and to keep my lens from fogging up all at once. We're meeting again in February so maybe I'll have better luck then!