Friday, April 29, 2011

Busy Busy Busy!

I am so sorry I have not been posting lately but I have been extremely busy!  We have been very short-manned at my unit and I have been double, and sometimes triple, hatted at work the last two weeks.  Things are just starting to normalize a little and then I got officially notified yesterday that I will be going TDY to Hawaii for three weeks in May!

My unit has continued to support the Misawa Helps project which has contributed more than 20,000 man-hours to local clean-up projects, and I am proud to say I've had a big piece in that success by making sure they get there and back.  Starting next week they'll be going on overnight missions to the village of Tanohata which is about 3 1/2 hours away from Misawa!

I have had some time to myself over the last 2 weeks and have had some awesome opportunities to hang out with some locals.  I was at a BBQ two weeks ago that was about half American and half Japanese and there were two grills going, one American style, one Japanese.  This weekend I am going to the Hirosaki to see the Cherry Blossoms.  There is an old area in the center of town with an old castle that has about 1000 cherry trees so it should be pretty cool to see.

There was so much going on the last 2 weeks and this blog won't do it justice.  Next week I plan on getting a little personal because I will be hitting my 8 year mark in the military.  So if you don't want to read about my reflections on the past and projections for the future go ahead and skip that one!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Another Big Quake

So we had another big quake Thursday night about 2330.  I had just went to bed when my phone went off with an emergency earthquake report, which it pretty much only does when they're a 6.0 or over.  The phone vibrates and flashes and makes a siren sound.  You get a text message in Kanji telling you where the earthquake has happened that the translator app I have translates to something like "Earthquake in Miyagi prefecture.  Please prepare a strong tremor."  This earthquake was pretty strong with the USGS saying it was a 7.1 and Japan saying it was a 7.4.  I figured it was going to be in the 7's right away because after the 900+ (60+ over 6.0) earthquakes we've had since 9 March I've gotten pretty good at guessing their strength!

For those of you who don't know, the Richter scale is no longer in common usage to determine the power of quakes.  Scientists use something called the "moment magnitude scale" and it is extremely similar to the Richter scale for layman purposes.  Both scales operate in a base 10 logarithmic scale (everyone who knows me knows I am a nerd so if you're not into science content skip ahead!).  This means that the power of quakes increase exponentially and not linearly.  In normal language it means that when you jump 2 levels on the scale the quake is not twice as powerful, it is 1,000 times more powerful.  So basically it would take 1,000 5.0 magnitude quakes to equal the energy released in one 7.0 magnitude quake.  This is why after feeling a 9.0 a 7.1-4 seems like nothing and after I saw that there was only going to be a .5-1 meter tsunami (the tsunami on 11 march was 10 meters up here and over 30 in Sendai!) I went back to sleep!

The quake on Thursday knocked out power about a full day but by Friday evening everything was back to normal.  One of the guys from work married a local girl whose parents own a Japanese pub, or izakaya, and he had a BBQ Friday at the restaurant.  I would loved to have gotten some photos from going out on Friday, but sadly my phone died early in the night from not getting charged the night before!

I didn't get to go on the clean-up to Noda like I had planned last week.  My work schedule changed and I am going to be taking over a new section so I have been trying to learn that job.  I was also sick for a few days after cleaning up the farm in Hachinohe last weekend.  It's starting to get warm here now and the weather this last week has been awesome.  The bad part of that is that the cedar trees are releasing noxious clouds of pollen which are tearing me up.  Luckily today I was able to chew up enough Zyrtec to get through a nice 4 mile run through Misawa City!

We're still getting to support relief efforts around Japan by receiving supplies and distributing them.  I was able to get out of the office for a little last week to drive the AT forklift and help deliver some water to some guys who were distributing it down in Miyagi prefecture (where Sendai is).  The point of contact for this effort was Simon Bernard, an American ex-pat who lives in the area and runs an organization called "Outside the Gate."

Simon has a page for Outside the Gate on Facebook and if you want to find out more about what is going on in Misawa you can add the Misawa American Red Cross, AFN Misawa, or Misawa Emergency Management pages.  They usually have up-to-date info as soon as something happens around here.  It's great the DoD has embraced social media sites because when you're at home it is usually the fastest way to find out what is going on.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Hachinohe Farm Clean-up

Yesterday I went out on another clean-up mission at a farm outside of Hachinohe.  We took route 338 on the way down and there were parts where you could see how the water had come up over the road and just deposited trash everywhere as it tore things apart.  The mission yesterday was a short one and only went from 1200-1700 and we definitely had our work cut out for us when we got out there and saw the field we would be cleaning up.

I wanted to get a shot of a regular field for a frame of reference but just know that the fields here are usually straight mounded lines of black soil, and not completely covered in garbage and pine needles.

We had about 80 volunteers out there for the clean-up effort and only about 3 hours to get it done (the farm is more than 30 minutes from Misawa).

There is still a lot of work to be done out here, but we definitely cleared off all of the big stuff, and about 30+ huge trash bags of small stuff off of the field.  We found all sorts of random debris in the mix of tree limbs and lumber such as some microwaves, unopened cans of beer, furniture, lots of tires, and dozens of other random items.

By the end of the day we had done a pretty good job of cleaning that field up.

In the background here you can see the piles of debris we stacked up and one of the destroyed outbuildings on the farm.  

I'm working next weekend so my days off this week will be Wednesday and Thursday.  I am signed up to go on a long clean-up mission on Wednesday in the town of Noda.  I'll try to get some pics and info up about that one next weekend.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Normal shifts!

Well I don't really have any news to report right now except for us going back to normal shifts.  I got the call yesterday that we would be stopping 24 hour operations and that I can stop living the vampire life!  It's funny how when I was younger I used to stay up all night, and now I much prefer the dayshift.  Probably because I miss the sun!

Since I was not working last night TSgt Meyers, the guy I road down to Ofunato with, invited me to go with his family down to Hachinohe to eat at a Japanese curry place that everyone loves called Coco's.  It was definitely something worth going back to and was so far the spiciest thing I've had in Japan.  You can order the curry from level 1-10 and I had a level 5 which was a pretty good mix of flavor and heat. Next time I will go for a 6 or 7 though!

I am off this weekend so tonight I am probably going to go out and celebrate a little (it is payday after-all), and then on Sunday I volunteered to do a short five-hour local clean-up.  Next Wednesday I volunteered to a long clean-up a few hours south in the village of Noda.  It's a village of about 4,000 people and over 1/3 of the buildings in town were destroyed.  The base will be sending crews down about three times a week to help clean up and deliver supplies.

Until I do those clean-ups I may not have too much else to write about.  In the meantime here is an awesome sign that was in the bathroom at Cocos over the child changing table.  I like the graphic of the kid falling!