Atsuko Yomogida is an enthusiastic participant in community events, with Keiro’s Virtual Forums being no exception. When her regular activities began moving online, Atsuko soon adapted to the switch. “I’ve always been a joiner,” she shared. “I jump at the chance to see other people, so when I see that there’s something coming up and it sounds interesting… well, I’m going to take that class.”

The First Zoom Call

“I had never used anything like this,” Atsuko recalled, describing her first time attending a Virtual Keiro Forum over Zoom. She logged on with help from her son, who showed her how to install the application and join the meeting. When asked what that initial experience was like, Atsuko had one word in response – “amazing!”

“Of course, I had to fiddle with ‘this and that’ and they kept telling us to turn off the microphone,” Atsuko laughed, recalling the forum. However, Atsuko soon got comfortable with it and became a frequent Zoom user on her own. She said she has used the application to participate in church services, meet with her high school reunion committee, and communicate with the Long Beach Japanese Cultural Center, where she is recording secretary and a member of the Long Beach Pioneer Project. Atsuko oversees the finances for the center’s free COVID-19 meal pickup program, which is supported through a Keiro Grant, coordinating with the other volunteers over Zoom to ensure the events run smoothly.

“It’s been great, and we spend a lot of time just socializing,” Atsuko said, describing these virtual gatherings. While she uses FaceTime to connect with friends and family, Zoom also allows her to interact with other social circles she’s involved with.

Connecting Through Food

Atsuko has especially enjoyed participating in Keiro’s Conversation Kitchen forum, where Program Associate Lauren Yoshiyama chats with attendees while demonstrating how to cook a recipe from her home.

These webinars inspired Atsuko to try some of the recipes in her own kitchen. “I figured if Lauren could do it on Zoom for so many minutes, it shouldn’t be that difficult,” she explained. After a Conversation Kitchen on making spring rolls, Atsuko sent her son to the market for ingredients. One of them, the rice paper wrapper, had a surprising change. “Usually the paper wrapper is about eight or nine inches in diameter,” Atsuko noted with a laugh. “But these were like miniature tortillas–so I had to make them a little smaller.”

Nevertheless, Atsuko adapted and created 20 spring rolls–on two separate occasions. When sharing a picture of her creation, she said, “I have to admit, they were very good. You just refrigerate them and it’s a nice little snack!”

Since then, Atsuko has made additional cooking plans, often saving recipes from Just One Cookbook, a Japanese American cooking blog Lauren recommended. She also mentioned her excitement to make dorayaki and imagawayaki after another Conversation Kitchen.

E-Learning for E-mergencies

Atsuko has also used Zoom webinars to help her plan for unexpected emergencies. After a Virtual Keiro Forum given by Program Analyst Kent Marume about earthquake and emergency preparedness, Atsuko took measures to make sure she was following safe protocols.

“There are issues like that, that we have kind of forgotten, that we should take care of,” she commented. “It made me realize I need to make a list for myself –my own medications, my own contacts, and so forth.” Following the recommendations from the forum, Atsuko began a list of her own emergency supplies, which she said will be stored alongside her son’s own kit.

Atsuko confirmed she plans to continue using Zoom to connect with others, and is particularly looking forward to upcoming bingo games and Conversation Kitchens. “It’s pretty much second nature now.”

If you are interested in joining a Virtual Keiro Forum, please see our schedule here.

To learn how to use Zoom, click here.

For tips on how to teach your loved ones technology, click here .

For tips on earthquake and emergency preparedness, click here.