Thursday, May 26, 2011

Miyako

The ocean had charged over a wall built specifically for tsunami-protection, and boats had trespassed onto the land where people were living. It was devastating.
You have probably seen the events captured in Miyako in the following video.
Miyako City on March 11th, 2011

After seeing this footage when arriving at Dominic's house on the night of the quake, I couldn't ignore the silent calls for help which each video induced. During the week after the earthquake and while things were getting crazy in Fukushima, I wished that I could go up there and do something, help in some way. When I had returned from my "escape" to Nagoya, I felt a bit guilty for running away instead of helping and doing something useful. I was embarrassed by my freak out and joined a food drive the next day after coming back to Tokyo.

Below: A link of pictures from volunteering at Second Harvest, as well as the link on how to volunteer with food drives.
Pictures from one day of many in the life of the Second Harvest food collection center

Second Harvest's website





It was an awesome feeling to bring items to the volunteer site, separate them into boxes, load them onto a truck and watch the truck drive away toward the direction of Miyagi-ken. After that, I knew that I wanted to help in other ways, and a few weeks later, a group of Shizuoka JETs sent out a notice calling for volunteers to join them to clean up mud from houses in the worst hit areas. Upon reading the Facebook event page, I called Chu and asked if she'd mind if we spent our Golden Week volunteering this year. I was happy when she jumped on board.


Our group originally intended to volunteer in Ishinomaki City, by Sendai, and soon we all began researching and preparing for the venture. Days before our departure, we received a notification by an organizer reporting that the volunteer expedition for the town of Ishinomaki was overbooked. An organization called Peaceboat had attracted so many volunteers during Golden week, that there was no longer enough room for us to lodge in the campsite area. Though I was initially disappointed, I was extremely happy to hear that there were TOO MANY volunteers. That's awesome.

So instead, our organizer researched for other volunteering options, and finally decided on a mission in a more northern city of Japan, called Miyako in Iwate City, where our services were still needed. The above video shows the events of March 11th, and when we arrived, it wasn't immediately apparent that this was the same town. Unlike what the news was reporting, the town did not seem to be in total upheaval. In fact, across the bridge from the most heavily affected areas, shops, restaurants, supermarkets and other businesses were open and running as usual. In fact, as we drove into town, we wondered if we had really arrived at the same town as the video had described merely 2 months earlier.

Chu, Emiko, and I drove for almost an entire night in order to get the group to the site on time in the morning. I was very impressed, but also a bit scared of Chu's diligence in insisting that she was awake enough to drive. After a while, I realized she wasn't able to make any sense and convinced her to stop off the side of a road and let me drive. Since we drove through the night after a long day of gathering supplies, we were too exhausted to shovel the mud that they had led us too. The others in our group performed like champions, since they were able to sleep throughout the night.

Below: Arriving in Miyako



Once we arrived and put on our gear, gathered our shovels and headed out to the riverbed, where we were assigned to shovel mud off the stifled grass, did we see any hints of the catastrophe.


Above photo taken by Nicholas Austria

Below is a panoramic shot of the river where the ocean flowed upstream. Can you see the car still stuck in the middle of the water?
video

The waters had not only flooded the town, but also raged upsteam on the river and ruined much of the area. Below are some pictures of what it looked like 2 months later.


Below: A little girl plays as usual on a noticeably broken play structure in the middle of the park, not far from where we were shoveling the mud off of the suffocating grass.



But unfortunately, Chu and I slept through most of the mud clean-up. It was one of the guiltiest sleeps I'd had in a long time. I wanted so much to be out there shoveling to make the grass grow, but after 30 hours of being awake, I couldn't shovel for more than 30 minutes, and had to nap. Later that day, as everyone came in from their manual labor jobs, we had connected with some folks who were staying at one of the local shelters.

Before the trip, I had asked students to bring a piece of fruit to school as a donation for the people in the shelters. Due to an article I had read from other volunteers, the article had mentioned that though many people were eating rice and soup, that they were requesting fresh fruit and vegetables. Because of this article, I made a poster asking for donations from students, and I collected them in 2 boxes and packed them in the car. The students also wrote letters and drew cute pictures of encouragement for the people.

BELOW: The boxes of fruit in the car.



