The New Normal

The Offspring headed off for school an hour earlier with a drag in their step and cacophony of complaints on their lips as I merrily pushed them out the door to catch the bus for the first day back. Having not seen another soul in the building other than the receptionist, whether they would have company on the bus remained a mystery however, much to their consternation, I consoled them with the news that as in life, they would always have each other.

I, on the other hand, had given myself a week off from Japanese schooling with valid and compelling reasons such as, “I need to find bottled water” even though we’re guzzling it out of the tap, “I must volunteer to help those in need” which usually involves the time-consuming task of entering my credit card number on-line, and “The Tokyo American Club has asked ME personally for donated items- I can’t let them down,” which involves one trip to Costco.

I immediately called the intrepid Andretti-san, interrupting him from his gossip session with the other drivers.

“Let’s go- we’ve got important business to take care of.” I could hear the tires screeching before I hung up the phone.

Our first stop was the local Catholic church for rice ball making- Onigiri- on behalf of the people hardest hit in Northeast Japan. Truthfully, and some of you who have been reading a while know this, I’m not the volunteering sort, I prefer to write a check which is why I really enjoyed working. I could honestly say when asked to volunteer,”Sorry, I gave at the office.” No looking at forlorn, downtrodden faces, no listening to sad stories, just going about my life oblivious to the plights of others. The way I like it. Unfortunately for me, Japan – and you are not going to believe this- does not have a check writing system. Cash, credit, or Paypal. I’ve had to alter my preferred method of giving. I decided that onigiri making might be a good alternative- no interactions with the actual people involved. Down I went toward the basement of onigiri making for positioning in to future sainthood and what do I find? 45 Filipino evacuees– many of them children- housed in the basement! By the time I was done with the rice balls I was in the fetal position, my rice balls salty from my boo hooing. Not only that, I had a mesmerized audience of 5 children WATCHING me fill bags with rice balls. What was God doing? Punishing me for do gooding? I could hear his booming voice, echoing through the basement for all to hear, “Slap on the wrist and 10 Hail Mary’s for imagining yourself with a Mona Lisa smile, a rose clasped in your hands and flowing, saintly robes. No canonization for you. On to your next challenge.” Poor Andretti-san didn’t know what to do when I came out screaming with my eyes swollen shut.

“Costco” I managed to spit out. We needed supplies for our next stops. Tsk, tsk Costco. Toothbrushes, toothpaste, canned goods, diapers, but not one bottle of water. (Which by the way, a case is selling for $40. We just buy them out of the machine for the same old price. We’re just street smart that way.)Delivery volunteerism I found to be more to my liking. Buy all the goods at Costco, sit in the car while Andretti-san drives all over Tokyo hunting for the secret locations in which the relief organizations hide themselves, then I deliver the goods and receive all the credit.

Our next stop was Hands On Tokyo- items needed: toothbrushes, toothpaste and hand towels. Apparently without these items, diseases spread more readily. Andretti-san and I delivered enough for a small town. I never saw the woman’s face who took the items, but I would recognize the top of her head for as she was busy bowing in thanks, I not knowing what else to do, packed the items myself and left. Andretti-san would have been extremely helpful in this situation, however he, as is his usual habit, had parked the car  just inside the foyer and needed to keep an eye out for the popo in case he needed to make a quick exit. If I came out not to find him in the spot where I left him, I knew eventually he’d come speeding by with the window open for me to jump through as he briefly slowed down.

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Hands on Tokyo

Our last stop was the Tokyo American Club where we dropped can upon can of tuna. No doubt the creepiest stop of all. The usually haunt for all ExPats was truly spooky. The ex packed club looked as if we had entered during the wee hours of the morning, not a patron in site, and a skeleton crew. All the lights were off, the elevators not working in order to save power, the restaurants all empty save one specterly server floating in the background. In to the dungeon I descended, looking for the drop off location. I found three pale ladies ecstatic to see me when I arrived, either to see another human being or because supplies had arrived- or both. One handed me two lists of needed supplies. They could’ve saved paper by condensing to one list which said,


All this dropping off stuff had worn me out. Kids texted that the bus was on the way home. School stats were in. First day back and 54% of the Middle School kids returned, 74% of the High schoolers, and 43% of the Lower School. However, the Offspring disputed these facts citing alternative numbers: 3/12 students in homeroom- Offspring #2. Offspring #1 reported that watching movies was his preferred method of learning. Both thought going to school in the dark, with the heat off, would certainly ease pressure off the power grid. Further, both thought starting and ending school earlier by an hour were appropriate measures for decreasing power consumption during peak utilization hours. The jury was out on the virtual learning their out of country contemporaries were currently experiencing, however, given the caliber of the teaching staff, I’m sure it will be benefit everyone in the future. All things considered, I’d rather expose my family to radiation than home school. I think the Offspring would agree.

The Offspring like the new schedule but dislike the individualized attention a teacher can now devote to five students. I’m learning to spend money on others, a habit which the Man upstairs has been trying to teach me for some time, and it would take more than several back to back record-breaking natural disasters, a nuclear meltdown and a hormonally infused family to alter Spouse’s daily routine. This is why I feel secure in our relationship- I’m a firmly entrenched part of that routine- it would take a lot to shake me loose.

So, there it is. The new normal. We’re flexible.

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24 Responses to The New Normal

  1. Wow–sounds strange. But I still have a million questions. What were the streets like? Less traffic? How were the stores stocked? Any changes there other than no bottled water? And the ex-pat club–was it deserted because so few ex-pats have returned or is the organization shut down in order to conserve power?

    Still no decision on our end. Sara’s NGO is slowing way down because of the nuclear situation, but Sara herself is ansy (sp?) as hell to get back to work–which I knew would be the case.


