COVID-19 has changed everything, but Stripes is still here for you

COVID-19 has changed everything, but Stripes is still here for you

by Denisse Rauda
Stripes Japan

The Stripes community paper office has been empty since April. Yet, the designers who layout the articles in the newspaper, the team who updates the websites, and your writing team are still as busy as ever.

Like you, our daily life and our daily work life have changed. Though our writing team, spread out in Okinawa, Korea and in Japan, is used to working together, but apart, what we write about had to change quickly and drastically. Travel and restaurant reviews are our bread and butter — but how do we write about places we can no longer visit or are no longer safe to visit? It’s easy — we don’t.

Like you, we’re no longer dining out at restaurants. We’ve traded in our cubicles, travel assignments, and restaurant reviews for workstations at home, recipes in the kitchen with our families, and getting creative with bringing you a break from the hard news we’re constantly getting bombarded with.

We’re looking for ways to keep you (and ourselves, too) entertained. Some of us have taken our acting and camera skills seriously and started creating fun videos to teach you Japanese and Korean phrases. We’ve found online activities for you to try and used our Netflix time wisely to figure out what recommendations you might have missed on Korea or Japan’s streaming services.

For a while, our paper stopped printing and relied on our four community sites to make sure you never missed a beat and there was always something interesting for you to read or watch.

Every day, as the situation is changing in the Pacific both on base and off, you can trust that we’re looking out for what information you need. Every day, we’re monitoring what the parameters are and how we can get out and enjoy the nice weather, all while doing it safely and within the regulations set forth by leadership.

Despite the changes, know that our mission remains the same, COVID-19 or not. This is your paper you’re holding, (or your website, if you’re reading online) and all of our publications, including our Welcome to the Pacific, Best of Pacific and Destination Paradise magazines, are yours. Have a story you want to see in the paper? Send it to us! That hasn’t changed. We’re here for you and because of you.

So, read on and learn about what your writing team is doing to make sure these pages are filled and you’re still getting the information you want. And, if you have a story idea or want to write something, drop us a note! We’re in this together!

rauda.denisse@stripes.com

Cooking brings humor, happiness

Story and photos by Shoji Kudaka

If asked about how I feel about my work-from-home days, I would have a hard time finding something positive to say because I like going to work. However, looking back at my life during the last five months, there were things I would not have done unless I had stayed at home.

Before the pandemic, I hardly cooked at home. I’d had enough of instant noodles, and that moved me to make something on my own. It was in early May and with Mother’s Day coming up, I chose Andagi, an Okinawan donut, for my first attempt at cooking a recipe in quarantine. As a child, my mother would make this snack for me often and making it for her around this special day was fitting.

Whether American or Okinawan style, a donut is a donut and the recipe seemed easy enough. Once I started rolling the dough into donut holes like Dunkin’ Donuts’ Munchkins, however, is where I ran into difficulties.

As I struggled with the sticky dough that refused to budge from its amorphous state, my mother who had been watching me curiously, started to laugh. Her laugh became even louder when I struggled with frying the dough. Although my slapstick cooking hardly failed to provide comical relief, the doughnuts themselves turned out much better than expected. Taking a bite, my mother just said, “Wow, this is good.”

The donuts were just the start of trying new recipes. Since then, I’ve cooked at least once a week, trying my hand at Okinawan recipes like rafute, hirayachi, brown sugar crepes, and even an Italian restaurant classic — Pasta pomodoro.

For me, it’s been a learning experience. And while it’s been the source of laughter for my mom, it’s also seemed to make her happy. Cooking has also become a topic I can turn to when I struggle with my writing assignments or finding something to share with the audience. As I tried different recipes, it started feeling like a fun hobby for me. Now I say to myself “Why not continue cooking beyond COVID-19?”

Although my feelings toward work from home stays the same, cooking showed me there’s always a way to have fun. And it would be great if the audience feels the same.

These days, I often think about touring big cities such as Tokyo and Osaka, taking photos of skyscrapers and streets lined with Izakaya. Most likely, it will be a while before that becomes possible. However, it seems to be fun at least to wait for the time to come while cooking oden or takoyaki.

kudaka.shoji@stripes.com

Patience, family and technology

Story and photos by Takahiro Takiguchi

As COVID-19 rapidly spread throughout the country, I began teleworking just after I had taken a stroll around Tokyo’s Imperial Palace, Ueno Park and other sites seeking out photos and material for a story on the gorgeous cherry blossoms then at full bloom in late March.

