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Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis 2011




Earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis hits Japan
On the 11th March, 2011, an immense earthquake off the coast of northern Japan precipitated a large scale crisis, not only in terms of the ensuing tsunami, but also due to the events which unfolded over the following days in relation to a related nuclear fallout crisis at a series of nuclear plants at Fukushima, north of Tokyo. This third element of the crisis clearly had national, regional and international implications, entailing a rethink of the use of nuclear power around the world.  In a report of this length, I can only hope to examine a few of the relevant factors and issues. My focus will be on the nuclear fallout issues, and a particularly ‘Japanese’ or Asian attitude towards these, rather than the impact of the actual tsunami.  The debate about nuclear energy continues to rage in relation to a much heralded and already emerging world crisis of energy. The economic implications of NOT using nuclear energy are immense, not least for Japan, which post 2011, has suffered con-currently from economic recession and malaise. Recently, Japan has again opened one of its fifty nuclear reactors (In Ohi, 1st July, 2012).
Nuclear energy has always been controversial and it is, therefore, hard to find a view which is not either strongly for or strongly against the use of this energy source.  In Japan, too, the only country in the world where nuclear bombs have been used, this kind of disaster has extreme connotations. The public has rallied strongly against nuclear power use since March 2011. 
Soon after the disaster, Takashi Hirose wrote a best seller in Japan, entitled “Fukushima Meltdown” (2011). Hirose is stridently anti-nuclear power, but in a country which also experienced the devastating nuclear ravages of war, in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it is not surprising that voices such as his have been well regarded.  原発震災Genpatsu shinsai, (literally nuclear power plant earthquake disaster) is a word which a professor at Kobe University has used since the 1970s and Hirose has seized on this to describe what had occurred in Japan in 2011. Hirose is particularly pessimistic about nuclear energy, as can be seen from the following sample short section of his writings: 
‘If you ask, “Will Japan still be here in ten years?”, I have the evil foreboding that he answer might be, “There is a very strong chance that it will not”….In the future there awaits an unknowable, vast dark age.  I don’t want to contemplate its form, but it is the fear of a genpatsu shinsai syndrome brought about by movements of the earth that no human knowledge can control.
Today this evil foreboding has become a reality and is getting worse day by day…’ (Hirose, 2012, 15).
Despite the reach of voices such as Hirose’s, it seems that nuclear fallout will not prevent Japan from again using nuclear power.
The World Energy Council in March 2012 put out a report in regards to nuclear energy (Holloway, 2012).  This report said that a number of Western powers have ceased their nuclear power development, but countries such as China and India are continuing to develop their facilities, though perhaps taking more care. 
Unsurprisingly, plants were closed quickly after the disaster for cautionary reasons across China, Korea and Europe.  One hundred and forty three nuclear plants are to be found in Europe, and it is not surprising that the news from Japan has had an immediate impact on nuclear development here.[i] As is widely known, Germany quickly decided to shut down its oldest reactors over a three month period, and to phase out all nuclear power by 2022.  Germany itself has changed direction significantly, in this sense, with this disaster seen to represent the dangers of reliance on nuclear energy. At the same time, as I will note, other countries have not synonymously followed.
Prior to Fukushima, Japan was the third-largest provider of nuclear energy in the world, with a plan to increase to 53% of the world’s nuclear energy by 2030.  This no longer appears to be the case, with a retraction in Japan from development. As already noted, Europe has also reduced development slightly.  However, China and India look to continue future significant expansion in nuclear power development.  These two nations will continue to add 197 and 64 reactors respectively (Holloway, 2012).  Also, previous French president, President Sarkozy of France on 27th June, 2011, announced a 1.43 billion dollar investment of nuclear power, saying, “there is no alternative to nuclear energy today” (‘Fukushima fallout…’, 2011). 

Figure 2 Energy Production, Kuo, 2011.

