The actual earthquake was the easiest part. I don’t know how long it lasted, but the first impact was a scary, loud, and frightening. It hit around 2:45 and for the next 6 hours I was in my classroom with my 9th graders waiting for them to find places to sleep, with occasional ducking under desks. We watched movies, ate pizza, played music, and hung out. I e-mailed friends and family. Skyped my parents. Posted on Twitter that I was okay. Put a message on Facebook. Found a friend’s place to crash because I couldn’t get home with the trains down. And I thought all was okay. How bad could it be? I never lost internet connection or power. I saw no signs of damage in my wonderful neighborhood in Tokyo. Hell, the only mess in my apartment was the mess I left when I went to work on Friday morning. Again, I thought all was okay.
Things aren’t okay in my new home of Japan. On a personal level, I spent the weekend Skyping, e-mailing, creatively cursing aftershocks, filling my bathtub with water, sleeping on my couch with boots nearby, and feeling helpless. On a national level, things have rapidly deteriorated. Many others can do a better job of explaining nuclear reactors, the horror of the tsunami, and the resiliency of the Japanese people. To be honest with you, I still haven’t been able to watch a lot of footage of the event, because it’s (literally) too close to home.
I left Tokyo on Tuesday morning. I have a flight back to Tokyo on April 1. Things still aren’t okay there and I’m not sure when they will be. I felt a little guilty for leaving, but it was the right decision. And as I watch the news from the comfort of China (words not often said), I realize how lucky I am. I am lucky I have the resources to buy a flight on a day’s notice. I’m lucky to work at a school where the administration is calm and takes care of the entire community. I am lucky to have many friends at work who offered to let me crash at their place when I couldn’t get home. I am lucky to have students who are already e-mailing me questions about homework. I am lucky to be able to Skype, e-mail, tweet, and Facebook my friends and family. It’s somewhat humbling to realize how many people were thinking of me and praying for me and how wide my circle of friends really is. I’m lucky to have a friend who lets me show up with less than 36 hours notice with a backpack and buys me a beer within 10 minutes of arriving. I’m lucky to live in a country that has been so prepared for an earthquake. And I am lucky to witness the strength and grace of the Japanese people in moments of crisis.
My school, Yokohama International School, was founded in 1924 after the destructive Kanto earthquake. Yokohama was devastated and group of international parents believed one way to revive a community was through a school. I think they were on to something. I am already looking forward to going home, getting back to work, and doing anything I can to help. Because Japan, and I, will be better than okay.