Onwards! (to Japan… and beyond)

It’s funny how sometimes life just happens to you… But let me back up.

I was down in Coalinga CA for 4 days of shooting last week, including at the State Service Rifle Championships (in case you’re wondering, I shot a new personal best on day 2, won 3 minor awards, then got my ass thoroughly kicked by placing dead last on the 4th day). On the long drive up and down, and in the days since returning to Serenity Valley again, I’ve been thinking about what I want to do next.

As I mentioned in the previous post, this is Year 3. I’m burning through my backup backup funds now, and when that’s gone, play time will be over, and I’ll have to head back to work (probably in a cubicle, as a code monkey). So, this is a make or break year for me. Not that going back to work would be horrible, but to a large extent, this is the year in which I figure out how to stay on the path less traveled, or admit defeat and join the traffic jam over on the well traveled superhighway.

So, after much contemplation and deliberation, I hatched a plan. I decided that this summer, I’ll try to enroll in an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) class at a community college in Chico. Chico’s 3 hours from Serenity Valley, and classes are Mondays through Thursdays, so I’ll be able to come up on weekends to tend to my garden and such. If I could get an EMT certificate, that would at least give me another marketable skill, and it might help me avoid the cubicle farm later on.

Of course, as they say, plans are there to fall apart.

Earlier this afternoon, an email I’d been waiting for –but had half given up on– finally arrived. It was from All Hands, the volunteer disaster relief organization I’d been hoping to join. The email had been sent to a small subset of registered volunteers, as they are (in their words) trying “to quickly assemble a core volunteer team with depth and variety of skills to help us get started in the first few weeks” in the earthquake and tsunami disaster area in North-eastern Japan. They describe the work ahead thusly:

Our programs are still in development; flexibility will be key. Days may be long, stop and start, with inevitable pauses and frustrations. We hope to work alongside many local residents and volunteers. Our communal living arrangements could range from something as simple as tent camping with portable toilets to our more typical dormitory style accommodations. We need volunteers who can help to build up our base infrastructure, so that others can join us and we can multiply our work and our impact. We continue to experience aftershocks and tsunami warnings.

Flexibility, primitive living conditions, setup infrastructure… in a dangerous environment? And where I speak the language? That’s got my name written all over it!

But… my plan! My shiny new plan! I contemplated my options for what felt like minutes, but was probably more like 10 seconds. Sometimes, opportunities fall in your lap. You can take it, or it leaves you. I decided to take it. They said participation depended on another questionnaire and that responding sooner would be more likely to guarantee a spot on the team. My response was sent 18 minutes after the first email hit my inbox.

Then, I had to wait.

I was so excited I couldn’t sit still, so I went for a walk in the woods (by which I mean, I stepped outside and walked around).

By the time I got back, there was another email waiting for me, saying they were excited to have me in Japan as soon as possible. As soon as possible! Yikes!

Right now, I’m trying to leave open the option of continuing with my Plan. One thing I need to do before leaving for Japan is to take a Healthcare Provider level CPR class, which is a prerequisite for the EMT class I’m hoping to take. Just in case I don’t have time to take it between when I get back from Japan and when classes start, I’m going to try and take it before I leave (and besides, that’s probably a valuable skill to have, heading into a disaster zone).

Next, I need to book a flight (which shouldn’t be a problem since nobody else is going to Japan right now), and pack. I’m waiting to get more information about conditions on the ground, but this packing list should be interesting. From what I understand, power and water is still out in the worst hit parts (i.e. where we’re going), and as the first project members on the ground, we’ll probably be expected to work largely autonomously. I’ll need to prepare for all kinds of work, from programming (they might need custom software/databases) to rubble removal, to construction, to… who knows.

Anyway, I’m super excited, and all geared up to go kick some ass… at helping people, or whatever it is I’ll end up doing.

18 thoughts on “Onwards! (to Japan… and beyond)

  1. This is awesome news, sir! I hope you can post once in awhile from Japan. And yes, I’ll bet they can use your skills. You should have many opportunities there to make something viable out of nothing.

    And as for the EMT training . . . well instead of training, for now you just get to DO it.

    My best to you and the Japanese people.

  2. I’ve been following along for a long time. Thanks Ryo for heading to Japan to help out! Have a rewarding experience, kick some disaster ass and build some new connections and skills!

  3. Hi Ryo,

    Let me help with your EMT goals in my own way. I have some old software that was meant as a review guide for an EMT course prior to taking the NRMET Exam…I’d like to send it to you…still in 1.44 floppies (2). Give me a P.O.Box by pm and I’ll post right away…should be there in just a few days from Los Angeles…can mail Sat 4/9…

    All the best,

    mike…in Los Angeles

    P.S. need a spell check feature on this please

  4. Godspeed Ryo! I don’t know what religion you believe in if any. I do believe that with what you plan on doing, and that’s helping people in any capacity; there is a special place in Heaven for you.:)

  5. Yes! Go kick some rubble “ass” 🙂 Be a hero for real people! The world needs lots of people just like you.

    Be super safe, and best wishes for a productive and enriching time over there for you!

    What life gives us, is exactly what we need at the time, our “plans” could never match up.

  6. If you decide to continue on with the EMT plan when you return, Shasta College in Redding is also an option. It takes one semester to complete the program and typically meets Friday afternoons and one Saturday (all day) per month. CPR Pro classes are also available at the Redding Red Cross — typically all-day on Saturdays.

    I’ve taken both classes and can recommend the teaching staff and volunteer assistants as excellent! Good skills to have, but be warned that actual EMT paying jobs are few and far between in our area.

    I do remote consulting, so I know from personal experience that it is possible to live up here and keep plying your high tech trade!

  7. Congratulations! This is clearly the right thing for you to be doing at this time. Don’t look back. And I hope you will keep us, your blog readers, posted about your life, work, and the situation in Japan. All the best to you!

  8. God speed to you! I love your courage.

    Recommend you take a GOOD water filter with you and don’t drink anything thing that isn’t bottled or run thru your own filter. You might want to take some metal eating utinsels with you also.

  9. Wow! What an incredible experience and you do sound like you’re the perfect fit to help. I second taking a good water filter with you.

    My very best to you! And, take care of yourself.

  10. Good luck. Understanding that power is most likely going to be out where you are going, I’d just humbly ask that you journal your experience and share it if possible when you return or get internet access. Having rebuilt homes in Biloxi a few years after Katrina I can attest that it will be life-changing and heart breaking and fulfilling beyond your imagination. Stay strong when the going gets tough, knowing that you are making an impact in peoples lives that they will remember forever, and will be eternally grateful for.

  11. drop us a post once in a while.
    let us know how you’re doing.
    I have been an avid follower of your blog!
    I linked you, hope you would like mine well enough to link!

    all the best
    john

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