Light amidst the Dark

Please excuse me for not feeling like cooking much at present. I can now sit down and focus on updating this blog after a tumultuous three weeks of riding an emotional and figurative roller coaster. It all started earlier this month when my 79 year-old mother was diagnosed with mid-stage Alzheimer's. She had been forgetful for years, but when she began to completely forget to do routine activities, such as taking her daily vitamins and meds, it was finally apparent to me that something was wrong. She is currently on medication to slow the progress, and it will take some weeks to analyze its effectiveness, but for now, my mother is handling the news with good spirits. The upside of this is that she experiences a lot of things "for the first time." She doesn't remember doing these firsts before, even though she actually has, which makes life exciting and new to her.

On March 6, our 12 year-old rescue greyhound from Arizona Adopt a Greyhound, Gracie, died from respiratory failure. She had been suffering from problems obvious to us since November, and we knew the day was near. We just didn't expect it so soon. My husband and daughter were scheduled to arrive into Tokyo from LA that evening and came straight to Akasaka Animal Hospital, where I had taken Gracie that morning. We said our goodbyes and let her go.

On March 11, the Tohoku Kanto Earthquake and Tsunami hit off the coast of Sendai. I had been at home with my mother and daughter getting ready to leave to teach a class at a preschool. The shaking started off as many earthquakes do with some low level rattling, but then it didn't stop, and kept going and going and getting stronger and stronger. Along with the intense shaking, the rumbling sound from the ground or the house, I wasn't sure which, continued to moan and groan. The terrifying thought, while I was gripping the handrails in the stairwell, was whether this house was going to hold. Our house did hold thanks to strict earthquake building codes in Tokyo, and we got away with some broken glassware and fallen objects from shelves, but no physical injuries to ourselves. The Miyagi and Iwate prefectures up north was another story altogether. At this writing, the grim official count is over 19,000 dead or missing. If that wasn't enough, the tsunami had damaged a nuclear power facility in Fukushima and there was a real danger of a nuclear core meltdown. Residents within a 30km radius of the facility had been evacuated or ordered to remain indoors. The combined factors of the unstable conditions at the Fukushima plant and fear of a radiation leak; rolling blackouts and scaled back train and subway operations to conserve electricity; and the ever frequent and strong aftershocks prompted a mass exodus of tourists, some Japanese and many foreign expatriate residents from Tokyo.

In the midst of all this, on March 9, my daughter turned 18. It was tough celebrating when our hearts were still aching from the loss of Gracie, but I baked a cake and decorated it with marzipan animals my daughter molded,  lit 19 candles (one extra for good luck) and had her blow out the candles after making a wish. Little did we know what would occur in a few days. Now, my daughter is back in California getting ready for the start of school after a not-so-relaxing spring break. I remain here in Tokyo watching the news and keeping close tabs on the Fukushima nuclear situation while trying to get back to a sense of normalcy. And we will. Japan will survive this and rebuild into a stronger nation because the people here, the Japanese as well as those of us who have adopted this land as our home, along with the rest of the world, will continue to support and cheer her on. Ganbare Nippon !

Posted By: Jan Opdahl
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