Thoughts on life after the PhD
It’s still hard to process the scale of the destruction and human suffering in northeastern Japan, especially when most of your energy is directed toward staying calm and waiting for the next big quake. I’m guessing it won’t really hit me for at least a few days. For now, though, a few things that have moved me since the quake.
1. A few hours ago a spokesman for the Japan meteorological agency addressed the media after the 6.2 quake that hit around 10 am. He was addressing concerns about more tsunamis and telling residents of the area to get to high ground immediately (to my knowledge there are currently no warnings).
He stumbled over his words, had trouble catching his breath, and appeared to be on the verge of tears during the entire speech. It was disturbing but also strangely moving–sometimes Japan can feel overly “official” to the point where the humanity gets lost. This was not one of those times. The poor man has probably been awake for 72 hours and has had to endure endless footage of devastated towns and cities, only to have to tell people that more waves, and more death, might be coming.
2. A woman in Miyagi prefecture whose five-year-old daughter was carried to her through knee-deep water in the arms of a rescue worker. The woman was weeping, but she was trying very hard to keep it together for her daughter, who seemed to be in shock.
3. A group of elderly women who survived on the roof of a partially submerged building for two days, sharing what little food they had. When they were finally rescued and were about to part company they broke down one by one and thanked each other for all the life-saving support.
4. Seeing a steady stream of people put thousand and five thousand-yen notes into a donation box at a concert hall, one after the other, without interruption.
5. Uniformed train staff standing patiently at the ticket gates answering question after question from hundreds of commuters about suspended / reduced train service.
6. People hugging. Japan isn’t known for public displays of affection, so it’s somehow heartwarming to see total strangers hugging and crying together, mostly out of gratitude that they’re all alive.
I’ve just returned from a trip to two different supermarkets, where I managed to secure some rice, more canned goods, fresh fruit & vegetables, and pasta. Lines were long but everyone was pleasant and staff seemed even perkier than usual. No one tried to cut in line or fight anyone else for the last package of instant noodles. Will try to make some spaghetti rice tonight if I’ve still got power. Still hunkering down for that next big quake, but feeling confident that Tokyo will handle it with grace when it comes.
writing•translation•scholarship on Japan (and a few other things)
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