On Saturday morning, we biked over to the university to use the Internet to Skype (Voice Over Internet Protocol program) with Atens. With our laptop in hand, we were able to have a video call with Tim, Diana, Amaya, Ali, Murat, Connie, and Ron, who were staying at our grandparents' house while they were visiting the Kents. Grandpa's health is not doing well, so Ali and Murat had flown in from Minneapolis. Joan and I, as well as many other family members, are worried about Grandpa. We are so far from home if something happens...
By late midmorning, we were starving, so we rode to a nearby grocery store and bought some yummy baked goods and a drink. Joan got a type of pastry that was filled with a sweet, spicy curry-like mixture, and I got something like a hot dog, but instead of a sausage, it was a piece of breaded chicken with a tangy mayonnaise sauce – oh my goodness, were they tasty! We washed it down with a bottle multifruit/vegetable juice, a kind of V-8?
Joan went back to the university to visit up some email and blogging, and I headed home. I decided to stop by the fire station, which is just down the street from our apartment, and check it out. The morning before, the siren had gone off, and we heard the trucks pull away with their sirens blaring. Soon, we heard more and more sirens, enough that it made us look out the window and say to ourselves, “Ummm... I wonder what kind of signal they use for an earthquake or tsunami?”
When I opened the door and walked in, the five or so men around the table looked up at me, and the looked at each other. After a long pause, they looked at one of the younger guys, who then got up and nervously. In my broken Japanese, I told them that I was an American and that I lived just down the street from the station. When I told them that I had been a firefighter in the states, as well as an EMT for an ambulance company, they visibly relaxed. I had a nice conversation with two of the younger firefighters, and with the help of a dictionary, I was able to learn a few details.
The station is a branch facility of the main station over near Kochijoji, about 20 minutes away by bike. They have two smaller fire engines, and a staff of nine firefighters. They work 24-hour shifts, one day on, two days off. They respond to fires, car accidents, and medical emergencies. The ambulances come out of the hospitals and meet the fire engines. I also learned that all the sirens the morning before had been for a small fire that broke out in a house nearby, between us and the station. It was a nice visit, but the language barrier definitely was a problem. I hope to stop by some other time and perhaps get a tour of the station and the trucks.
That afternoon, we went on a bike ride with Russell, our neighbor, to Inokashira Park, a popular place for cherry blossom viewing. The Japanese have “park culture,” where, when the weather is good, people flock to the parks to walk about, view nature, and be outside in general. The weather was quite good, and the park was packed. The cherry blossoms aren't quite out yet, and Russell said that when they were, the park would be elbow to elbow with people and picnickers.
The park is right next to Kichijoji, which is the social/cultural hub of Musashino City, with lots of restaurants and stores. It had that high-energy feel and crowded sidewalks that we expected of Tokyo. Our area of Musashino is called Sakai and is quite quiet and peaceful in comparison. We walked around and dodged crowds, as Russell took us on a tour of the most popular stores and sights, at least for the VFMs. It was all quite overwhelming, and we were glad to get back to our quiet neighborhood...
That night we didn't want to fall asleep, so we decided to watch a movie to keep us awake. We borrowed some DVDs from Steve and decided to watch the first few episodes of Rome, a historical drama based on Caesar and the Roman empire, created by HBO. I t was quite good and kept us up, but in the morning, after some discussion, we realized that we really didn't want to have a TV in the apartment after 13 years of not having one. So, out it went and into the storage room downstairs. Also, we got a really nice, but quite large, futon from our neighbor, and it really filled up our living room. However, it is super comfy and really makes the living room a nice place to be. In fact, Joan is curled up on it right now with a blanket and a book. WE NEED A CAT!