My cherry blossom story would have to wait until next year, as I was working from home and all of our readers were also limited on leaving their bases or off-base homes.

Teleworking has saved me from my twice-daily 2.5-hour commute on packed trains from Yokosuka to Tokyo and back. Being out of the office, away from my coworkers and the hustle and bustle from Tokyo, however, has been a challenge on my daily routine and in finding story ideas.

The state of emergency earlier this year meant most popular annual spring events were canceled, while restaurants and attractions were closed or had limited hours. My focus (and my writing) had to shift to other activities, so I turned to Japanese culture and traditional crafts, seasonal topics and spending time with my wife and daughter.

In April, as face masks began to sell out in stores, I observed as my wife used instructions she found online to hand-stitch masks for our family. So, I wrote about that. I also turned the camera on myself and began, along with my fellow writers, to film short videos to teach Japanese phrases for our Speakin’ Japanese articles online. I began to sort through travel photos and, using my iPhone, began producing travel videos for our Virtual Vacation series.

With the help of my family, I wrote about the crafts we were making together, like origami and tanabata decorations. My daughter, whose hobby is photography, helped illustrate some of my stories and videos with great images.

My work quickly became a family affair.

I also noticed how, despite being far apart, technology was helping us stay together. Besides our weekly Skype work meetings to discuss what the staff is working on; I have connected with my coworkers for on-nomi (online drinking party) after hours several times throughout this work-from-home period.

Other events moved online for us, too. Like Mother’s Day. My wife sat down in front of her computer and celebrated the special day with her 100-year-old mom and two sisters in the Philippines, as well as her two other sisters on Guam and in the States. Cakes were eaten, wine was tasted and laughs were plentiful. They weren’t physically together, but it was a wonderful celebration. Now, online chatting with her mother and sisters in the morning has become a part my wife’s daily routine. These events inspired me a lot and gave me some nice story ideas.

The past five months where COVID-19 upended our lives were definitely a struggle for me, but it also gave me the great opportunity to rediscover the importance of warm hearts, love, affection and consideration amongst family and friends. Among them and by far the most, I feel it was my family that kept me alive, enabled me to work at home and have kept me in good shape, both mentally and physically.

takiguchi.takahiro@stripes.com

Looking at the bright side of life

Story and photos by ChiHon Kim

Though there are only a few months left in 2020, I can still say this will probably the year that started with a virus and will end with one. What started as a faraway virus over in China that we all thought wouldn’t be a big deal, quickly spread to South Korea, then onto other countries and, well, you know the rest of the story.

Despite how COVID-19 came into intrude on all of our daily lives, my fellow writers and I remained focused on continuing to provide the stories you want to read. From disaster, we drew inspiration and from all the things we wished we could do — like travel and go out to eat at restaurants — we figured out ways to not let go of that feeling. Our team had to work in a new way, and we had to get creative.

A new project we started was our Virtual Vacation series, which allowed me to take you on my previous trips and through some of my travel photos. We also started sharing some easy phrases in our native languages. I started and continue to share useful phrases on our Facebook page in my Speakin’ Korean videos.

For a short while in the summer, while South Korea seemed to have a grasp on coronavirus cases thanks to lessons learned from previous SARS and MERS outbreaks, I was able to write travel stories again. Military families could travel again, while taking necessary precautions and I was happy to return to some form of normal. But my happiness was short-lived when, in July, the numbers started to go up and bases around the peninsula retightened restrictions. Once again, I’m experiencing deja vu in March due to mass infection in Seoul.

On a personal level, my life has changed as I turned towards my fitness and started cycling in my apartment. Originally, this was supposed to get me ready to cycle around Korea for some stories I wanted to write, but as staying at home was looking like a longer-term necessity, indoor cycling on my home setup has become a way to keep social distance and a stress relief.

I also started cooking at home more. I tried recipes of foods that I like to eat when I go to restaurants or even ramdon, a recipe from the award-winning film Parasite. These were challenging but the results were delicious, and I used these to write stories for the audience who, like me, were stuck at home trying new recipes.

And also, like many of you, when I was bored, I turned to Netflix. In May and June, I wrote a few lists of Korean films and dramas you should check out. I recommend taking a look at these lists, especially if you’re over re-watching The Office or Friends.

Truth is, I am trying to overcome this situation with joy by looking at the bright side of being safe and still being able to write with a different goal in mind. I don’t know when this will end, but don’t forget that Stars and Stripes is always with you.

kim.chihon@stripes.com

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