Luckily when I asked about how to donate the fruit to a local shelter, the organizer in Miyako, Owen, introduced me to two Japanese volunteers who had been visiting a local shelter housing 44 people, mostly seniors. James, Chu and I drove to the Miyako Culture center which had been converted into a shelter and we gave them the fruit and letters that the students had donated. The director of the center was out in the town at that time, and we were asked to wait until she returned. During this time, they were setting up the dinner tables, which were composed of donated beef and rice bowls, and homemade miso soup and pickles.

Below: The shelter that we visited



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video

The next day we gathered in front of the volunteer center promptly at 9am in order to await our assigned volunteer positions for the day. They assigned our group to work on setting up the Children's Day (こどもの日) festival which featured semi-famous wrestlers from Northern Japan, food and game booths, as well as various activities for the children. All the food, drinks and entertainment were free for the families who attended, as many of them were people living in shelters.



On a side note, I didn't have any "outdoor work" clothing, so one of the shirts I packed was a comfy tee which I had "borrowed" from my dad many years ago. It's his old communication worker's union shirt. I hadn't realized at the time, and not until I saw the pictures of myself taken by Chu when I was working the free drink booth, that I realized how extremely frightening I appeared. I ought to take you back to the morning when the winds were blowing, and the white powder used to clean and disinfect the park's cement was blowing into my mouth and eyes. So I put on one of the paper masks that had been suggested for us to pack for this volunteer trip. In order to make the mask appear cute, I attempted to draw upon it the face of Rilakuma. Regardless of my attempts to cheer up the children, I later realized after seeing my photo, that the reason children were hesitant to take free juice and tea from me wasn't because I was a "gaijin" (which I had thought at the time), but that I looked like mad surgical metalhead. What was I thinking?!?

Below: What was I thinking?!?!



Below: Chu in her workman's clothes and the infamous white powder on the ground.


BELOW: A PICTURE OF OUR SHIZUOKA TEAM



Nicholas Austria, Michael J. Davis, Owen Cunningham, Adam Kennedy, Toby Siguenza, Emi(ko) Suzuki, Karen J. Smith
Photo provided by Nicholas Austria

BELOW: No words


Photo taken by Nicholas Austria

As I mentioned before, a bridge separates two areas of town. On one side, business are running as usual, streets are clear, buildings are standing. And on the other, wreckage has been cleared from the streets and line their periphery. The wall still stands from where the water invaded this port town.

Below: The tsunami barrier withstood



In the center of the port lies a pile of rubbish which has been moved from the streets and walkways. The pile stands higher than the initial waves that rolled inland.

Below: The wall of rubbish and a lone vending machine






Everybody who lives on the coast of Japan knows that this could happen at any time. In all coastal villages and cities, there are tsunami preparations and warning signs to remind people to constantly be prepared for catastrophe. I will admit that it frightens me to see tsunami warnings in my own neighborhood, as my apartment stands 2 km away from the shore, and the port (about 30 minutes away on foot) closely resembles the one in these pictures. In fact, so much seems similar that I have begun to wonder if ports have a single building construction template.

Below: a tsunami warning



Below: A sign that has been eerily whipped around, now pointing toward the sea rather than the hills where it was originally placed.



My intentions in mentioning the following is to remind the readers that we are not separated from the people still suffering from this calamity. My friends in Japan are all susceptible to these events, and my family and loved ones in California also live in an earthquake prone environment, by the ocean. This event could have easily happened to most of the people reading this entry. So please consider this message when you are reminded about these tragedies in Northern Japan. People are still suffering, cleaning, and needing of help. And whether it be money, supplies or volunteering time, your help is still very much needed even now.

Below: Video of driving through the disaster area, where the streets have been cleared.
video

On the drive home, because of our departure timing, our needing to arrive home on time for work the next day, and our need of a rest break for the 3 people driving 2 cars, we found ourselves at a overnight bathhouse in Fukushima prefecture. The people on our trip were real troopers, and nobody objected to the fact that we were staying the night around 50 km away from the afflicted Daiichi nuclear reactor site. I'll admit that despite feeling a little uncomfortable, I was easily calmed by the state of normalcy in the area. Everything was going on the same as in any other part of Japan.

While waiting in the lobby for Chu's car to catch up to us, two older women started a conversation with me asking where I was from. It's the most common ice-breaker. I told them America, but that I live in Shizuoka ken. They asked, "so what are you doing here in Morioka, Fukushima?" I was hesitant to answer because first of all, I didn't want to bring up the topic of the earthquake, current events, or volunteering. And secondly, I didn't know the proper vocabulary to explain our trip. [ボランテアをしました] just didn't feel like a proper explanation, for some reason.

