Thursday, April 7, 2011

When it's time to run away.

So March 11, 2011 is a day to be remembered. I was at my kindergarten at the time it happened... the quake that moved Japan. Yamanashi is on the cusp of the Kantou region. We are literally the western edge, which I am very grateful for. That being said, we still got hit with a quake large enough to scare me pretty bad. The kids at the kindergarten thought it was great fun, but parents who were on their way in to pick up kids, were running for hugs out of the fear they may not have seen their children again.
The quakes of course occurred before the tsunamis. All the damage you saw on the TVs, it was almost entirely related to the tsunamis, not the quakes, there's a big misconception about that, I think. When the quake hit, we didn't know if we were the center, or what happened even really. Our school care taker went to grab his radio, and listen in. The news came that the center was Miyage, quite far from us, and suddenly a great fear set in. Under earthquake procedure rules, we stayed outside, since the chances of more large quakes happening directly after are greatly increased. Sure enough, we had another huge quake, only about 15 minutes later, I think we got hit even harder that time, at least in Yamanashi.
Once another 15 minutes had passed, we wandered into the classrooms to see what the TV had to say... and suddenly the north eastern shore of Japan was in ruins. The tsunamis were rolling in all around Japan. The reports were saying many places were expected to get over 10 meters high of tsunami... I didn't really understand what a tsunami was, until I saw this. I figured it was just really big waves, much like the name says... but it's really quite different. It's as if the sea level has temporarily changed, and moves in land to meet that level. So when you say a 10 meter high tsunami is hitting land, it's not a 10 meter giant wave crashing down, it's more like lands that are 10 meters above sea level are going to be flooded with water. What this meant in some areas, was tsunamis hitting as far as 6 miles in land.
It really took a few days to sink in what was happening all around. The first day was ending, people were in a panic, no one knew if more big quakes were coming. Quakes were the topic that first day. I called my family and everyone at about 4 in the morning their time, just so they wouldn't wake up to hear about it and freak out. At that point, I was feeling mostly calm, but just disrupted form the regular flow.
Then day two came, and the first reactor blew. Before it blew, they were talking a lot about it on the news... we thought it was going to be OK, and then everyone freaked out with the first explosion. Our media began to switch pretty drastically from after the first to second explosion. Rather than getting doom reports just talking about bleakness, they began to discuss how radiation is harmful, what types are being released, the rates of dispersion, how to be prepared against it, what exactly was wrong with the reactors in detail. I was actually feeling very calmed by it, but many of my friends still had me pretty scared.
As the week went on, there were more explosions, and we were still having about 100 or so quakes a day, with big ones starting to hit my prefecture. The news with the reactors still wasn't looking better, and more scary news was coming out. The US was offering some ways out, through a really terrible deal.. I opted differently, but indeed to leave.
Somehow I felt like things were going to be ok, even when I bought my ticket... I knew Japan had to be OK... but there was this over whelming fear of being in it... My Japanese co workers were talking about not trusting the government. Everyone around me just felt displaced. Terrible jokes about the situation getting worse, stores running out of food and gas stations out of gas, trains around me weren't working, and I was feeling trapped, alone, dirty, and scared. I wonder if I should explain dirty... I just mean that... I felt to the point that I couldn't trust anything around me. I felt like the radiation probably wasn't that bad, but knew it had to be there, and I was so terrified to do anything around me. Didn't want to be outside. Didn't want to use any water that wasn't bottled.. even for bathing. Didn't want to eat any vegetables...(that one is a bigger concern right now actually). I just felt so tainted by everything, and I needed to get away from that, because I felt sick.
I guess this has been a long post... longer in words than anticipated, but I was wondering if people were wondering what happened. I guess the real thing I want to say is that.. I felt so bad for leaving. Leaving the people that were staying. All my coworkers were staying, still working. My friends, still wondering.. and there I was, leaving. Many of my friends wanted to leave.. I told them to keep my info just in case they had to get out. I will say, it really gave me a refreshing look at every thing happening, and in the end I am glad for my own health and safety, that I did leave. Even if the radiation wasn't effecting me physically, I couldn't deal with it mentally, or emotionally at all.
I said this on my facebook already, but I really want to say again... Thank you so much to all my friends. I feel so amazingly lucky to have everyone in my life, that I do. To those of you that just listened, or maybe gave some encouraging words, or a place to sleep, or a bit of money to help get me out... I just don't know what I would have done without you existing. Just thank you so much for existing.

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