At the centre of the Japanese incident was an economic imperative to provide an energy source, as gas and coal fired energy sources dwindle (figure 2, Energy production).  At the same time, risk management, which is a big industry in itself, did not provide a successful management strategy for a disaster such as the tsunami unleashed in March, 2011.  To what extent was this the fault of the company, or the fault of government, for not regulating appropriately?  Is this something which could only be expected to happen in Japan, or is it a potentiality in other places or in other Asian countries? An apposite question here is how groups involved can ensure that the economics and the safety features of energy production such as nuclear power plants are not mutually exclusive.  Firstly then, it is worth considering the interest groups particularly close to this issue, and then to take a look at the evolution of events on the 11th March, 2011, especially in relation to Fukushima.
Representing the pro-nuclear power side of interest groups regarding this issue was the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), who managed the power plant.  Tellingly, TEPCO, on the 28th February, prior to the disaster, submitted a report admitting falsified inspection and repair reports including 30 components of the nuclear plants (Kuo, 2011).  Other interest groups included the Japanese government and the media, who had an interest in public safety and education. Economic concerns were also most probably also dominant in the government’s attempts to control the development of this issue. In a world where nuclear power is controversial, media interest was, however to prove to be significant to the development of this issue.


Media reaction
Hirose argued that the first piece of spin from TEPCO, the media and the government was the argument that the ongoing effects of nuclear fallout were unable to be predicted.  More concise and scientific discussion may certainly have assisted in allaying the public’s fears.  Also, Hirose (2012) believes that the media in conjunction with TEPCO, misled the public.  For example, they overplayed, he says, how unnatural an event the tsunami itself was.  He notes that although TEPCO argued that the tsunami of 2011 was of ‘unimaginable height’, at 38.9 metres at highest point, measured on Omoe Peninsula, Iwate prefecture, in fact, in 1896, a tsunami was observed in the same prefecture with a height of 38.2m.  After the 1933 Showa Sanriku Earthquake, a height of 24.4m was measured and in 1993, a tsunami of more than 30m hit the Okushiri Island (Hirose, 2012, 30).  Whilst the earthquake itself may have been an extremely rare event, considering its magnitude, the size of the waves was not unprecedented, or unimaginable. 
At the same time, unsurprisingly, the media played up the nuclear aspect of the disaster.  Adam Burgess (2011) noted that the story of the tsunami became a lesser story to that of the radiation from Fukushima, when he argued that in fact there were very few casualties of the nuclear radiation.  In particular, in Japan, with the strong memories of the nuclear fallout following Hiroshima and Nagasaki, any nuclear catastrophe is sure to be feared greatly by the people.  It is true, as well, that the international media made this a major focus of their reporting of the events in Japan.
The Unfolding of Events
The magnitude of the initial earthquake, which was centred about 130 km out to the Pacific Ocean, east of the city of Sendai, was 9.0 on the Richter scale.  This would make it the fifth earthquake since 1900 of magnitude 9.0 or higher (USGS, Earthquake Hazards Program).  Figure 1 from NASA shows a pre and post-tsunami image, graphically illustrating the reach of the tsunami, on the coastline of northern Japan, from Fukushima to northern Sendai. In this region, there was inundation of over four kilometres inland of sea waters.  The waves which hit coastal settlements along the Japanese coast wielded significant damage and there will clearly be a long period of rebuilding necessary for those affected.  The death toll was also high. 





The initial unfolding of events on March 11th, 2011, was highly unpredictable.  The earthquake released a tsunami which inflicted heavy damage on coastal communities north of Tokyo, in particular to the three prefectures of Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate.  On Friday afternoon, the world watched television images showing waves roaring inland in Japan and pushing aside heavy objects such as trucks as if they were toys (Fackler, 2011).  The Japanese news media in the early days reported that the death toll could rise to be more than 1300 people.  There was no electricity and no water for many people in shelters.   Business reports of the impacts quickly estimated that 86418 businesses and 311934 employees had been impacted and 209 billion dollars’ worth of sales volume lost, across 715 industries (D&B, 2011 Impact Report).  It is the ensuing nuclear fallout that I will now examine.  It was thought by some commentators that even the megalopolis itself, Tokyo, might be forced to evacuate to escape such nuclear fallout.