Well, luckily, she answered her own question before my response had taken on a voice. "桜を見たかったの。” or "did you come to see the cherry blossoms?

You see, Shizuoka and Tokyo had already finished the short-lived cherry blossom season. Because these towns are further north, their cherry blossom season arrives a little later. In fact, during the drive through the beautiful countryside to Iwate, I did indeed partake in cherry blossom viewing from behind the van's windshield.
The morning drive was beautiful, and I was surprised that it took so long for cherry blossoms to bloom in the north. Two weeks had already passed from when I hanami-ed in Tokyo.

The smile on her face and cheerful sound in her voice when asking me if my group of foreigner friends had come to Morioka, the capital of Fukushima prefecture, in order to see some cherry blossoms, made an impression on me. It was a mixed impression, on one hand my heart melted from her innocence to think that was the case. On the other hand, I was surprised that she could still maintain that innocence after an incident of such a wide-scale, internationally-known disaster.
Either way, I ignored my thoughts, smiled and said, "はい、本当にきれいでした."
Yes, they were really beautiful.

Below: A lone sakura fallen on the mud soon to be shoveled off the suffocated grass.

Off to Nagoya

After the explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plants, I became alarmed. Obviously. As did the whole world, right? Friends from every corner of the globe began to contact me to encourage me to fly home, and of course, so did family. I don't know if you could realize how strong the pull is of your mother begging you to get on the next plane out of a place shown on the news to be radioactively polluted.

But that is what happened.

My family and friends began to call and email, saying that they heard that Japan was a danger zone. However, within Japan, all news seemed to say that things were not that dangerous. Unfortunately, I am not fluent enough in Japanese to be able to read or understand Japanese news sources, so all I had to depend on was outside news.

This created a problem between Chu and I, because we were getting conflicting news updates. It caused a huge fight between us on the night after the Fukushima plants exploded. The yellow skies on the next day didn't help matters. I felt like Tokyo was a ticking time bomb, about to explode into dangerous zombie inducing air at any moment. However, from her perspective, things were bad but not at all apocalyptical.

Though, on that day, most of our close friends were already fleeing Tokyo towards foreign lands or at least more western/southern areas of Japan. I insisted that we leave the next day, but she insisted that she would stay and finish her jobs and meet up with me later. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to accept that. We already had problems that balanced on the fact that I didn't believe that she'd follow through on plans that involved our future, so when she refused to leave Tokyo, I thought that our relationship had hit our usual wall, only this time the issue in question was at the time, our lives. After a fight that left me in beers and tears, and her yelling at me in a way unlike any I had seen before, I gave up and fell asleep. The next day, she called me and said that she was ready to leave Tokyo because she thought it was too dangerous.

It wasn't until she had met up with me, and I handed her the Shinkansen ticket that she admitted that she didn't really think we should leave. She told me that she didn't believe that things were unsafe, but came with me because I was scared about not only the radiation, but also our relationship. She came because she thought this might be the final straw that might break up our relationship. I didn't say it at the time, but actually, that situation just might have done us in. Although I was later proven wrong, and it was actually safe enough to stay in Tokyo, I would have never been able to believe that she'd stand by me when I thought something was important enough to act upon, and to take a stand. This experience had exposed something about our relationship that couldn't be learned in any typical circumstance, and it is that it's strong and built on real love, the kind that you risk your job, health, and even life for.

So, we went to our friends' house in Nagoya. Lesley and Collen are awesome girls and let us stay at their humble abode. They had their own drama about the situation going on in Japan, dealing with their own families. By joining them, we could connect with others who felt the chasm between fear and the chasm between loyalty to our second home, Japan, and our family's worries. I can't express how much these ladies, as well as Chu, have done to make me feel like Japan is a good home. Lesley and Colleen are some of the best hostesses I know. The day they arrived, they took us to their famous "Chicken Shack" (since Nagoya is famous for chicken, ya know). While dining there, we felt the large 6.0 quake in Shizuoka. The next day, Colleen suggested we get outside and take a little walk around some nature rather than sticking to the TV news. What a great idea. Just getting away from noise of news and breathing some fresh air that smells of tree felt great.

