Sunday, 13 March 2011

Sunday Salon: Thinking of Japan

It's only been two weeks since I posted about the devastating earthquake that hit Christchurch and now here I am again, glued to the television set, looking on in horror as another country is laid low by mother nature's power. Last time it was my home country, this time it is the home country of my sister-in-law. Luckily, all of her family and all of her friends are accounted for and safe, there were a few tense hours when she wasn't able to reach a friend of hers who lives near one of the nuclear power plants that has been having issues but as luck would have it she was in another part of Japan entirely and was fine.

Screen capture of the status update
that alerted me to the news.
The thing that struck me about this quake/tsunami (besides the obvious distress and devastation) was how I found out about it. I was having a real failure of a study day on Friday. My brain was stuck in neutral and no amount of coffee or cajoling was going to change that. I gave up and checked Facebook to see if one of my friends had played his move on Scrabble. In my news feed I saw another friend post "Dang big earthquake in Japan". I wasn't sure if he was talking about the other quakes they had had in the last couple of days so I googled it. Sure enough, there it was - breaking news. The earthquake happened at 2.46pm (Tokyo time) and he put an update about it on Facebook at 3.26pm (Tokyo time), only forty minutes later. The immediacy of the transfer of information is just astonishing but is becoming more and more common.

After calling my sister-in-law to make she knew and could check on her family and friends, I turned on the BBC World Service. It was already showing coverage of the quake and that's where I learned that it wasn't just an earthquake but a terrible tsunami was in progress. Within the first few minutes I was watching they upgraded it from a 7.6 to an 8.4 to an 8.9 on the richter scale and the phrase "Super Quake" and "The Big One" started being thrown around. Forget studying. I spent the rest of the afternoon glued to the news footage, a constant onslaught of horrific images and facts that were hard to absorb and truly comprehend. My sister-in-law came over for dinner that night and we spent a while longer in front of the news until we both got to saturation point and agreed to turn it off and watch something light-hearted for a mental break. I've been rationing my consumption of it ever since. Of course I care but I don't think it is necessarily wise or helpful to sit through looped repetitive coverage of the same thing over and over and over. I know it's what a lot of people like to do when there is a big event like this but I don't.

Pictures of the devastation
Image credit: BBC
I have to say though, through it all my admiration for the Japanese people has only grown. There was one piece of footage within a supermarket when the quake was happening and the store workers were trying to hold up the shelves to make sure they didn't collapse and hurt anyone. That kind of captured it for me, really. The sense of the greater good and pulling together that is sometimes somewhat lacking in other societies was so good to see. The BBC were interviewing a psychologist at one point and he too was commenting on the really pro-social behaviours that everyone seemed to be displaying. Even in the face of serious danger and personal risk. I'm impressed.

If you're wondering how to help, there are a bunch of international aid agencies that have sprung into action. I got this link from a blog post on the same subject by Eileen over at Sincerely, Eileen which seems to be mainly for those residing in America but the same agencies will likely have branches wherever you're living so make sure you check in with The Red Cross, Save the Children and places like that.

Just in case I missed the lesson from Christchurch (I didn't) this only reinforced the concept that life is unpredictable and not to be taken for granted. I plan on switching off the TV and logging off the internet a bit more and spending even more time reading, playing with my dog and hugging my husband. I sincerely hope that my life remains normal and uninterrupted by this kind of disaster and I don't plan on living a life where I keep looking over my shoulder - I just want to make sure mentally I'm here, in my life, enjoying the many blessings I have.

My thoughts are with you Japan, and with everyone all over the world who is suffering the effects of natural or man-made disasters.


  1. Great many nuggets of inspiration can be gleaned from the aftermath of tragedy, and how people, while coping, can often display the deep humanity we don't always see on a regular basis.

    Not that we should have more tragedies....but wouldn't it be great if we could "act as if" during ordinary moments when we're interacting with others?

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and the great links.


  2. Great post. This tragedy is just overwhelming, isn't it? Thanks for stopping by my blog this morning :) Re: my dog - that is Raven - she is a two year old GSD. You said your dog is similar in I assume you also have a german shepherd! Great dogs...I always have to have one in my life!!!

  3. Laurel-Rain: I really wish we could all act as if without the tragedies but it unfortunately seems we need them as reminders! Thanks for your comment and link to you post.

    Wendy: Terribly overwhelming. I wish we could see the end point but it seems that's a long ways off yet. Ah, Raven! What a great name! Yes, my dog (Kratos) is a German Shepherd. My husband's family had another GSD back in NZ called Rifle, he was very much loved but sadly passed 18 months ago. Even though I adore GSDs I wasn't planning on having another (more out of respect for my MIL as she misses Rifle terribly) but then Kratos just decided that he was going to follow me home one day and that was that! I'm very glad he did :)