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Sunday, 29 May 2011

Protective measures and plan A.

A typical food line up since the quake (since some people asked me about this) :

We are now drinking only bottled water (from South Korea at present as its the cheapest). This includes making tea and coffee. I found 6x 2 liter bottles at our local megamart for only 400 yen (around 4 US dollars) so cheap.

There is also a filter on our kitchen tap and we use water from that #1 and then into deactivated charcoal filter Brita jug #2  (so double filtered) for cooking water to boil and cook food. De activated charcoal removes most heavy metals including some radionuclides.

We are buying meat products like pork and beef and chicken from Australia, Brazil and nearby Asian countries. These are the biggest importers to Japan in this area. No meat from Japan. Fish we have only bought from Russia/Alaska since the quake and canned from America and Thailand. No Japanese fish at all.

Fruit and vegetables we are buying from Kyushu (far south Japan) only OR frozen vegetables from other countries.
Milk and butter we are getting from Hokkaido (far north Japan). Cheese we are buying at the import food store from Holland and Australia.
Eggs from Aomori (far north).

With this plan (plan A =above and below) launched we hope to keep as safe as possible from radionuclides in food for the rest of the time that we have to be here. It's expensive but of course it is necessary we do this.This is what we can do and it feels good to cando :)

As far as rain goes, we are always using umbrellas and leaving coats and shoes at the door. If soil contains radionuclides you can bring these in on shoes. It's a great thing that nobody in Japan wears their shoes inside.

Washing dishes and hair and doing fish tanks I'm using rubbergloves, but always did that. The fish seem to be doing okay in the water so far..
For most people that live here and cannot leave (Japanese citizens and long term residents) sensible advice and caring advice about how we should protect ourselves and what we can do to minimise carcinogenic danger is far more helpful and productive than more and more scaremongering. There is actually plenty you can do to protect yourself. There are some farms here that are testing their soils daily and public awareness is increasing via word of mouth of where to buy what. Top Japanese nuclear scientists at Universities here, every bit as clued up as Western nuclear scientists (and to be differentiated from Japanese TEPCO nuclear business and govt) are working hard to get data together and share it and are testing soil and water and providing  information to citizens when there are dangerous levels in any area. Radionuclides clump and are seldom spread out evenly. They are like dust and can be washed off the skin, we need to take showers morning and evening to rinse off possible particles if we have been outside with skin exposed. This is being very cautious but you just never know. We are told the air is quite safe here from these particles but really who can test each inch of rain and air.

The whole of Japan cannot relocate, we have to take action now to protect ourselves in small ways locally while supporting the teams at the nuke plant who are doing their best to shut the beast down as quickly and sucessfully as possible.

So with these measures underway I can feel a little safer and more confident that I can continue my work here that I love and the kids can be protected as best as possible. I need to keep working for a while because we have zero savings and I cannot just suddenly leave much as I would like to. I have to get some money saved for plan B. Tomorrow's scheduled conference with Sir JB and updated information generated from that is going to be key in mapping out that plan B.

Below is a map of radiation levels in the air (not nuclides...) today.

Sendai's 100km north background radiation level is lower than 100km south of the plant. Background radiation levels are being monitored daily by nuclear science professors like this man. Today's reading of O.O73 microsieverts per hour is within the yellow/safe range.

Friday, 27 May 2011

May 27th

 Another week of work over. It's good to be working. I love my students so much. I love all my classes this year. Some great students, some I have taught before and that's special. I am almost officially broke, my first pay check wont arrive till next month so we are really being careful here till then.

I suppose it's good news that I haven't updated here for a while. I usually write when things are bad not good. There have been some new developments, some not so welcome and some better and hopeful.
TEPCO now claims reactor 1, 3 and 2 in that order did in fact meltdown almost completely right after the tsunami. That means that radioactive levels of fall out nuclides and radiation were far higher and worse than suspected or claimed for the 3 days following the twin disaster. If I lived in Fukushima I would be wanting more than a bow and an apology about that. People hung around their homes, walking in streets right near the plant for days before any kind of information pertaining safety was made available and then, when it finally came it was grossly underplayed. National shame.

Here in Sendai, I remember we spent much of those first days inside because it was so cold...lucky we's safer inside....but we did have to line up for hours for food in snow blizzards. Deadly snow blizzards. Possible radionuclide snow blizzards as it turns out..

Too late to do anything about that now. We did eat a lot of iodine saturated wakame..raw seaweed we happened to have lots is supposed to protect the thyroid somewhat as it is a natural source of stabilized iodine which protects you from the radioactive kind that was in the air for 5 days. I almost feel to leave now is sort of ridiculous. Too late. Except for the food situation of course -ongoing- and  which I suppose will also be revealed as worse than they say in months or more likely years to come.We are eating imported foods, dairy products from Hokkaido and Australian or Brazilian meat which is easy to come by. Nobody dares eat sea food, and fish generally is also probably risky for some time.

Waiting anxiously now for John Beddington's assessment on the 30th. A team of nuclear scientists from Europe, he included, arrived in Japan to report on the situation to date and uncover some truths. I 'll watch the conference live or record it at least. John Beddington was one of my brother's professors at Imperial College London. He has this ability to make really complex facts and stats very easy to understand and has a kind,calm manner.Looking forward to that.

One thing I have learned is not to fear the facts; armed with them you can make much better decisions.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

May 19th 2011.

To clarify farther on "dangers". Yes there are vastly different estimates and stats coming out from even top nuclear scientists. Just like anything deemed carcinogenic... it takes and will take generations of statistics to actually prove facts and even many flaws in those stats.

I am not particularly alarmed by background radiation at 100km from the plant as of today. It's within acceptable range here so far. Of course this may change any minute which is why we have to keep tabs of what is happening with leakage, steam, release and news at the plant every day.
What is worrying is that radioactive fall out particles have definitely entered the food chain. How I would love my own test kit to test vegetables and water myself but apparantly the kind of sophisticated equipment needed to test these kinds of toxins are incredibly expensive and also sold out in Japan ..the only way to access them is via nuclear science laboratories at the main Universities in the area. One such department did test spinach here and found radioactive levels of toxins to be higher than normal...this should really have resulted in a wide scale inspection but the Mayor of Sendai is refusing to test all food products..yes, an enormous task and an expensive one and.......... the results of which could totally destroy the economy within days. Meanwhile we are expected to believe the contamination will cause no damage to our health.

It is so much easier to believe what we are told by the govt. That there is nothing to fear right now. ..(they always stress 'right now' on TV which is ominous). Should we just sit back and try to repair as best we can in small ways and get on with our lives and work? It hurts to think of all the wonderful people here I know who are doing just that.And there are merits to it, it isn't that I feel critical of this approach. It is just that this approach should ideally be one taken after all sides are weighed and I don't think that is what is happening because of the covering up of key facts and info.

So buying food here has become a time consuming event. One woman I know is only buying food that was produced before March 11 and is spending almost all her free time online tracking products and researching such products to then order. I am personally trying to buy food and drinks from Hokkaido or Kyushu down south or far north, just because soil in these areas cannot yet have been affected.Where possible, of course it's impossible to do 100%. It's expensive not to buy local products. Imported products are sold out fast too. Who knows what is going into restaurant food, and take outs, or ready to eat convenience foods. The idea of going out to eat makes me feel nauseus these days.

I heard some cows from near Fukushima have been killed and the meat has been sold on the black market. I don't know if this is true. It may be rumor. Milk and dairy products from Fukushima were halted immediately which was a good move but wind carries rain some distance and rain falls on soil and cows and animals eat the grass grown on that soil and then their produce is sold.

Yes, things could be a lot worse here. Indeed they may still become so.There are those affected far worse than us and with fewer options. Can't forget that.

Meanwhile what I would give right now for a huge big fresh, safe, spinach and cabbage salad :p

Monday, 16 May 2011

May 17th 2011

Everything becomes clear, later. Just as a syllabus is never what we expect or plan. It unfolds into a map of its own -one we didn't originally design however hard we tried- it has taken on its own contours and even destination as we sidetrack or digress - as necessity and needs demand. It is only comprehensible when it is complete. In retrospect.

So it has been since the quake. What happened is so much clearer now. How the prime minister visited the nuclear plant the day after and that is why the steam was not released till later; how TEPCO "company loyalty" pledge demanded secrecy from the onset ; how outside help was rejected at first when it was so needed for fear of divulging certain trade secrets and more. Workers everywhere worked so hard, important roads rebuilt in days and weeks, everyone moving as one to support and encourage each other. Everyone that is except the people right at the top in charge, the ones who also move as a (separate) group. The group with gloves on, who do not get their hands dirty and who have the means to protect themselves from health hazards because they alone know the truth.We should have known of course. Nothing is what it seems at first.

Right now, it is not helpful for us as a family to focus on what went wrong and how things should have been. There are more immediate concerns.The nuclear chain reaction has begun. Low level cesium was found in tap water in Sendai. All products from the area that are grown in soil could also be and are almost certainly affected.People who are clued up and have money are buying imported foods only and drinking and cooking with only bottled water from far south or north or from nearby Asian countries.This is very expensive, and ruins of course one of the pleasures of life here..Japanese food.

It takes some years for these kind of low level poisons to affect a person. But cesium has a lifespan of 30 years, it makes you wonder what will happen to farming in Miyagi and how many people will begin to migrate from here.

Most people appear to be unaware. Or choosing to ignore. In the supermarkets Miyagi products have signs that read "Ganbare Sendai" which stuck right on the product like this translates as "Buy local".

While it may seem we are privileged as a family to have various escape hatch buttons that most residents here do not have, in fact it is extremely difficult to leave a place that we have lived so long. I did grad school here, had kids here...but more than that now I have X absolutely refusing to leave Sendai.

This makes planning anything so complicated. It continues to be a constant battle with decisions and choices and stress. The daily aftershocks are no longer scaring me as much as they were. The longterm future here is.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Feeling scared. So many lies and cover ups. As usual to do with money and greed. TEPCO are a bunch of liars and I feel very disappointed with the lack of truth. 3 workers have died at the plant now ...who knows how many more will sacrifice their lives. 100km is estimated to be danger zone by many top analysts in the nuclear industry and we are exactly there at 100km from the plant. Not evacuation zone, but danger zone at 66% risk of cancer in the next 10 years with sustained dosage if we stay that long. An olympic swimming pool size amount of radioactive water has leaked under reactor #1. Ground water spillage of nuclear contaminents could be and look to be the worst in atomic history. Greenpeace ship has been forbidden to take ocean water readings..well that says enough..

I am stuck in a rut. No money to get out, but a job that pays me exceptionally well here. Its all about money...for everyone..not health or sanity. Feeling very depressed today. If I was alone it would all be so easy but i have two kids with lives, friends, school and who dont speak much English- to think about. This has been their home all their lives, I have some tough decisions ahead. i don't know if I can stay here more than this year..I am feeling very weary of this stress.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Back to work.

A message (from admin) on my desk today read "Some students suddenly dropped out of school but their names may still be in your roll book". : ( 

I couldn't read the roll. I had students write their names on a piece of paper instead and later I will check them off on the official roll and see which names are missing. It's so sad.

But when I look at the rows of eager, smiling students' faces I know that these students need the normality of class and schedule and learning. That mourning and sadness has to be sectioned off and separated from school and the curriculum. That the normality of school is an important part of healing for us all. I love my students. I love their belief and trust in me. I want to do my best for them and be part of that healing.

School is getting busy. I think I am going to hand over the rest of the shelter fund Sendairect money to the volunteers I worked with and let them use it in the best way. I am sure this will be as the poll results dictate...and I will keep you all informed.