After the girls left to the airport in the afternoon, we slept there for one more night before deciding that perhaps things are going to be able to be maintained in Fukushima. We woke up bright and early at 6am the next morning and took a bus home. I had taken that opportunity to shop for a bag of rice, and emergency supplies which were sold out in most Tokyo supermarkets, donating it at Second Harvest.

Despite those days being terribly worrisome, I'll admit that it was great to have a chance to visit with Colleen and Lesley, even if it was under frightening circumstances.

My mentality a few days after the Big Shake

I wrote the following one late night in bed after Chu fell asleep. Several aftershocks rocked our room during the typing process, so if you can forgive any melodrama, it may have been caused by the high amounts of adrenaline in my bloodstream at the time.


Escaping Fear Island

Fear Island, home to millions of people, has existed since the beginning of time. It’s a very real place, that most people have visited and many have made it their permanent residence. Despite having millions of occupants, it’s a very lonely place. Very scary things happen here: social strife, war, natural disasters, and every facet of the unknown. It’s a very natural place where people feel comfort yet discomfort simultaneously. It’s very small and difficult to leave, for as I said, it’s an island. It exists in both reality and fantasy, yet both penetrate the human psyche all the same.
Within this week, Japan, also an island (well, actually a collection of islands) has become an embodiment of Fear Island after a frighteningly large earthquake, terrifying multitudes of tsunami, only to follow with threats of nuclear radiation exposure.
Facts from the day of March 11th, 2011
The average earthquake is between a 2 and 5 magnitude. Half a million earthquakes happen within this range every year around the world. The average duration of an earthquake is between 1 and 2 minutes.
However, the Great Tohoku Earthquake, occurring 130 km (81 miles) east of Sendai, Miyagi-ken, Honshu Island, Japan measuring a magnitude of 9.0 shook Japan for over 4 minutes. Merely ten minutes later there was a 7.2 aftershock, just as the first of several 4m (13ft.) to 7.3m(24 ft.) tsunami washed upon the shores closest to the epicenter. Thousands of people experienced these waves firsthand and lost their lives to them. Millions felt the quaking from afar, and even more witnessed live and recorded footage of the events occurring on March 11, 2011. Within 2 hours, the land of the rising sun, an archipelago of 6,852 islands, 3rd largest world economy, inhabited by 127 million people transformed into “Fear Island”.

How did this happen?

Japan is one of the most earthquake prone countries in the world, and its residents have come to terms with this fact, thus forcing Japan to become one of the most “earthquake-ready” nations of the world. Despite this, on March 11th, 2011, Japan experienced the biggest earthquake within modern-recorded history and the 5th largest in the world’s modern history, with modern history being defined as the period after the earthquake scale system had been developed. Large earthquakes occurring in the ocean always raise a threat of tsunami, depending on the movement of the geological plates.

The epicenter of Fear Island

In any given period where one’s life is in danger, biology takes over. Depending on the threat, animals (including people) experience faster breathing and heart rate, difficulty seeing and hearing, dry mouth, shaking, and a difficulty in thinking and making rational decisions. This is often results in panicking, which can often take a long time to recover from.

Media

As a naturally social animal relying on both personal experience as well as communication and shared collectiveness to assess danger, humans are driven to seeking the fastest, most reliable source of information in order to protect their lives. Recent development of communication via the internet has made it easier for people to not only seek data, but to create it. Before social networking media such as Facebook, Twitter and Blogs, people relied on radio and T.V. to feed them the information that they needed. Though, as we’ve come to see through media such as Wikileaks, even those sources can sometimes be unreliable.

However, with the innovation and widespread popularity of the Internet, many people have become self-made reporters. In most cases, this phenomenon is positive as it helps to share opinions among friends, which often can’t or will make front page news.
Though, in the case of current events, this reliance on social media can also be a detriment. When people are desperately seeking accurate information in order to secure their lives, miscommunication and falsehood can damage the quality of their decisions. Misreports from an unreliable news source can cause people unnecessary panic. Since there is a very little regulation of news, one must learn to develop their skills of wading through massive amounts of both founded and unfounded news reports.

Refining your news reading skills

Here is some advice on how to read the news:


1) Who is writing the news story?

Is this person at the location of where the news is happening? Does this person have any real qualifications to assess the current situation? (Google their name and check their credentials) Are they who they say they are? Have they ever written on this topic before? Have they studied and published papers on the topic in which they claim to be “an expert”?) A simple Google search can often help credit or discredit how knowledgeable the writer or interviewee is on the topic.

