Tsunami Warning Ot Ten.

I was pulled grudgingly from my sleep about 130 a.m. this morning by the pestering ring of my cell phone. In the states, I had frequent calls in the middle of the night – so often, in fact, that I just never answered them. Here, though, my phone rarely rings at all, let alone in the middle of the night. So, tempted as I was to “ignore,” I went ahead and picked up. I was disoriented enough that I didnt right away recognize my dad’s voice.
“In a few hours, you’re going to be hit by a Tsunami,” he said.
“No, no no, that doesn’t make any sense.”
“There was an earthquake, and it’s bad,” he insisted.
“The one in Japan? I know, that one has passed.”
“No, there was an earthquake in Chile and you’re going to get hit by a Tsunami. I just didn’t want you to be out riding your bike or something.”
“Dad, you must be mistaken. Chile is in South America.”
“Yes, I know, but the entire Pacific Ocean is on watch.”
“HOLD on…”
Exasperated, I stumbled out to my computer and turned on CNN. Sure enough, all hell was breaking loose in South America. And, just as dad said, a widespread Tsunami warning had been issued.
“Oh, no” I finally responded.
“No, it’s okay, you can go back to bed,” Dad says. “I just didnt want you out riding your bike without checking the news first.”
“OH SURE, DAD. I’ll totally just GO BACK TO BED.”
“You have time, don’t worry.”
So, I had to recheck the data. Sure enough, he was right.
What he meant by “in a few hours” was  “11 hours from now.” In my world, “in a few hours you’ll be hit by a Tsunami” means RUNNNNNNNNNNNNNN!!!! But luckily, I had plenty of time to pack, eat, and go back to sleep.
For the second time in six months I set about packing a bag and contemplating the seriousness of the word “evacuation.” I don’t know if you’ve ever had the word “evacuation” thrown at you in the middle of the night, but for this Northwest girl, it’s a pretty big deal. You see, in the PNW, we don’t have catastrophes. Or the ones we do have are pretty expected like flooding or ice storms. I certainly have never been told to “pack a bag and get to high ground” before this particular journey, that’s for sure.
The strangest thoughts were going my mind. First, I grabbed all my notebooks of writing. Looking around my apartment, I know that I can live without or replace nearly everything – but the writing…the writing can’t be left behind. Next to land in the suitcase was Mr. Peabody, my teddy bear. Now, I know what you’re thinking – a teddy bear?? But, honestly, I’ve had this bear since I was nine years old. He goes with me everywhere – acting as a pillow and a little piece of home. After the irreplaceables, I decided to get some necessities. The question was, though, what do you need in the event of a Tsunami? Having never lived through a major catastrophe, I was thinking either this island would be destroyed or it wouldn’t be hit at all. So, I grabbed the same things I would grab if I were leaving in a hurry for a weekend trip – a few clothes, a pair of shoes, my toothbrush, my cell phone and charger, and my passport.
After my bags were packed and set by the door, I watched the news for a few minutes and decided to go back to bed after all. Surprisingly, I didn’t have any trouble getting back to sleep, but I awoke with that panic that you only get when you have forgotten something important – like a wedding or a death or christmas. Then I remembered – “oh yeah, tsunami.” So, I turned on the computer again only to be reassured that I did, in fact, have several hours before impending doom. I made coffee and waited as riveted as the rest of the world to the fate of Hawai’i. As a major event didn’t come to pass, I began to toggle between panic and calm. I was thinking “either it’s REALLY good or REALLY bad that Hawai’i didn’t get hit. With little else to do I began to rethink my packing. Maybe a carry-on suitcase and a back pack was over kill…maybe just a backpack and my writing. Can I do without Mr. Peabody? Do I really need sneakers too? I condensed my evac pack down to a shoulder bag and a back pack, and then I went back to my post at the computer. As I sat glued to the live feed of CNN and the chats boxes opening up from worried friends and family, I began to think “what if we really DO get hit by this thing…. maybe I should secure more of my belongings…”
Now, I live on the third floor of a concrete building. In all likelihood a major tsunami wouldn’t bring the building down. If anything, it would probably just flood. So, with all of the pictures of flood victims pouring through my mind, I thought “maybe I should just put all my clothes in my suitcases. That way, if the building does get damaged, at least all my clothes will be in one spot.” So, I scampered around my apartment grabbing clothes and putting them in my suitcases. I even decided Mr. Peabody could hang back. Then I realized if I was saving my clothes, maybe I should save my paperwork too. I grabbed the most random books possible and my file folder of bills, etc, and put them in plastic bags and shoved them into the suitcases too. It wasn’t easy lobbing those heavy things on top of my closet…but I managed. With nothing left worth saving, I returned to my couch to sit and wait.
Looking around at my apartment, I realized how little I have that really matters. The items of most concern to me are photos, writings, and of course, Mr. Peabody. I also realized what a helpless feeling this is. Sitting and waiting for impending doom is a pretty ridiculous activity. I mean, I’m on an island in the middle of nowhere without a car or a plan. What exactly am I supposed to do? So, I waited and waited waited. Perhaps I should have been a little more excited by the email from my principal saying “evac cancelled,” but truth be told, I panicked even more. “How is that even possible??” I thought. With nothing more to do, I just kept waiting – waiting for NOAA, the new foundation of my sanity, to tell me not to worry, that everything is going to be okay. Finally, NOAA came through for me.
I can’t imagine what it must have been like for the people of Samoa or Chile or Haiti. This little drama occurred almost entirely in my head. I really don’t know what I would do if my world ever came crashing down around me. I guess as long as I have my writing and Mr. Peabody and a family that loves me, I’ll always be okay.

