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Sunday, March 20, 2011

And I Am Living - Guest Post by Rachel Bellairs

Today's guest post is by Rachel Bellairs, who has been a JET in Tochigi, Japan since 2008. Thank you, Rachel, for sharing your feelings and putting into words the things that so many others could not. It is difficult to address these emotions, and you do a great service to us all by helping those on the outside to understand.

And I Am Living
by Rachel Bellairs

Rachel Bellairs
Living through a natural disaster isn’t the same as reading about it. Of course, you think, that’s just common sense but you don’t realize, not really, until you’ve LIVED it. It’s not just about surviving the disaster itself. Of course there’s that relief that you made it. And in my case, that the damage wasn’t that bad. 

The day following the quake, one of the things I remember most was of a friend commenting that all the news was talking about was the earthquake and tsunami destruction but in our area it was almost surreal how normal everything seemed. But it wasn’t. Because that’s the thing. You don’t just live through the natural disaster. You also live through everything that comes after. You live through the initial relief of finding yourself and your friends alive and unharmed. Then through the guilt of watching all those who weren’t so lucky. You live through telling family and friends who weren’t involved that you’re ok, that you’re shaken up. Then try to keep being OK. You live, even after realizing that though you think you weren’t really affected, you are. That it’s not just your own fear you have to deal with, but others’ as well.

I think the hardest thing for me is the uncertainty. It’s been a week since the quake and the aftershocks still happen. Every time, I wonder if this time it’ll be another big one, if this time it won’t settle down after a few seconds. Sometimes I get what I have taken to calling “phantom shocks.” They aren’t really there but my body thinks they are and my heart jumps all the same. My instincts now have reason to fear earthquakes and instinct doesn’t die down quickly. Added to that uncertainty is the nuclear meltdown in Fukushima. First of all, there is not enough power to go around, so we have finally begun scheduled blackouts for about three hours every day. There has been major confusion about those when the government, power companies, and civilian organizations, namely the train companies, failed to coordinate their efforts.
I have adjusted to these fairly well, and even enjoy the time I spend at my friends’ house when my own power goes out. The first time this happened, I was on my way there and was in the middle of the city when it suddenly went dark. It was fascinating and eerie and a small part dangerous because there were now no traffic lights to help me cross the street. I have come to realize how much I and everyone else here rely on the trains, now that service is sketchy. The freedom of movement we’re used to seems like such an ordinary thing but it’s so precious.

Today we learned that my school will shelter refugees from places affected by the power plant and natural disaster. To me that means we are safe here. The government has been reporting continuously but America at least seems bound and determined to tell us that Japan isn’t being honest with its citizens. At the same time this annoys the hell out of me, a small part of me is afraid of the consequences if they are right. A small part of me has been afraid since the earthquake but it’s a damn scary situation. Aid to victims of the earthquake and tsunami has been slow getting to them because of fuel shortages. Lines for gas can be three hours long and some gas stations have shut down because they ran out. Shelves in supermarkets and convenience stores are sometimes empty when some new fresh bit of news starts people panicking. Make no mistake, there is panic. It’s not the same kind you’ll find in America or other countries but it’s there. Some ALTs have left, breaking contracts early which I agree with one of my friends, seems a lousy thing to do. I will stay until the government tells me to go. And not just suggests, but orders. I stay because my teachers aren’t leaving and neither are my students. I respect these people and I care for my students. I stay because I signed a contract and gave my word. I stay because I have made a life here. And a life isn’t something you easily abandon.

I am sad. Sad for the lives lost, that could still be lost, because help isn’t coming when it should. I am angry. Angry at the panic and the fear, and sometimes at the people spreading it, at the government for doing what seems to be a poor job. I am anxious. Anxious because I can’t be sure of exactly what’s going on or when things will go back to normal. I am tired. Tired of worrying, of having my life disrupted. But that, I think, is life. And I am living.

1 comment:

  1. It is very sad what happened in japan. Thankfully Rachel managed to survive. I understand the feeling of being overwhelmed after all that have happened. I hope she is doing well to cope up with the situation.

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