Meltdown and social networking
Late on March 11, the news of a potential partial nuclear meltdown of a nuclear plant in Fukushima began to come through.  In association with the three prongs of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown, in the hours after the earthquake, 177 million tweets were sent, and 572000 new Twitter accounts were created (Tucker, 2011).  In the end, three reactors experienced complete meltdown and several hydrogen explosions occurred in the subsequent days (Gioetta Kuo, 2011).  It is possible that the social networking reaction is a particularly Japanese response.  It is also likely to be true that this is a particularly twenty first century response to this kind of event.  Rather than relying on news reports, and in a cynical attitude to the typical media forms, people used social networking such as ‘Twitter’, to keep themselves informed of developments.  At the same time, of course, social networking itself may function in a reactionary way, responding to rumours and innuendo.  Pragmatic use of social networking, though, enables networks of acquaintances, friends and colleagues to respond to urgent issues, quickly and effectively.  In the case of nuclear fallout, these networks were able to provide a lot more information than other media, which is what people desired. 
So what of the government response?  The Kan administration, represented by Chief cabinet secretary, Yukio Edano, was initially a frequent spokesperson for the government, but the government was itself reliant on the operator, TEPCO, or Tokyo Electric Power.  At the same time, TEPCO is more recently reporting that the government handled things badly and did not make good decisions at the time. 
In response to the crisis at the time, the Japanese government constantly revised guidelines regarding the nuclear fallout. As a result, a crisis of lacking public confidence became evident (and possibly drove more people to seek information from other sources, such as social networking). Tucker (2011) argues that to the government failed to predict some of the potential consequences of the disaster, such as the possibility of increasing radiation levels in local milk, vegetables and seawater and that Tokyo’s drinking water would also see a ‘radiation spike’.
When these things were reported by the media, without any prediction from TEPCO or the government, there was a resulting panic and concern.  The Japanese government then moved to expand the evacuation area around the nuclear plant from 10 to 20 kilometres.  Further implications of this uncertainty included the mass migration of expatriates out of Japan, and within Japan, as well as a huge fall in tourism for Japan.  Many expatriate foreigners quickly removed themselves from Tokyo, to either a city further away, such as Osaka or even returning home overseas.  The French government, ironically (in its support of nuclear energy power), promptly advised its citizens to leave Tokyo.  At the same time, Japanese businesses suffered enormous blows, based upon the loss of business and of course the impacts of the tsunami’s physical devastation.

The likelihood of future radiation events
The nuclear radiation issue has been continuously monitored since the meltdown event. Like nuclear irradiation experienced in Chernobyl, the impact will continue to be monitored and it is likely to become clearer over the next 30 to 50 years. As for this accident, TEPCO is currently claiming that it was government ineptitude, rather than the company’s stance which caused considerable public confusion following the disaster (Hiroko Tabuchi, June, 2012).  Currently too, as the government aims to reopen the first two reactors following the disaster, in Oi, some experts have called for a re-examination of the safety level of the plant, considering a fault line which lies beneath it.
Conclusions
In a world where nuclear power continues to be a reality, especially with its perceived efficiency, there is a need for checks to be held between the dangers of fallout and the economic advantages.  However, the very ‘Japanese’ or ‘Asian’ response to the crisis of nuclear fallout in Japan included a lack of confidence in government assurances.  The media was also mistrusted by the Japanese public and that was reflected in this case by the greater dependence of the public on twitter and other social media.  Nuclear radiation continues to be a much misunderstood topic, and there is a need for a greater level of dialogue between both sides, nuclear proponents and anti-nuclear campaigners, for the sake of public safety.  Whilst the nuclear industry has for many years argued for the safety of plants around the world, this incident belies that claim.  It has caused the industry around the world to take breath and to re-evaluate. 

