the land ahead…

March 15, 2011 § 2 Comments

Surreal.

While many around me watch with a mixture of fascination & horror as events unfold in Japan, I sit with Mother, discussing her move to Atami. Ironic how she was traveling back to a place filled with disaster when the rest of the world was trying to get out.

‘Sakiko’s relatives are still missing,’ Mina-san said to me at the table, as we tried to enjoy ourselves at Mother’s farewell dinner. ‘Her mother and father are here, but everyone else is back in Miyagi.’

‘Did she grow up there?’ I asked. Sakiko was her colleague and close friend.

‘Yes… it’s her hometown. She received news that her best friend is dead. Her mother can’t eat because her younger brother is still missing, as is the rest of the family. And her father’s entire business was built in Miyagi, so now, he basically has no work to return to.’

The sashimi managed to get stuck in my throat. And that was when our phones beeped. We had set it to receive notifications whenever there was news from Japan.

‘Five minutes ago, there was another earthquake, this time further down south, in Shizuoka.’ I said. ‘The earthquake measured 6.0 in magnitude…’

‘Shizuoka?’ Mother looked up. ‘That’s far away from Miyagi.’ And a little closer to where Mother is going to be in two days’ time. Mina-san quietly began texting on her mobile. Her family was in Kanagawa, a prefecture beside Shizuoka.

‘Is everything okay?’ I asked.

‘It should be. They’ve already suffered the worst on Friday, but I’m just checking to see that they’re all doing well.’ Thankfully, they were. ‘Although my sister just had a massive quarrel with her husband.’

‘Quarrel at a time like this? What happened?’

‘She was pissed that while they – mom and her – were busy hiding from things that could fall, he was snoring on the couch.’ Mina-san laughed.

It felt good then to smile again. Still, this disaster feels too real and it’s getting under my skin. I know these people. I’ve lived with them. Japan is my second home… and to see what’s happening to the country is akin to watching a gang of brutal rapists attack someone you love.

You feel helpless, angry and weepy, all at the same time.

*

Tired of the news footage I’ve seen so far, I decided to browse some pictures that talked about the human plight, strength, resilience and courage. Here are some (of the best) I found from Life. You can click on the pictures to lead you straight to the gallery itself.

Holding On (March 12)
A soldier carries an elderly woman on his back as people are evacuated to a shelter in Kesennuma, Miyagi prefecture.

Lining Up (March 14)
A mass of people wait to buy food at a grocery store in hard-hit Sendai.

Please Call (March 14)
Thousands are missing in Japan since the quake. Here, a woman posts a message for loved ones at an evacuation center in Natori.
Aftermath
A young survivor surveys the destruction in the northern Japanese city of Ishinomaki, two days after a tsunami ravaged the coast. In the days following the quake, as the waters receded, the nightmarish scale of the destruction became evident: entire towns were, in effect, wiped from the map; cars, buses, homes, people were washed away…

Doing Her Part
Neena Sasaki, 5, carries family belongings from her destroyed home in Rikuzentakata.

Smiles Amid Ruin
A soldier smiles as he holds a four-month-old baby who, along with with her family, survived the tsunami’s devastation in Ishinomaki.
Sharing The Pain
A woman holds her granddaughter at a shelter at Natori.
A Moment To Remember
A man lights a candle in memory of the victims of Japan’s massive March 11, 2011 earthquake in a park in Sendai. It is believed the death count in Japan could reach 10,000.

*

I’ve never been in a nuclear reactor. For those of you like me, here’s a gallery of pictures you can browse (not of those in Japan but a historical walk through) to help make sense of everything happening in the news.

*

Throughout the past few days, Mother hasn’t once lost her cheerful outlook on life. In light of all that’s happened, she’s utterly convinced that heading back to Japan is the right thing to do. And I can’t agree more. If there ever was a time when my grandmother and relatives need her, it’s now.

I can be unselfish about that. She being there would also allow us back here to direct our help in a more focused way. But I’ll miss her ability to laugh at the most dire of circumstances and honestly, Mother is such a beacon of encouragement and light. Am I fearful that I’ll sink into a deep pit of darkness once she goes? A little. My heart has been aching in a million places these past few days – for the people in Japan, for the history that many have lost, and yes… for me. But I’ll manage.

I’m going to miss that spunky, cheeky lady like hell though.

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