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Stepping Out of the Shadow of Maybe

Well, Miss Jiwaku and I are paying close attention to the news about Japan’s ongoing crisis in Fukushima, and the good news is that it seems to have stabilized. (The bad news is that it still doesn’t seem to be getting better, so the stability is probably precarious and it’s stable but at a very dangerous point.) It seems a little self-indulgent to worry too much, since compared to a lot of people in Japan we’re insanely lucky right now. But unlike some people around here, we’re both acutely aware that national borders, as fictions, do nothing to block the movement of radioactive materials, among other things.

At present, there’s relatively little to worry about in Korea: I don’t know if there are elevated levels of radiation (on Thursday the government said no, but Russia said yes, and who knows… but I haven’t seen more recent news in Korea). Nothing’s been announced, but it seems relatively unlikely we’re getting anything from the East, because in fact there was a warning issued for people to stay indoors (in Bucheon, at least) for a wholly different reason: today’s serving of Yellow Dust is set to be particularly bad. Now, the Yellow Dust comes out of the Gobi Desert, and it is truly nasty (the dust is saturated with particulate emissions from Chinese factories, Mongolian livestock feces, heavy metals, and other awful stuff) but the good news is that it comes from the West. A bad Yellow Dust day means the prevailing local winds are probably working for us, at least in theory.

(All that said, I don’t know enough about wind currents to know whether different pressure systems at different altitudes are going in opposite directions… though from what the US reports suggest, most of the stuff is heading east.)

Some of our plans (to head into Seoul and hit Bangsan market for some soap-making stuff for Miss Jiwaku, and maybe some baking/brewing related stuff for me) will probably have to wait till the dust nastiness passes–probably Monday morning. That’s okay, we’ll live. We are making preparations in case things get bad in a hurry, because frankly we know that the announcement, when it comes, will probably come long after it’s too late to be totally safe. (Thus it’s best to be prepared to leave where we are in a jiffy.)

But we’ve decided the best way to approach this is to simply prepare, and then not think about it too much. I’ve been thinking that I should prepare an emergency evac kit for a long time anyway, and finally I’m doing it. This particular kit isn’t the kind where you have 3 days of food and water, and stuff; it’s one that presumes we’ll be on a plane or boat. So it’s stuff like photographs, important documents… the stuff I would really, truly hate to lose and rarely actually need on hand anyway, but occasionally very much need.

And then, when we are prepared, we will check the news reports about the situation at Fukushima regularly, but not constantly. We will go about our days under the general assumption things will be okay–that is, I won’t stop brewing beer, she won’t put off starting to make soap, we won’t start making decisions based on the idea that a catastrophic meltdown is possible in the next few weeks.

In fact, I’m embroiled in an argument with the Housing Office about whether we will be moved to a bigger, vacant apartment down the hall, remain where we are, or whether they will, as they suggested a few days ago, attempt to force us to move to a tiny shoebox one-room in the basement. I’ll post more about this, but the uncertainty of whether we’ll be moving in a few weeks has had much more to do with decisions we’re trying to make right now–like whether to use the points I’ve accumulated with my credit cards to get a an air purifier, or a dishwasher, or something else–seems reasonable, since the situation should be cleared up in a week or two. After all, we don’t know where we’ll want the dishwasher installed, and it’d be a pain to have to pay for someone to move it a few weeks later.

But not brewing a batch of beer because a region-destabilizing, toxic nuclear meltdown might happen seems… it seems like living in the shadow of Maybe. And I don’t think it’s worth it to do that. One can keep one’s eye on Maybe without letting it dictate all one’s decisions.

Funnily enough, I’ve got enough to distract me at the moment: putting together an emergency carry-on kit set off a wave of cleaning-up, and I’ve sorted through several boxes of stuff–papers that I no longer want or need, old maps and stuff from trips–and in effect we are now in the middle of spring cleaning. We won’t spend all of Saturday on that–we’re still going out for a movie as planned, and maybe food, and maybe meet up with some friends if they don’t decide to stay home because of the Yellow Dust warning–but we will spend some of it continuing the cleanup. I’m also going to rack some mead into a keg, and start off that cyser I planned to make on my birthday.

Making a mead (which is what cyser is–a honey wine with apple juice added to it during fermentation) presumes that things will be stable for a year at least. That assumption might be wrong, but it comforts me to adopt the assumption until there’s a clear reason to act otherwise. If my shipment of brewing stuff had arrived already, I’d probably be brewing a double-batch of lambic today instead, or a Flanders Red–beers that take a few years to come into their own, or at least eighteen months. The long, chill shadow of Maybe hangs over Northeast Asia for the present–most direly in Japan, but also over the whole region, but–as long as we are all away that things could go very bad, and are ready for it–I feel like stepping out of the shadow of Maybe is a good thing to do.

Yesterday, I made my first batch of homemade butter. That’s stepping out of the shadow of maybe too. I should go get some pork out of the fridge… when we were cleaning out our freezer, I found a huge thing of pork fat and I’m thinking about making my first confit ever this weekend. That’s stepping out of the shadow of maybe, as well. And then some more cleaning, and then out we go, at least for food and a movie.

Yes, yes, Maybe. We know You’re there. When You have something to say, we’ll sit down and listen. Or run. Or whatever. But for now, knowing your there is not going to scare us. We’ve seen your kind before.

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