Nevertheless, the economic imperative, with ongoing greenhouse implications of changing climate, also continues to impact this issue.  There are, of course, conservationists who believe that nuclear energy has a great future.  Nuclear energy continues to be seen as a cheap alternative to carbon rich energies.  It is to be hoped that this incident would ensure that future development is appropriate and is not “Simpson-esque”, remembering the Springfield nuclear power plant in “The Simpsons” cartoon, which was mis-managed and accident prone. The memories of those in Japan will certainly limit the developments allowed by its government, whilst China and Korea and other Asian countries will likely continue down the nuclear energy track. At the same time, Australia continues to hold the line that any nuclear power is only used for scientific research, whilst selling uranium on a large scale to Asia. It is without doubt that the economic considerations must not overplay the importance of environmental and social impacts for the future.




















REFERENCES
            Dun & Bradstreet, (April 5, 2011) Impact Report of Japan Earthquake and Tsunami: Preliminary Business Impact Analysis for High Impact Areas of Japan, D&B.

            Burgess, Adam, (2011), ‘Fukushima Fixation: The Media Focus on Radiation Risk in Tsunami-stricken Japan’, European Journal of Risk Regulation; 2011, Vol. 2 Issue 2, p209-212, 4p, University of Kent, Canterbury.

            Fackler, Martin, (12th March, 2011) ‘Japan Tsunami: Toll could rise to more than 1,300’, New York, The New York Times.

            ‘Fukushima Fallout fails to dim nuclear’s long-term prospects’, (2011), Power Engineering International 19 (8), 72-72, 74, 76. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com


            Hirose, Takashi, (May, 2011), translated by Douglas Lummis, Fukushima Meltdown, Asahi Shinbun Publications, Tokyo: #298.
           
Holloway, James, (March 14th, 2012), “Despite Fukushima disaster, global nuclear power expansion continues”, accessed, June 12th, 2012, arstechnica.com, Scientific Method/Science and Exploration.

            Kuo, Gioetta (2011), ‘Nuclear Energy after Fukushima’, World Future Review; Winter2011, Vol. 3 Issue 4, p35-37, 3p.

            Tabuchi, Hiroko (June 20th, 2012), ‘Nuclear Operator in Japan exonerates itself after report’, New York Times, retrieved, 2nd July, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/21/world/asia/tepco-operator-of-fukushima-exonerates-itself-in-report.html?_r=2

Tucker, P. (2011).  ‘My first meltdown: Lessons from Fukushima’, The Futurist, 45 (4), 14-16., retrieved from http://search.proquest.com

USGS, Earthquake Hazards Program, accessed, 2nd July, 2012, http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/.









Friday, January 27, 2012

Friday, January 20, 2012

A discussion of the transcendent vs immanent in a foreign context. (and a little on Rome)




This discussion (in a book I'm reading by Macrina W)  seemed appropriate as we moved between Rome and London.  (flying over snow capped French alps)

We are still not home, but how much of a difference will it make to know the language?  Our holiday has mostly been spent learning basics in one language or another, Dutch, French, Italian, endearing us with a sense of the transcendent.  (ie  how much are we missing here?)  Any ability to maintain openness to learning, a sense of wonderment and new eyes enables us to reflect on this transcendence which will change us in our imminent return to routine and homely immanence.  There was of course, more homeliness whilst we were with relatives, transcending! the space between 'us' and 'them'.  Living and eating with our family in Europe (celebrating Christmas and birthdays) was a privilege.  As a result, the Netherlands have been our home base in Europe.  

On the other hand, Rome was the most 'transcendent' in this sense, of the places we visited up to now.  We ran into demonstrations twice (EU and taxi drivers!), hundreds of police in various uniforms, cordoned off piazzas, Sunday morning families heading for 'football', nuns, priests, the homeless and unmarked ruins from the first century. We visited a trash and treasure market which was more immanent, in Ls words, "...without the treasure", ate very immanent pizza/pasta and drank Lavazza at the bar (they should make cafe bars such as these in Melbourne, especially to halve the price of the coffee!). We gained also a sense of history here, transcending centuries, as we inadvertently hiked around the Vatican in an hour (having been sent on a wild goose chase to st Peter's), finally making an adventurous crammed up narrow passageway through the dome of the basilica itself to the top.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Rome to London

We've made it to London last night where it's very cold and wet! We've put away our Euros and taken out Pounds instead (we've been very fortunate with our conversions).
And we are getting used to traffic being back on the left!

