Friday, March 18, 2011
When the shaking started, 18 middle school students and one teacher from Tsuruta were in the Tokyo Airport, en route to Hood River for the sister city's annual spring exchange visit. The group's two other adult chaperones - a tour guide and the vice mayor of Tsuruta - were nearby on an expressway, on a bus, trying to catch up to the group at the airport.
The airport handled the quake without extensive damage and reports said the group was hurried to board the plane, which was considered safer than inside the terminal. Although delayed on the tarmac for a few hours, the students made their flight for Portland.
The two adults, Naoki Kumitani and Ichiro Yamamoto, weren't so lucky. The expressway got jammed up and it took many hours for the bus to reach the Tokyo airport, and by the time they got there considerable chaos had erupted and their plane was long gone.
Mrs. Sanae Oyama, a music teacher in Tsuruta, speaks a little English but has never been to America. She was now in charge of 19 middle school students, by herself. A teacher from most other countries in the same situation might have been in trouble; but Japanese students tend to be very well-behaved, and these kids have been coached for weeks in advance on how to behave during the sister city exchange visit.
"It was a very difficult time," said Kumitani, who, as a tour guide, has visited Hood River several times with exchange groups. Kumitani and Yamamoto were stranded for three days in the Tokyo airport before they could get a flight to Portland. "We just had to wait," he said with a smile.
The students, staying in Hood River with host families, are obviously aware of the massive earthquake since they were in Tokyo when it happened. By the time they touched down in Portland, members of the Hood River Sister City Committee had spoken to Tsuruta townspeople and were able to report to the students that very little damage had occurred in Tsuruta and that all their families were fine.
Other than that news, however, most probably don't know the extent of the damage and ongoing catastrophe occurring only a few hundred miles from their home.
"They've only watched a little television," said Scott Murahashi, who is hosting two boys. "I don't think they know the extent of what is going on. In my personal opinion, I don't want to keep anything from them, that would be wrong; but I also don't want to stress them out while they are away."
Another host mom with two girls said the same thing; that the students have watched little television and are focused on having a good time while they are here.
The latest reports from Tsuruta say cell and e-mail service is operational, so students are able to contact their families from Hood River. Rolling power outages are in effect for the region, however, as the national power supply company copes with ongoing nuclear power plant disasters.
The group is scheduled to be in Hood River until Saturday morning. Their list of events this week include a tour of the valley today, a shopping trip to Portland on Thursday and a ski trip with lessons and rentals compliments of Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Resort.
Kumitani noted that the students are safer in Hood River than they would be in Japan right now.
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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"
Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge