At the edge of the horizon

At the edge of the horizon
At the edge of Japan

Saturday, September 18, 2010

In the Eye of the Storm

Since it has taken me forever to get my act together about this blog, I am utilizing the typhoon as a way to make valuable use of this tropical experience that has sequestered me to my apartment.

Typhoon Fanapi is currently throwing all it has at us and it is stronger than I thought it would be.   So with the winds hurtling objects and the people from Ishigaki still cruising through town (though admittedly there are less cars on the roads now that the eye of the storm is approaching and the winds have picked up to 120mph gusts), I wanted to document what it is like to experience a typhoon.

Since most of those from Florida have experienced hurricanes -- they're the same thing -- I thought I would not be that impressed after all this is merely a category 3, and barely that.  But for me, it's the first storm that has hit directly in a place I lived that is so close to the ocean.  I live a quick 10 minute walk to the port, so the idea of lots of water flooding this island has been on my mind.  I do not have shutters on my sliding glass door or windows, but I am also up on the 4th floor (so flooding will not happen) and they say the glass is reinforced for storms like this.

But let's back up to when I found out about the typhoon.  I was on Iriomote (that's a view from the port of Shirahama, a tiny village on the western side of the Iriomote island), the most beautiful island I've been to as of yet, visiting two of my schools on an overnight stay.

The teachers mentioned that a typhoon had formed and was picking up speed, heading towards the Yaeyama region. They said they would have to leave Iriomote as there was no way to get food if they were stuck on the island.  The last major typhoon that hit this region tore these islands up and left parts of it without electricity or water for weeks.  So I was happy to know that I'd be back on my island before the storm prevented me from returning. Yesterday, everyone at my office where I am based started to gather things away from the windows and placed newspaper to seal the windows (and this is on the fifth floor of a building).  I headed to the supermarket to pick up at least a weeks worth of water and food, where I had to deal with a bad, albeit humorous, experience involving a shopgirl/teller who misunderstood me when I said I wanted to purchase a bag because I'd left my bags at home (and then only allowed me to buy one bag, even though I had about 5000 yen worth of food).  Just imagine how much food I tried to put into one tiny plastic bag and you'll laugh, especially since most of the stuff was heavy -- bottles of water, cans, etc.   I was exhausted and sort of down anyways, so I did not have the energy to say anything (that coupled with my limited Japanese prevented me from doing anything about it), so I just accepted that I would have to squeeze about a week's worth of groceries into one bag and hope that it would not break.

When I got home, I watched the most beautiful sunset I've yet seen (the photo above isn't even close to being representative of the colors I saw) and noticed the clouds moving in an odd, counter-clockwise direction away from the island.  By the evening, the outer strands of the first bands were starting to pass over us.  This morning though, even though the first outer bands were headed our way, I and several friends went out to a hotel for brunch as a treat.  By the time we came home, the first signs of the real storm were here.

By 6pm this evening, the winds had started to pick up and right now my building is shaking every time the wind hurtles down the street that my apartment sits on.  These winds are no joke and I am really starting to worry as this is a very large storm.  You can check the progress of it here. The hallway outside of my front door is currently a wind tunnel that has almost twice the speeds of the winds blowing through it, so I'm just going to try to sit back and not worry too much.  If I were braver (or actually more wreckless) I'd be out in the streets walking or driving around like some of the people are doing.  Instead, I'll stay inside and catch up on this blog.

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