We had fine sunny days in Rome to explore ruins, museums and climb towers.
Someone had told me to climb St Peter's Basilica to see across Rome. It wasn't until we were climbing inside curved walls just before closing that I realised that this meant to the top of Michelangelo's dome. And climbing stairs between the inside and external domes! The discomfort (climbing inside frightening confined spaces with a very sore throat) was worth it in the end with us arriving just at sunset. Gw loved it (it wasn't in any guide books) and wanted to know who had suggested it (I think it was Anita). L and G went ahead then lost us and ended up doing the climb twice!!
One local told us Rome is a good place to visit but not to live. We loved the coffee, pizza (yes gluten free too), shopping and historic streets to get lost in. But it is good to be back where we are understood now without the street protests blocking our pathways and crazy traffic!

The last few days have been a bit of a blur I'm dosed up on a mix of Italian and English cold and flu concoctions. If the sore throat hasn't gone today then I'll try make it to a doctor tomorrow. I might just go out for half a day today and leave the others to the London Tower. The guards hotel where we are staying is comfortable though next time we won't try to cross Hyde park with all our luggage just to avoid the tube (maybe 3km).

The children in the UK are back at school so queues are unremarkable. We might stop at Marylebone High street's Daunt books for some respite before the rain clears at lunchtime.
Tomorrow we head out to Northampton to spend the weekend with friends. No plans there yet but good company.
K.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Paris sum-up

Ok, so in paris we've been to many places one of the first places we went to was the Eiffel tower. I found there were lots of stairs. When we got to the second floor we had to take a lift to the top but in the end the view was great. On that same day we went to the Arc De Triumph. One day the boys and girls split up and dad and I went to the catacombs there were lots of bones stacked up against the wall. I think mum liked the louvre and Musee De Orsay which were two museums with lots of interesting art. I liked the games shop near our house. I'm not really sure what L & dad liked. I think they enjoyed the view from the Eiffel Tower oh and L enjoyed the shops at the louvre. Thanks for reading. the end!!!!! :). Ge.

Museums...

Museo vaticana

Monday, January 16, 2012

Friday, January 13, 2012

Eiffels

Thursday, January 12, 2012

So.... Where is it, do you think?

Traversing Paris: Musings

In France, all roads lead to the Arc De Triomphe, and today you too can be a part of the chaotic traverse, hooting your horn, driving your hotted up rod, or even a vintage pushbike. Of course, in Paris, the glistening Eiffel Tower of a million or more postcards speaks to the visitor, as it must to the Parisien, and also to the outskirts or far-flung regions, say the Dunkirquien speaker of a Flemish dialect, about such things as power and the city.

We too, on Sunday, walked under the Eiffel, where amongst the throng of tourists, we saw some army men, holding their machine guns. Their presence was yet more jarring (and ironic) when we met them a second time a couple of days later, in front of the white heights of the Sacre Couer in Montmartre.

I'm reading a book about the reclaiming of misinterpreted Christian terminology. This reminded me of the fact that Biblical justice largely refers to the imperative of economic justice and decries injustice associated with institutionalised violence.

Our walk from the Eiffel Tower to the Arc De Triomph and on to the Place De La Concorde gave me time to reflect on these things. Of course I enjoyed the grandeur of the architecture, and the beauty of design.

We walked by the Champs D'Elysee flagship stores: Swarovski, Peugeot, Chanel; As a Japanese teacher, they remind me of Ginza on a greater scale and framed by incredible architecture. Also, I think the love affair with all things French in Japan, also goes the other way! Symbols of wealth turn up on every corner, originating from Royalty and later transferred to the people after Revolution. Under the Louvre, the old remains of Louis V's little castle, are tiny in comparison to the structures added later. The Louvre, of course, is a place visited by peoples who speak all languages, and its wealth is also in beauty celebrated magnificently.