Found in Hase…Lost in Ginza…

After boldly crossing the street yesterday, I navigated my way back to the hotel and treated myself to a fancy dinner and a glass of wine. I wasn’t sure what was next on my agenda, so I got online (thank god for the internet) and started perusing options. Somewhere in the midst of links and pages, I saw something about “old Japan” just an hour out of Tokyo. It turns out some of the ancient Buddhas and shrines I so longed to see were safely ensconced in the small town of Kamakura. The train ride seemed easy enough, so I decided that would be my next adventure. After all, if I could cross the street and make it back safely, why not just leave Tokyo altogether for a day?
When I arrived on the platform for the train heading due south, I immediately noticed my new favorite toy – the “coffee vending machine.” While figuring out which type of coffee to buy and how much yen it might cost, a young boy with a cute Australian accent set about torturing his younger, stroller bound brother. I couldn’t help but giggle. The parents, with frustration, did their best to alleviate the sibling rivalry, and because strangers don’t outwardly acknowledge each other in such situations, I set about fiddling with my coffee and keeping my obvious amusement directed towards my feet. Eventually the parents apologized, to which I could only reply “Don’t worry, they’re brothers.” We began a conversation – where was I from, where were they from, etc, etc. It was such a relief to be engaged in an actual, verbal conversation. For three days I hadn’t really had a conversation. It turns out that Jon and Sara were on the same journey to Kamakura as I was – but they hadn’t really defined their plan. I shared what I had learned, and we decided to join forces for the day.
Before continue on with my story, I need to share an important lesson I learned: when the “next” train arrived, we all boarded. I was impressed! Spacious seating design, heat, available restrooms…it was even a ‘green’ train. John and Sarah were also impressed. They went to the back of the train, and I sat up front and started listening to my Zune. Soon, the usher came around asking for tickets. I handed mine over and she explained, as best she could in broken English, that I owed her an additional 2,000 yen. It turns out that, in Japan, contributing to an environmentally sound mode of transportation is pretty costly! I had mistakenly gotten on the “green” train for an unknown, unannounced extra charge…Not that keeping our planet green isn’t priceless, but I guess a warning would have been nice…”Warning: Green Train: $20, Saving the Earth?: Priceless…”
Anyway, after a peaceful hour on the train, we arrived in Kamakura. We left the train, and after a brief moment of confusion, we found the train to the Hase, the town where the Giant Buddha sits imposingly meditating. Another brief ride on a train reminiscent of the San Francisco trolley cars and we found ourselves in an authentically historic neighborhood of Japan. The cobble streets were narrow and winding and the sidewalks were scarcely wide enough for a pair to walk side by side. We were all easily distracted by the abundance of little curio shops – we adults maybe even more excitable and distractible than the kids. We stopped by a beautiful kimono shop where I was promptly scolded for taking pictures. I’m not totally sure why – it’s not as though I have any hope of EVER recreating any of it – but it was just so beautiful with its oranges, reds and yellows aflame and alive.
We walked a short, crowded path to the Giant Buddha. All my life I have wanted to stand before one of these massive structures – and I can tell you that it was no dissappointment. I am not sure how to describe it; Adjectives just won’t do. There before me was a massive statue, perfect in its artistry. But that wasn’t the part that left an indelible mark on me; the feeling of standing before a landmark that has been there for nearly 1,000 years…that is the part I simply can’t describe. The buildings that orginally existed around it were destroyed by typhoons and tidal waves…yet this massive giant stood immovable. The moment was breathtaking…solemn…unmatchable. So I had the only reaction I could have – I stood silent, mesmerized, enthralled. And then I pulled out my chikin hat and had my new friends photograph me and the travelling hat, because life is short and ever-so-serious if you let it have its way, and this simply will not do.
After the Buddha, the lot of us wandered back through Hase in search of the Hasedera, or the Hase Kannon Temple. Once again, I climbed my way to a breathtaking sight. Surrounded by Jizo, I felt a sense of peace and was overwhelmed with awe. Thousands of tiny steps meandered past thousands of tiny buddhas, and I walked through them all. A trip like this forces a person to confront relgious beliefs. I haven’t questioned my beliefs for years, and I don’t now. But one thing I realized was that if I have an opportunity to say a prayer for my loved ones, I will. I want good energy flowing through and around my friends and family as often as possible, so with yen jingling in my pocket, I tossed a few coins, lit some incense, and said a prayer for those I love. I can only hope that the winding wisps of smoke travelled far enough for my prayers to be heard.

Later, Jon and Sara treated me to a lovely Unagi dinner, after which we made our way back to Tokyo. We consulted our subway maps to figure out on which of the hundreds of stops we should disembark. We all agreed that Tokyo Station would be the best bet…and probably it was. But what I failed to anticipate was exiting the subway station only to find myself in the dead center of the Ginza shopping district. Basically, in the space of 72 hours, I went from the comfort and guaranteed orientation of a 30 square mile island to being hopelessly lost in the heart of what I can only compare to 5th Avenue in New York City. Oh, did I mention it was after dark? I wandered, freezing, hopelessly lost, finding myself without a soul who spoke English to guide me. After wandering up and down the same streets several times with no luck or direction, I decided to take a chance on the only store I could find sporting an American flag. Luckily the sales clerk at the Tokyo Louis Vuitton spoke enough English to direct me to the Tokyo Metro. Exhausted and past my bedtime, I arrived safely at my hotel.

excerpt from my journal: I can’t even explain how amazing this was. Towering, Imposing, Ancient, and yet Serene. How amazing to be standing in front of a statue that has been in National Geographic. Me. Cami. From Union. Of course, no one around me understood the significance…How did this happen? Is it wrong to be proud of my bravery? Maybe there’s nothing left for me to be scared of….