April was an epic-fail for writing. I must have sat down a half a dozen times and tried to squeeze something meaningful out of my brain, but I never got very far. Not to make excuses, but the last month and a half has been excessively busy and it’s been hard to concentrate on any one thought for too long. It seems like only lately I’ve been able to get some sort of mental bearing back, so here’s a recap on what I should have been writing about, but couldn’t get out the door.
March was a month of births and deaths. Right about the time that my new nephew was born, an old high school friend finally succumbed to her long-fought cancer and passed away. It was not as hard as it should have been to say goodbye, maybe because the physical distance between us softened the blow. I hadn’t seen her in many years. It was her illness that actually brought us back in contact. I’m grateful for the year that I was able to share correspondence with her before she went, but wish I’d been better at staying in touch before that. I hate to be that guy who only turns up for funerals. I’d rather be the one that’s at all the birthdays and weddings. So far my track record is pretty mediocre.
March 11th marked the one-year anniversary of the Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami. Even though we weren’t affected where we live, I still get an eerie feeling when I jog through town. The streets and buildings are all so similar to those in the hundreds of images and videos floating around the web. I can’t help but feel like the only difference between them and us was coastal location. There is a major fault line just off our shores as well, so the potential for something similar is not unthinkable. Now I look at our levees and know how useless they are.
One notable change over the last year is that all the schools have posted tsunami signs on their front gates that list their distance from the coast as well as their elevation. Most are within 5km from shore and are usually less than 10 meters above sea level, which would put them all underwater within 20 minutes of a big earthquake. It’s no wonder that I still find myself looking for emergency escape routes and wondering about the architectural soundness of local structures. Perhaps it’s a similar feeling to the 9/11-claustrophobia I get when standing between tall skyscrapers. Other than that, it’s hard to tell what has changed for the people of Miyazaki. I don’t even check our local radiation levels anymore.
I finished my 10km race. I didn’t break any records or even come close to being in the top 15 runners, but I finished, and I was proud of myself for sticking to my training and finishing in good form. As I was running, two thoughts kept going through head. The first was “This sure feels longer than 10km.” The second was “Half marathon? Hell no!” But after I crossed the finish line a feeling of euphoria quickly washed over me and in that moment I convinced myself that a half-marathon is the obvious next step. It’s a bit of a ways off, but I’m aiming for a December race, which gives me lots of time to eat ice cream over the summer before I start seriously training in the fall.
April marked the start of the Japanese fiscal year, and therefore promised lots of mandatory and optional work parties. This did very little for my paycheck, and also didn’t help my blood pressure levels every time I had to try and find a last minute babysitter. I finally got fed up and didn’t attend a big welcome party, (party #4 of about 6 or 7). Unfortunately I had already paid for it, but I really didn’t care at that point. Every responsible friend I know had already babysat for me over that two-week period, and I couldn’t bring myself to ask anyone to do it twice. I also don’t want to get in the habit of putting my job before my child. There has to be a limit to how many drinking parties are reasonable to attend when it cuts into the already limited working-mom time I have with my son. I’ll never get over this part of Japanese work culture. I consider it a huge waste of money and time. I wonder if anyone else thinks so, but so far no locals have ever confessed such scandalous thoughts to me.
So that’s the past month or so in a large nutshell. Now that I have all these things off my brain, maybe I can focus better on what is happening in the present instead of always trying to evaluate the past. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done.