Looking from the Place De La Concorde in all directions:
The Eiffel Tower, Arc De Triomphe, Place De La Madeleine, Louvre, Orsay, Hotel D'Invalide...

We were approached as we walked by vendors of Eiffel symbolism.

They were symbol traders, key chains, knick knack Eiffels, Eiffels you can put in a corner, on your desk. All of the traders on the street appeared to be of African background. Elsewhere, other traders, in papiertere shops, were also selling representations of the Eiffel, photos, drawings, images, icons. Later we came across an 'artist', playing with this symbol on canvas, twisting the Eiffel, and making it into knots.

I mused on the European 'illegal' or (in a more French terminology), 'irregular' or 'sans papiere' immigration, on a scale the people of the island continent of Australia would have trouble conceiving of... 200 000 to 400 000 according to some estimates. It is illegal to assist French 'irregular' immigrants. Also, presently there is a weakening Euro, panic amongst wealthy stockbrokers and perhaps a hardening of attitudes towards migrants in general as politics here swings right. We have seen, however, a normality of life in everday Paris, where multicultural Paris is celebrated, and there is a conviviality amongst the French of all different nationalities. We have observed no rudeness amongst the French, although we speak very poor French - generally we have tried to use French where possible, and have been welcomed warmly.
I mused some more on the Eiffel tower. Of course the Eiffel symbol it was created in an earlier age, but still has power. So we saved a bit of money and gained in fitness by climbing the first two segments, past the tiny ice-skating platform on level 1, to scale the heights. For us too, it was symbolic to climb to the heights to see Paris laid before us. In the final lift, from the 2nd to 3rd platforms, we felt like we were in Roald Dahl's "Great Glass Elevator", rising above Paris. We cannot deny the beauty of this structure, which retains a certain engineering 'nous', only moving up to 9?cm in strong winds, nor the beauty of being able to scan the horizon of an ancient city from the top.

On the other hand, at the time of the World Fair in 1889, it was the biggest and boldest, and today, is still in one sense at least, surely a representation of monopolistic centralisation. There are the themes in the French public imagination of Peace and Justice, alongside bloody marks of violent retribution in amongst the history of revolution against the regal class. Perhaps the symbol of the Eiffel is meant to be paradoxical?

We read a little more about the history. Joan of Arc, heroine of history, and still guardian of the Sacre Couer, was burnt on the stake at 19 years of age by the English enemy, whilst Marie Antoinette of the ruling class, was guillotined publicly at the most public of public places we saw as we traversed the Champs D'Elysee, the Place De La Concorde. You can now buy Marie Antoinette memoribilia at the Louvre shop.

It is not the French alone who struggle with symbols and meaning, or who avoid struggling with them, as the case may be. This is a human struggle, our struggle. Maybe this is why this day of walking and overload of sights, intensified my awareness of multiple intersections of history.

We entered a church, late in the day, that emphasised the three mottos of Spirituality, Solidarity with the poor and the Arts. This church, St Eustache, weekly feeds 230 people a hot meal, and hosts art exhibitions and concerts.

We listened and meditated to Bach and Vivaldi on the organ, and were ministered to by the beauty of the space and a reminder of God in all things (including cities), the candles lighting the space, and the twilight blue sky visible through high stained-art windows. Finally, moving back outside, with the two young ones of the family, I 'prayed' and 'played' on the labyrinth outside. This space is a gift to the people of the area, a public square for all.


'O Mystery upon mystery, touch the paradoxes of this day, with your healing breath.' Macrina Wiederkehr.


Gwyn.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Sunday, January 08, 2012

St Chapelle

>
> Keeping the other tourists amused...