2) What type of writing style does this writer employ in the news story?

a) Are they using the 1st or 3rd person point-of-view? 1st person is told from the perspective of “I”. For example, “I was on the 3rd floor of the building when the quake shook”. 3rd person uses words like “The Japan Meteorological agency reported a 9.0 quake.” Neither 1st nor 3rd person perspectives are more reliable than the other, however, it’s just good advice knowing what type of writing you are reading. Generally, objective reporting writes in a strict 3rd person point of view.
b) Is the report objective or subjective? Objective reporting tells the facts while subjective includes opinion, hearsay and speculations of the future or the unknown. Obviously, when seeking facts you should look for objective statements, and if you encounter a subjective statement, recognize what it is, and be aware that it’s just an opinion or prediction.
c) Does your news report contain many idiomatic statements? Professional reporters are trained to avoid using cliché statements and meaningless metaphors.
d) Is the news story filled with words of emotion? Oftentimes, the adjectives that writers use are added to the story in order to instill a specific emotion from the reader. Objective reporting does not rely on the crutches of unnecessary, emotional adjectives.

3. Fact check

Click on the links that reporters use in their stories. Do you feel like these links are reliable sources of information? Are they links that other reporters are using?
Focusing on the writing style of the news report that you are reading, from which you are forming your opinions, can be one of the best ways to educate yourself on whether or not to trust the source. By paying attention to these small details in your news, you can more easily discern which news is applicable and trustworthy in your decision-making of an emergency situation, as well as in informing yourself on your stance within political news.

The Aftermath

After undergoing the stress of a devastating situation, one needs to devise ways to escape “Fear Island”.
One suggestion is to help the victims and less fortunate who are suffering more than you. By taking action to bring aid to others, you are able to soothe your own emotional wounds. Besides offering others great help that they are not in a position to provide for themselves, taking action can divert your mind from your own suffering and worry. Besides that, it will bring you feelings of peacefulness to know your actions are positive rather than inactive.
Another suggestion is to express yourself and allow your feelings to escape your mind and body. Talk to your friends and family about your experiences and seek comfort in their responses. If you feel too inhibited to share, then take a look at these interview questions below, while taking time to answer them for yourself. Give yourself time to really think and express your thoughts on these subjects, and try to write your feelings down. Even if you can’t bring yourself to verbally express your emotions, sometimes the written word is enough and will suffice. Copy and paste the following interview questions and answer them. Delve into your emotions and experiences and allow them to flow. Share them if you wish. I promise that your friends and family care about and are interested in your thoughts and feelings. Sometimes even written responses help soothe the soul.
In these ways, I was able to escape Fear Island.

Interview questions

Where were you and what was on your mind during the quake? After the quake?
At what point did you realize, “This is big.”
How did you react to the mainstream media?
How did you react to the local media from your friends and family?
How did you cope through the first few days? The next week?
What are your feelings now about the situation?
What messages do you have for your friends and family living outside of the situation? Inside the situation?
How did their reaction make you feel?
What have you learned from all this?
How has this changed you?
What advice can you share with others?

March 11, 2011----My Experience

That Friday was my 3rd to last day of my contract with Jindai (Yokohama Daigaku Fuzoku Junior/High School) I was working there on an Interac contract. In the few months of working there, I had become close friends with the other 2 native English teachers. I had requested the afternoon off, since I had vacation days left over and no classes for the rest of that Friday afternoon. I had become engrossed in a relationship-related conversation with my coworker, Dominic, when the shaking began. As soon as we noticed the shaking, the other Japanese teachers in the room began to shriek. Dominic and I stayed sitting at our adjoined desks and commented on how Japanese earthquakes feel wavey and rolly compared to California earthquakes, the state where we both come from.

Below: Dominic drinking a melon soda at an izakaya a few days before the earthquake. (I thought I ought to give a visual) (I don't have a picture of Brianna, however).



After some time, the shaking began to escalate. There were some long extension cords hanging above our desks that began to sway and swirl, and soon the building's infrastructure began to make unsettling noises. By this time, the women in the room were shrieking the words "kowaaaai" (scarrry!). Dominic and I were still engaged in conversation regarding the shaking.
Me: Hey, this is pretty long.
D: Ya, I know. I think it's getting stronger.

