Thursday, May 26, 2011

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.

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