Sister city benefit dinner dedicated to Tsaruta, Japan

March 19, 2011

As a board member for the Hood River-Tsuruta Sister City Committee, and having fairly recently lived in northern Japan, I've watched news over the last week with a heavy heart. Death and destruction, catastrophe, looming nuclear disaster … so many people in peril on one side of the Pacific, while life carries on fairly unchanged on the other.

Unchanged, but not apathetic; and it's times like this when I'm most proud to call Hood River home.

In my years at the Hood River News, I've covered a wide variety of fundraising events; and without exception organizers, and beneficiaries, are constantly overwhelmed by the level of support and generosity from the community. This time it's my turn to ask for help, and I have already been beset by the kind hearts of our small town.

In one afternoon, with a couple e-mails and phone calls, more than a dozen businesses donated items or services for the sister city committee's annual Taste of Tsuruta fundraiser and benefit dinner.

This year the committee has decided to give all the dinner's profits to the city of Tsuruta, as a gift of goodwill from the people of Hood River. Tsuruta can then determine how the funds will be used to help with disaster relief.

Aside from ticket sales for the sushi and Japanese food dinner, funds are raised through silent and live auctions and a raffle (see **sidebar*** for more). It's funny; after calling in a few favors and talking to friends at local shops, I realized I'll probably want to bid on most of the things I managed to round up.

In one afternoon Dakine, Big Winds, Discover Bicycles, Full Sail Brewery, 2nd Wind Sports, Columbia Gorge Kayak School, Cascade Kiteboarding, WAAAM, Bryant Pipe and Supply and Northwest Graphic Works all committed to donations for our event.

I'll be gunning for the two-person kayaking tour, the massage vouchers, the bike tune-up and a gift pack from one of the best breweries around.

Oh, and not to be understated is perhaps the most excellent raffle item on our list: An official city parking pass, good for one year, all hours, anywhere in the city, any amount of time. This is the Willy Wonka golden ticket for anyone who works downtown. With a couple more weeks to round up items, and about a dozen other members working to do the same, the unofficial goal of the Sister City Committee is to present $10,000 to Tsuruta on behalf of Hood River.

In addition to a rich culture and history of Japanese Americans in our valley, Hood River has also been in a long-term, long-distance love affair with the city of Tsuruta; where I had the pleasure of living and working among its people for two years.

Although only a few hours by car from the hardest-hit areas of Japan, Tsuruta has been spared major damage from last week's earthquake, the resulting tsunami and the hundreds of aftershocks that have happened since.

That's not to say they are unaffected, however, as many Tsuruta residents have lost relatives and friends, are experiencing rolling power outages, fuel and food shortages and the anxiety of an extremely uncertain and volatile nuclear situation on, or perhaps already over, the edge of disaster.

"Life is trying to continue as normal," wrote Alex Lozowski from Tsuruta. Lozowski, a Hood River native, has been working in the town for more than a year as Hood River's overseas liaison. As part of the sister city relationship, someone from Hood River is always in Tsuruta, living and working as a coordinator of international relations.

"Food and gas are dangerously low; same with kerosene," he reported. "Last night was the first time that it started snowing again, which is worrying for people down south. Everyone I know in town or in neighboring towns is doing their best to conserve power for places that need it.

"Apparently gasoline shortage is a problem all over Northern Japan as the normal transportation routes are reserved for police and emergency vehicles. Food shortages are due to people panicking and stocking up more than is necessary, which has become a problem even in areas south of Tokyo that were unaffected by the Tsunami.

"Day-to-day life continues, and I have faith in the Japanese people to make it through this disaster."

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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 to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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