Monday, March 21, 2011

Alive and living

Last week I was finally able to get a hold of my Japanese parents.  They are fine; the earthquake-tsunami didn't affect their part of Japan (in fact, a lot of people are fleeing towards their area).  I discovered, through Facebook, that the other people I know in Japan are okay, too.  So I feel a certain amount of relief. 

Things are still bad in Japan, though -- as they are in Christchurch, Haiti, New Orleans, Libya, Afghanistan.... you get my drift.  And even here at home. My bro and SIL, driving to and from Mammoth and Las Vegas this past weekend (respectively), told me stories of heavy traffic due to so many car accidents on account of the rain -- and, sadly, the general on-the-road malaises of  impatience, road rage, or outright negligence. My SIL described driving past one scene in which she saw people moving the limp and dangly body of a motorcyclist, and a young woman, apparently the driver who'd struck him, squatting by the side of the road, huddled over and crying into her phone.

"One moment you're here, and the next, you're not."

My prayers are for hurting people and hurting nations, and my hope is in a God who is not only bigger than, but who is  indeed Creator of all:
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,

though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling....

The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts.

The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

-- Psalm 46:1-3, 6-7

I am acutely aware that life itself -- not to mention health, food, clothing -- is a gift.  Undeserved.  Fleeting.  And what do you do with a gift you know you don't deserve?  You take it and run with it, all the while giving thanks.  So while I mourn and pray and do what I can, I also celebrate that I am alive.  And though my very existence is just a speck on this earth, I believe that every speck matters to the Creator.  Regardless of the scale, then, having the gift of life means taking the responsibility to live the best life I can live, in the time that I am given to live it.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Japan recap

It's a bit ironic that I'm posting this right after yesterday's devastating earthquake.  I don't know anyone in the Sendai area, but my coworkers do; Sendai's sister city is Riverside, so there are lots of local connections.  It's been a crazybusy day at work.  But we're hanging in there, and I'm happy to post these images of a country that is so dear to me, with hopes that its people and land recover from this disaster as soon as humanly possible.

This past trip to Japan was a treat because it was the first time I stayed in Tokyo proper (discounting the very first time, because I didn't know any one or any thing at that time).  Here's a view from my hotel room:

[tokyo tower]

It was especially cool because my good friends live just five minutes from the hotel.  They came to welcome me the night I arrived, and I saw them again during the week.  It was nice to get to know not just Tokyo, but their neighborhood in particular.

Another new-to-me venture was going to see the Imperial Palace.  Well, we mostly saw the gardens around it (it's open to the public only twice a year).  We got as close as about a football field away from the main gate, gaurded against random entries by menacing police bikes.  It trips me out that in a developed country and one that is known for its technology, that law enforcement (and postal service) still ride bikes!

[police bikes]

Japanese food -- 'nuff said.  I was lucky to go out with different friends every night, which was super fun (but also a little exhausting, to be honest).  It was nice to have long catch-up chats and feel a lot of love and support from seemingly far-off friends.

[chicken katsu]



 Lastly, a few random shots: ume blossoms just starting out; Japanese handkerchiefs, tenugui, and furoshiki; and a crazy (to me) pedestrian crossing -- on a Saturday afternoon!




The offshore earthquake caused a huge rumbling throughout all of Japan: some reports say that the ground shook for five minutes; and here on the west coast of the U.S. we're getting tsunami warnings, too!  I got an email from a friend in the Tokyo area who said that there was significant shaking there, too, and I have yet to call my Japanese parents in the Western part of the country.  Let us continue to pray for safety and recovery for Japan.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Apartment: glimpse

This weekend marks a month since I've been in my new apartment -- how time flies!  The main vision for the floor plan was in mind even after the first time I'd seen the place, so it was easy to come in, build what needed to be built, and shift (push, pull, pivot, drag atop towels) the larger pieces in place immediately.  My brothers helped me move and those five carloads made it seem like I have so much stuff, but once pieces got put in place and boxed items went into shelves and closets, I ended up with quite a bit of open space. (Still, I decided that, my next transition will involve professional movers.)  I forgot to take pictures when the apartment was totally empty and it didn't occur to me to take any until I'd already started to build my daybed (the daybed I wanted!), so here are the visuals starting from then:

[moving in, view of main room from entry]

[moving in, view from back sliding glass door; view of kitchen from main room]

[moving in: bed made, books shelved, bananas bought]

My desk is right behind the daybed; I prefer to 'float' my furnishings instead of anchoring them to the wall.  It makes me feel more grown up.  And desk-wise, it's nicer to have a view of the room and patio instead of a wall, no?  The tough part is cords (computer, printer, the lamp I need but don't yet have) across walking areas.  When I build my own home, I will install tons of floor outlets!  There's a story behind every piece of furniture I own, which I'll tell you one of these days.  One of the first large items I had moved was the refrigerator.  I had doubts about it being in the middle of the 'dining area,' but the shelves next to it anchor the fridge more to the 'cooking side' while creating a nook (along with more storage) as well as a more defined eating area. 

Since these pictures (taken on the first and third nights, respectively), there's been some tweaking in the details, but the apartment remains much the same.It's only my third week of living here, so I'm still tweaking things here and there, still making plans.  

My main issues are the lack of light the apartment gets (obscured by the projecting patio of the apartment above, an overgrown and shedding ficus tree, and the large apartment building directly over the wall), and the competing wood shades in my furnishings (bed, coffee table, side table, desk, have you seen the kitchen? Wood cupboards, wood laminate countertop, wood vinyl floor tiles! OMG).  I have smaller fights to pick with the sad-looking fixture that provides most of my light (hints in the bottom two right side photos), the bleh berber carpeting (anyone know a good rug source?), and the bathroom, which is humongous. Oh, and the patio.

I'm totally looking forward to making this place my own, on my terms and within the confines of my budget.  Finally, all that time I spend lurking on Apartment Therapy is coming to use!  I'm all up for suggestions, too, so feel free to chime in!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Odd start

Disappointingly, my phone was only of use to me as a camera and note-taker whilst in Japan.  WiFi is harder to come by than one would think in the Land of Technology.  I wrote many blog posts, but am rethinking whether I should really post them all.  We'll start with the ones I'm okay with sharing.  Like the following, written on the plane:

[Saturday, February 2o, 2011]

So far I've managed to

  • lose my Flyaway shuttle ticket, ransacking my bag and pockets before going back to the ticket window and finding I had simply left it there (the guy looked at me like I was an idiot);

  • somehow drop my sunglasses in the flight terminal, before boarding, and have to retrieve them from cabin crew; and

  • get entangled in and break my ear buds in my haste to move so that my neighbor could use the restroom.

I feel totally scatterbrained, perhaps the result of getting less than three hours' sleep ... along with some nerves, I suppose, thinking about the last time I was in all these places, with whom, what I came back to, etc. etc.  It's more sobering than exciting, but I think I will have a good trip.  Hope this is the end of breaking and losing things, though.