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Bookshop

Living on the border

Living on the border
Staying at Koksijde for four nights, could be a reminder of what it is to be marginal. Both Koksijde in Belgium and Dunkirque in Northern France, which we visited on Thursday this week for our first meal in France, appeared to be marginal places in some ways apart from the fact they are on national boundaries. This is symbolised by a number of things we noticed. The ambiguity of language is emphasised in Belgium, you are generally greeted in Flemish, but if you greet someone in French, they will often happily continue in French. There is a lot of French spoken, Koksijde also a place of holidaymakers, many French, with little or no Flemish. (Plopsaland is around the corner, for kids and teens including shows, roundabouts and thrill rides).

Both places also had a history of changing hands, from Spanish to Austrian to French, and to English rulers. Dunkirque was actually sold from the English to the French for a couple of hundred thousand pounds! Knowing that some people prefer French and some Flemish, and with our smattering of Dutch/French, sometimes we get away with pretending to be locals and sometimes we don't. The English spoken is generally pretty good, but sometimes non-existent! Those are the fun times!
Still, language wise, going to France won't be our first experience of the French language, after our gentle introduction of a couple of excursions to France as well as three trips to Brussels. Tonight we experience Brussels once more before our seven days in Paris starting tomorrow am. We arrive in Paris at 9am, so you can imagine what time we leave Brussels!

Ge and I returned the bikes this morning, at 8am still in darkness, and fought the winds to make it to the beach place we got them from. It was great to have the bikes for a few days and to experience another aspect of culture here, although for the most part we were the only ones on bikes, as it was cold, sometimes wet and we were in danger of running into dunes which had been blown onto the road.

We really enjoyed the tram ride halfway up Belgium to Oostende, before catching the train to Brussels. This is perhaps the equivalent of our "Great Ocean Road", but we decided we were in the more beautiful part down south, as much of the coastline is lined by tall apartment buildings. Looking to Paris early tomorrow!

Gw.

Our first French meal!

Bourburg, where we tried to go!!

A trip to France and back- for €10.00

At approximately 12.27 in the afternoon, we set out from our little beachside apartment in Koksijde, Belgium. We luckily made it in time for our tram, out of the freezing wind before too long. While safely on the tram, we glimpsed a bit of a sandstorm. We could see the sand sweeping in rivers across the road, beautiful, but we were happy to be inside. Just as I am writing this at the end of the day, the TV that is on behind me is reporting about the sandstorm and the damage.
Soon we arrived at the end of the tram line, where we had planned to catch a train to Bourburg (France), to a chapel of modern sculpture that K was particularly keen on.

However, we weren't sure how to buy tickets. Gw asked a bus driver sitting in a bus, and he said we could catch his bus to Dunkirk, then go on to Bourburg from there. We took that bus, and after about 50 minutes, were in Dunkirk.

We stopped at a tourist office to ask how to get to our next destination, and we were told the bus didn't leave for another 1 and a half hours. We decided to stop for lunch. We stopped at a nice little-ish cafe. Ge and I both got a Croque (toasted sandwich) "WallStreet", which was the cafe's name. We also got an Orangina, an orange drink I always thought my French teacher made up.

Lunch was very good, and soon, we made for the bus stop.
After a bit of misinformation (and linguistic adventures ED) we realised we had missed our bus. We thought about waiting for the next one, but it would take too long, so we just decided to go home. After a bit of shopping and a brief coffee stop (it's embarrassing where - McDonalds - it was cold everywhere else ED windchill factor to 1 degree!), we got to the bus stop for the bus back to the station. The wait was brief, but it was very cold because of all the wind. There was a port in view, and the ships cast great shadows over the choppy and already dark water.

Awhile later, we were back at the station, and there was a tram waiting there that we immediately jumped onto. We went back over the sand covered roads again before arriving at our stop. We half ran back into the apartment, shielding our faces from the sand blowing into our faces.

It was almost a relief to be back in the smoke (cigarette) smelling foyer, and it definitely was to be back in our room. I can now safely say our family has been to France and back for €10.00!

Tuesday, January 03, 2012