What I’ve learned: I am lucky

The actual earthquake was the easiest part.  I don’t know how long it lasted, but the first impact was a scary, loud, and frightening.  It hit around 2:45 and for the next 6 hours I was in my classroom with my 9th graders waiting for them to find places to sleep, with occasional ducking under desks. We watched movies, ate pizza, played music, and hung out.  I e-mailed friends and family.  Skyped my parents. Posted on Twitter that I was okay.  Put a message on Facebook.  Found a friend’s place to crash because I couldn’t get home with the trains down. And I thought all was okay. How bad could it be?  I never lost internet connection or power.  I saw no signs of damage in my wonderful neighborhood in Tokyo.  Hell, the only mess in my apartment was the mess I left when I went to work on Friday morning.  Again, I thought all was okay.

Things aren’t okay in my new home of Japan.  On a personal level, I spent the weekend Skyping, e-mailing, creatively cursing aftershocks, filling my bathtub with water, sleeping on my couch with boots nearby, and feeling helpless.  On a national level, things have rapidly deteriorated.  Many others can do a better job of explaining nuclear reactors, the horror of the tsunami, and the resiliency of the Japanese people.   To be honest with you, I still haven’t been able to watch a lot of footage of the event, because it’s (literally) too close to home.

I left Tokyo on Tuesday morning.  I have a flight back to Tokyo on April 1.   Things still aren’t okay there and I’m not sure when they will be.  I felt a little guilty for leaving, but it was the right decision.  And as I watch the news from the comfort of China (words not often said), I realize how lucky I am.  I am lucky I have the resources to buy a flight on a day’s notice.  I’m lucky to work at a school where the administration is calm and takes care of the entire community. I am lucky to have many friends at work who offered to let me crash at their place when I couldn’t get home.  I am lucky to have students who are already e-mailing me questions about homework.   I am lucky to be able to Skype, e-mail, tweet, and Facebook my friends and family.  It’s somewhat humbling to realize how many people were thinking of me and praying for me and how wide my circle of friends really is.  I’m lucky to have a friend who lets me show up with less than 36 hours notice with a backpack and buys me a beer within 10 minutes of arriving.  I’m lucky to live in a country that has been so prepared for an earthquake.  And I am lucky to witness the strength and grace of the Japanese people in moments of crisis.

My school, Yokohama International School, was founded in 1924 after the destructive Kanto earthquake.  Yokohama was devastated and group of international parents believed one way to revive a community was through a school. I think they were on to something.  I am already looking forward to going home, getting back to work, and doing anything I can to help. Because Japan, and I, will be better than okay.

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About Rebekah Madrid

MYP Humanities Instructor. International School Teacher in Japan. Google Certified Teacher. Apple Distinguished Educator. National Board Certified Teacher. Traveler & TV Watcher. This is where I write my thoughts about all of the above.
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3 Responses to What I’ve learned: I am lucky

  1. Mairin says:

    I agree- we are all lucky. My husband and I barely escaped the 2004 tsunami in Thailand and lost all of our stuff. We had a hard 24 hours being stuck on an island before we could get on a boat back to the mainland, and we thought that a terrible thing was happening to us. Then, we stopped and realized that after we got on that boat, we had somewhere to go- somewhere to go and get money and passports, somewhere to go after getting on a plane out of the country, and a nice apartment to relax in after it was all over and we made it home. We also had the means to replace the things that we had lost (which were really just some clothing and snorkle gear, not our homes, our furniture, or our livelihood).

    I felt a horrible sense of guilt when I thought about all of the Thai people whose lives would be directly impacted by the tragedy for years to come when for us, it was really just a very bad ending to a vacation. It is a hard feeling to reconcile.

    It’s great that you recognize how lucky we are, and that you will (I’m sure) take that gratitude and turn it into something positive, even if it’s simply being more mindful of our good fortune on a daily basis.

    I hope you return to the Japan that you hope for!

    • It’s strange being part of a community that is suffering, but yet being an outsider. The guilt and the helplessness is frustrating, somehow more so now that I’m physically removed from it. It will be interesting to see what comes of this event for Japan. And if nothing else, I hope that I will continue to me mindful of the blessings I have.
      Thanks for commenting…its nice to have connections right now.

  2. Pingback: Telling Stories | Rebekah Madrid

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