D: I think we should get under the desk.
Me: Ya, i know. I've never felt like I needed to do this before.

Me: Dominic, I'm really scared. I have a feeling this is going to be very very bad for the rest of Japan.
D: That's scary.


After the shaking had reached it's strongest point and my heart raced as my butt lingered outside the protection of the desk, I realized everything was moving uncontrollably.

The shaking hadn't even completely finished, but only became weaker when I crawled out and stood up. It felt as we weren't on solid ground, but instead on a ship at sea. As all the other women emerged from their desks, everyone began to pull out their cell phones to check what was happening.

The first thing I did after taking my iPhone out of my pocket was dial Chu's number. I had no idea where the earthquake was centered or how large it was. All I could think of was that the time was close to 3 oclock when her job was most definitely finished, and she could have possibly been driving on her scooter. I was unbelievably worried about her. I tried calling about 3 times before I realized that the service was out. Dominic and I were talking to each other, and he was concentrated on contacting his mother who was visiting him, and alone at his house, unable to speak a word of Japanese.

Both of us stepped out onto the balcony where cell reception can usually be found when the 7.0 aftershocks began. Suddenly the earth was moving again, and we finally realized that we weren't able to make outgoing calls. It was then that I posted onto Facebook that I was alright and hoping to see a post from Chu saying that she was too. It seemed like forever during those 20 or so minutes that I hadn't seen a post update from her, but finally she updated.

After an hour of waiting around and regaining our wits, it became 4 o clock when we were allowed to go home. We decided to trek to Dominic's house in Machida, since it rumored that the trains might be down for the rest of the night. It still hadn't been comfirmed yet, but we decided that seemed like the best option at the time.


Here are some pictures from the walk home.

BELOW: A Chinese food restaurant's broken display case



BELOW: Some ladies in the convenience store stocking up on food.



BELOW: The electricity-less, long-lined konbini an hour after the earthquake.


BELOW:Steps in front of a business



It was a good decision, because none of the JR trains came back online for the rest of the night.


After 4 hours and 13 kilometers, we finally made it back to Dominic's apartment. We reunited with his mother, and I recharged my phone and called Chu.
It wasn't until then that we saw footage of the horrible disasters caused by the shaking and tsunamis. We then went out for some yakiniku, as our appetites were raging.

We spent the night sleeping on an airbed in his apartment. The night passed with dozens of huge aftershocks, but I was too tired to try to seek shelter under his doorway. Finally, in the morning, some trains resumed, and after a few hours I made it back home to Chu's house.

Below: A disturbing crack in the train in Kikuna station's wall



It felt unbelievably awesome to hold her after that night. Here's a pic of prepared-for-an-emergency Chubabe.


I am so glad that I happened to stay 2 hours later than I was supposed to stay at work, talking with Dominic rather than experiencing that day on a train filled with strangers. It was terribly scary and unusual, and a bond unlike any other has been formed with those people with whom I experienced the quake. It's a day I'll never forget.

Where have I been, you might ask?

I haven't visited my Fantasy World in many months. In fact, I haven't so much as mentioned the fact that I left Japan in August 2009,only to be summoned back in April of 2010. The lapse in time and the moments lived are difficult to explain after months of cyber-silence. Basically, I left Japanland when my JET Programme visa expired after 3 years, only to realize that I had stepped out of the territory where my heart thrived. That soft stone in my chest had become unaccustomed to loneliness and longing. Once I found myself living in my homeland, my childhood home of Commerce, CA. USA, I soon longed for the other home that I had matured into, the foreign, yet familiar country of Japan.

It was hard to return. The reality of finding a job that would extend responsibility for a visa was hard to find. However,after 8 months, I was able to finally find it. And,soon, I was back in baby's arms. That year was extremely difficult though. My job was unstable in the fact that it only offered 4 month long contracts. Due to some bad choices on my part, I complicated the paperwork, and created an untimely severance of my contract with this employer. Luckily, I could find another job, and then another after that to continue my legal presence here. This experience left me downtrodden, broke as a joke, and emotionally toiled. However, finally with a new job prospect for April 2011, my future in Japan began to solidify. But before the school year could change and adjust into the new life, unforeseen disaster struck my lovely home.

The earth both literally and figuratively shook beneath our feet.
Friday, March 11th, 2011 will mark a memory that I can't expect to ever leave me.