    • amblerangel says:

      So far the ExPats are slowly coming back in- very slowly. Stores are fully stocked. TAC is usually packed with Americans all of whom left and I expect many to return next week. The nuclear issues are still in flux but everything I’ve read (On my page) leads me to think that there really isn’t much to worry about unless you’re within 50 miles of the plant site- which would certainly impact the relief workers and NGOs. The radiation levels closer to the plant site itself don’t seem to be that high although I haven’t checked in the last couple of days. I’ve only been following NPR, BBC, Japan Times, MIT’s site. CNN is worthless. Bottled water is available. Life here is pretty much back to normal other than all the lights are off to conserve power. The nuclear plant supplies 20% of Tokyo’s power so having it down has been a big problem. For some reason, people have stopped eating out but I’m not sure why? Everyone still packed on the trains and in cars. I’ve been out doing my thing and don’t notice anything really different.


  2. Dana says:

    Maybe canonization will be bestowed on you next week instead? You’ve got to be close to the top of the wait list by now, no? You can be a living saint– how cool would that be? Sort of like being Freshly Pressed, except more god-like. 😉

    Happy to hear that life isn’t totally disrupted on your end. Stay safe!


    • amblerangel says:

      I think good deeds rank way up there on the “to do” list and I’m lagging way behind. Plus I haven’t performed any miracles of late- unless you count getting dinner on the table every night which I think counts for something and I didn’t even steal any of those rice balls to make that happen. Have been thinking a lot about those little things you make- they do sound good….by the way….Thanks D!


  3. Volunteering is hard emotionally.

    Good to be able to read from somebody in Japan what is really going on. I’ve also been reading Tokyoblings archives about the post-earthquake situation. (You’re right – he does take beautiful photographs.)


    • amblerangel says:

      I just love his stuff- and he usually posts every day. I saw that you commented on his graduation pics- weren’t those girls stunning- look up his pics of the girls at Meiji Shrine- I don’t know what they’re called- they are AMAZING. I’m on my way to the grocery store now- when I get back I’ll search too and let you know exactly where they are- the kimono are just unbelievable- he did a series on them.


  4. 2summers says:

    Great read, glad things are getting back to “normal”. Good for you for going back and do-gooding and all that.


  5. The Nose says:

    We all know your crusty exterior belies your soft insides- just like the onigiri. I have never met a more loving and generous person. And, don’t your street smarts come in handy??!!

    I would like to come up with something witty but still crying over the little evacuees (and the thought of you kicking them away with your foot, careful not to mess up your Prada wedges. Tourist and I already have your dogs, please don’t send any more orphans.)
    I am jealous of your experience. Meanwhile I guide heroine and meth addicts through an overpriced and over aggressive US healthcare system so they can get back to their disability checks and abused children. Hmm, guess who is working this week?


  6. Tori Nelson says:

    $40 for a case of water made my heart stop for a minute… just goes to show you I am still selfishly frugal 😦
    Kudos to you for mastering adaptation AND helping people in the process 🙂


    • amblerangel says:

      Italian water- fresh from the Trevi fountain probably- the only one left apparently. Like I said- the stuff out of the machine is the same old price- and where I’m stocking up for the next “Big One” if it does come. Of course, no one is allowed to drink it- we’re drinking the radiated stuff out of the tap- that’s how cheap I am! Looking very forward to your wedding planning blog style Tori!


  7. 2chicks1pup says:

    I love reading your blog and getting a real look at what it’s like to still be living in Japan post earthquake. It is one thing to see the pictures, but to get a first hand account of what is going on makes it so much more real, especially since I am sitting a hemisphere away


  8. Mrs. H. says:

    I think what I like most about your blog, especially post-disaster is that I imagine I would react so similarly to you. In the States, I just tend to donate money or something. I might make an effort to gather up unwanted clothes that I was going to take to Goodwill and take them to the church for international donation instead, but really nothing beyond that. Nothing that would require volunteerism. I think the people who do that sort of thing (like Kathy and Sara spending their time in Haiti…) are incredibly special. I’m just not made like that.

    I don’t say that to detract from the sort of special that people like you and I are. I think we’re special too. We’re the kind of people who actively seek out patterns and normality–we help set things to right so that the people who volunteer can do their jobs. I know the people you’ve helped are grateful for you. And I’m personally grateful that you’re still keeping us updated.


    • amblerangel says:

      It’s useful to see- I think- that life has changed- but it’s moving on. We’re all different as a result. We’re not doing the heavy lifting of the recovery efforts but every bit helps! And I agree- thank goodness for those- like Sara and Kathy who are willing to go and do the heavy stuff.


  9. It must be strange living in the new Normal – does it feel a bit like the “Twilight Zone”?


  10. CSI Susie says:

    Glad you’re home safe. As for cooking dinner- beware the teenage boy that offers to cook. Mine made macaroni and cheese the other day for the family (he acted like he was offering to sacrifice a kidney) and it took him 50 minutes to make, most of those minutes the macaroni was cooking. I have never experienced anything so bloated and disgusting as those noodles, they were unrecognizable. He proceeded to mix in the powder, milk and margarine in such a manner that it coagulated and formed lumps and then he presented it to us, proud as can be. When I asked if he thought they may be a little overcooked he responded “maybe, but this way you don’t have to chew”. I think I would have rather stolen some rice balls.


  11. kasuross says:

    It must be hard to change your daily routine. New schedule, new way of life. But I am sure you will manage it.

    Volunteering is an extremely importaint thing roght now. Don’t feel to be punnished by this situation, You are doung good.

    Be safe :*


  12. Well, Amblerangel, you’re leaving good tracks. As a Dakota proverb reminds us, “We will be known by the tracks we leave behind.” Keep going!


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