Backpacks for Japan Update

I have spent the afternoon sorting donations, and I am pleased to report that we will be sending at least 50 backpacks to Japan next week. Amazing!

Have you put together a backpack to send? There is still time!

Operation Backpacks for Japan

I haven't written anything about Japan, a country where I have spent many happy weeks and where I have many friends. I've watched the news coverage of the disaster (is that word even big enough for what continues to happen?), and I remind myself of what Fred Rogers, Mr. Rogers to so many of us, once wrote:
When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of "disaster," I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.
But Japan is so far away. How can we be helpers? Here's how!

Operation Backpacks for Japan
The Girl Scouts at Camp Zama in Japan are collecting "comfort backpacks"to distribute to displaced children across the country, and YOU can help!

There are three ways to help:

Send a Backpack: buy a child's backpack. Fill it with a few goodies from the list below. Stick it in a box with a note of love and support (use simple English), and mail it to: 

USA Girl Scouts - Zama
Att: April Snyder
GDS Box 62
APO AP 96337-9998

Donate Money: the church I attend is doing a giant shipment of backpacks in the next few weeks. If you would like to contribute money instead to help with the cost of materials or shipping, you can put a check in the mail to:
St. John's Lutheran Church | Att: Angela Nickerson | 1701 L Street | Sacramento, CA 95811

Write "Japan Backpacks" in the memo line. You can also contribute online -- just note that your funds are for "Japan Backpacks." We will be sure to send you a receipt, and 100% of your donation will go toward this project.
In the Sacramento area? You can drop off donations at the church, too. Check out the list below of suggested items to be included in the backpacks.

Start a Backpack Drive Yourself: the Girl Scouts at Camp Zama have all of the information you need on their website.

Get your kids involved! Get your office involved! And if you're getting involved, leave a comment below and let us know!

Here's the list of suggested items to include in the backpacks you send:
  • children’s backpacks 
  • paper, pens, crayons 
  • flashlights w/ batteries 
  • small stuffed animals 
  • playing cards 
  • hats 
  • small packs of tissue 
  • non-perishable snacks 
  • games, jump ropes 
  • hats 
  • small blankets 
  • hairbrushes/ combs 
  • toothpaste/ toothbrush 
  • lotion 
  • chapstick 
  • sanitary items / toilet paper
Thanks for being a helper!  

    Jet Lag Week: What's Your Best Jet Lag Story?

    It’s Jet Lag Week!  Jet Lag can really leave you feeling fuzzy-headed and can lead to some interesting stories. 

    On my second trip to Japan, I flew from San Francisco to Tokyo on a non-stop flight.  I hadn’t slept well the night before leaving, and I don’t sleep on planes, so when I arrived at Narita Airport, I was shredded.  I was staying at a hotel in Tokyo that only accepted cash payment, so once I collected my bags, I headed for the ATM. 

    I put my card in, put in my PIN, and selected an amount.  “Insufficient funds,” the ATM said.  This happens sometimes when traveling.  And I didn’t freak out.  I just tried again.  “Insufficient funds.” 

    “Perhaps it is just this bank,” I thought, and headed out to find another ATM.  That one, too, said I didn’t have enough money in my bank account.  Now, I knew this wasn’t true.  I had checked before I left.  And, in my groggy state, I started to panic.  I found yet another ATM machine, but had the same result.

    I started to cry.  I had visions of sleeping on the bench at the airport waiting for wired money to arrive or making my way to a park to curl up under a tree when airport security kicked me out... I would soon be the new face of Japanese homelessness, a traveler alone with no money and no place to go for three whole weeks or until the airline would honor my return ticket. 

    Meanwhile, a queue of Japanese businessmen formed behind me as I wept over the ATM machine.  Finally, one of them tapped me on the shoulder and indicated that I should move to the side.  Weeping, I crawled over to a pay phone and dialed my husband. 

    “Sweetie, there’s something wrong with our bank account,” I sobbed.  He could hardly understand me.  But he got up (it was the middle of the night for him) and checked our account balance online. 

    “We are fine,” he said.  “How much money are you trying to get?”

    Now, I must interject here.  At the time, the exchange rate was approximately $1 per ¥100. 

    “I need $300 of Yen,” I said. 

    “Well, that’s ¥30,000,” my husband said.  “Are you sure you are using the right number of zeros?” 

    “¥30,000?” I said, sniffling.  “¥30,000? Are you sure it isn’t 3 million Yen?”

    “Well, only if you are trying to buy a car!” my poor, sainted husband gasped.

    Yes, in my sleep-deprived, jet-lagged brain, I had done the math and was very, very wrong.  I hung up, walked back to the ATM, and withdrew exactly the right number of Yen without incident.  I found my hotel.  Slept like a baby.  And woke up having regained my ability to do simple mathematical arithmetic. 

    So, what’s your best jet lag story?