Friday, March 18, 2011

Smoothing out...

Amazing what changes a new day can bring. I'm feeling a lot...lighter today than yesterday.

Something that definitely helped was going out with all the other Towada ALTs for a St. Patrick's Day drink last night. At first I really debated as to whether or not I should go. With everyone doing their best to limit consumption, I felt like it might be an inappropriate time to be going out for drinks. But as I thought more, I realized that if everyone thought that way and therefore stayed home and away from bars/restaurants, then the owners/workers at such establishments would eventually have a hard time making ends meet.

Besides, going out and relaxing for an hour and a half with everyone really gave me a much needed respite from the niggling sense of anxiety that had been with me since I realized how serious the earthquake had been. Talking with friends over drinks (and fries! yum!) let me put things aside, at least for a little while.

It's one thing to decide to spend a quiet night at home reading to conserve energy, and another thing altogether to make oneself stay home out of a misplaced sense of guilt over going about things "as usual" when others are persevering through difficult conditions in evacuation shelters, etc. Yes, we must be mindful of our consumption during these difficult times, but that doesn't mean we have to deny ourselves the right to try to resume as normal a life as possible.

In fact, I think one thing that such a disaster as this demonstrates is how precious every single moment of our life is. You can't predict when something catastrophic will happen and change your life, so it's all the more important to take the time to enjoy the company of friends and family.

Anyway, another big part of my change of mood is probably that I have a full tank of gas in my car right now. If I continue to practice economy in my driving (not using the heater, shifting to park/neutral at red lights, carpooling, walking everywhere I possibly can), I should be good for at least 3 weeks.

How I managed to get the gas is really a story of good luck and patience. It started yesterday afternoon around one something. A bunch of us teachers were talking about the gas problem in the teachers' room and I ended up suggesting that maybe we should try calling the father of one of our students for advice/clarification, since I knew he worked at the gas station near my house.

This particular chain seemed to manage to get gas daily, even if amounts were limited, but sometimes you needed to have a voucher and none of us knew how to go about getting one... At any rate, my principal called him and got information that the gas station near my house would be opening at 3pm--no vouchers necessary! With the permission of our principal, half of the teachers headed out to get gas!!

Since seven of us had carpooled in two cars that morning, I actually ended up driving three other teachers so they could get their cars. (And once we got gas I drove everyone back to school as well.) After dropping everyone off, I managed to get into the lineup for gas--at least 1km away from the entrance to the gas station!-- around 2:40pm.

That day I was supposed to be teaching extra English at 3pm, but thankfully my main plan had been to give out prizes (based on the number of stickers students had collected from the year's extra English classes) so I was able to ask their homeroom teacher to take charge of that for me instead.

Once the gas station opened things went pretty quickly, but I still didn't get back to my place (the rendezvous point for the teachers who had come with me) until about 3:20 or so. But we were all able to get 1000yen worth of gas (6.58L) so it was worth it. (If 6.58L doesn't sound like much, just consider that I can get close to 10km/L.)

Even though that gave me considerably more breathing room than before (I went from half a tank to close to 3/4), I still felt uneasy. Since I had today off, I woke up early and headed to the gas station around 6:15am to line up for gas (at the same gas station). This time I was probably 1.5km (or more? I can't estimate distances for beans!) away from the gas station, but shortly before opening time (7am), staff members came around with the vouchers that would enable us to get 2000yen worth of gas!!

Thanks to the efficiency of the gas station staff, I was able to get my 2000yen of gas (well, 1720 yen's worth, actually, as that's all I needed to get to a full tank) and be back home by ~7:25am!

After showering and eating breakfast, I headed out to the bank and grocery store. I got enough ingredients to make two batches each of tomato & meat sauce (easily frozen for later use) and curry (one pot can last me up to a week, and can also be frozen). I've already made one batch of meat sauce, and I plan on making one pot of curry either tomorrow (Sat.) or the day after (Sun.). Even though I had sufficient food for a week of school lunches--as well as plenty of cereal thanks to my last trip back to Canada--before I went grocery shopping, I feel better knowing that I've got some foods I can simply reheat stocked in my freezer.

That's definitely something about me that has changed since the earthquake. Before I was totally fine with an empty fridge/freezer because I felt like I could always just go to a grocery or convenience store, or even a restaurant to grab a meal if I didn't feel like cooking. Heck, I've even gone a couple of days eating nothing but junk food (mostly chocolate) and cereal when things have been crazy busy. But now I feel like I need to keep my cupboards a bit better stocked...

Not that I think it's a bad thing to be better prepared (with sufficient gasoline and food supplies), but the fact that it makes me feel so much better to have a full tank of gas and a well stocked fridge does make me wonder if I'm relying too much on things for security.

I mean, as a Christian I'm supposed to be relying on God. And while praying about things and knowing that others are also praying for Japan has definitely eased my mind/heart, to be honest, out of everything up to now, filling up my gas tank has probably given me the greatest sense of relief/comfort about my current situation. (I was fine with having "just enough" gas to get by at first--before I really understood the extent/implications of the disaster, but as the uncertainty with the gas situation has gone on, it's gotten harder for me to remain so carefree.)

But I am still hopeful that things will start to stabilize/improve within the next couple of weeks or so. I'd like to think that with all the global support pouring in and with the ability of Japanese people to really pull together and work efficiently in hard times that things are bound to get better sooner rather than later.