Friday, 11 March 2011

Grief for Japan

It's a dark day in Japan today.  The seventh worst earthquake in recorded history has hit them, bringing a tsunami that has swept away towns, highways and ships.  The death toll is already in the hundreds, with many more hundreds missing.

During my two years in that incredible country I experienced a typhoon and several small earthquakes.  They were scary but never really dangerous.  During the typhoon of September 2000 I was in Kyoto, hiking in the hills around the ancient capital with Steve, my then boyfriend.  It was only my second month in Japan.  We'd started the hike on a slightly overcast day.  As we walked around the hills, we had noticed that we were coming across fewer and fewer people.  Some Japanese walkers had tried to tell us something but my language skills were not advanced enough to understand that they were warning us to get off the hill.   So we carried on.  Then the wind and rain started to lash down on us and suddenly we felt a long way from civilisation.  Our map was basic and we had no supplies.  Eventually we stumbled on a man in a day-glo emergency vest who directed us aggressively towards safety.  Presumably he was out on the mountain looking for moronic foreigners who don't know a typhoon when they stumble right into one (maybe my boss phoned ahead and told him we were coming).   Steve and I ended up huddled in the train station with about a thousand other people, with no trains going anywhere and no roads yet visible above the flooding.  We spent most of the night sleeping fitfully at the station, kept awake by the rain and a rising sense of foreboding.  Fortunately our inability to communicate with those around us meant we didn't realise how serious the situation was, until we were safe.   It was only when I got back to the office and casually enquired why the Police had moved cars into rice paddy fields beside the freeway that I was told those paddy fields were in fact parking lots where cars were floating beside partly-submerged buildings.

Today is a good time to reflect on the many blessings in my life.

I'm going to give my mum a big hug.

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