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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

♥ Earthquake

A large and powerful earthquake hit my prefecture today around 5:00AM after enduring a typhoon from China and Taiwan. Its epicenter was in the Suruga Bay where my city is situated, and was only 30miles from Yaizu. The earthquake hit its strongest on the coastline where Yaizu, Omaezaki, and other cities and tows are, and the Izu Penninsula. It there spread over the prefecture and traveled into neighboring prefectures and areas, including Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto areas. Where I live was where the earthquake was at its strongest, a 6.7 on the Richter Scale. Basically 6.0-6.9 is listed as a Strong earthquake and "can be destructive in areas up to 100 miles across in populated areas." Around 120 of these happen per year and my 6.7 one has the power of 16.2 megatons. For a comparison, it was just shy of the 1980s San Francisco earthquake and the Nagasaki bomb only wielded 32 kilotons... I believe a megtaton is 1000 kilotons. I have never felt so small and insignificant in my life, and now have a scary respect for Mother Nature. She is one nasty bitch.

newspaper article link

I am obviously alright, as I am typing this, just very shaken (no pun intended). I have never experienced an earthquake, so after momentary panic I was able to situate myself in a safe position until it ended. My apartment is still in tact, just the contents inside are a bit displaced. To my knowledge nothing major has been broken, I was able to save my microwave, rice cooker, and toaster oven before they were flung anywhere. I have a good bit of cleaning up to do, but there have bene no major injuries reported and while there has been damage, there is nothing catatrsophic. As all the teachers have been saying, we are all very lucky. This was the strongest earthquake any of them have felt in a very long time, if ever, and they said it was very rare for this to happen. Not the most comforting thought, but I suppose if I can get through a major earthquake in my first two weeks, I'm game for anything. So yes... what happened... here we go;

We had a typhoon starting late last night just after I fell asleep. No big deal, it was a heavy rainstorm and that didn't bother me. However I was getting uncomfortable so I decided to turn on the air conditioning.

Shortly after I heard some thunder, and just as I was about to close my eyes again this horrible clattering noise started and then I was flung to the side as the entire apartment started to violently shake. The sound of the rice paper doors rattling in their frames, the chine cabinet glasses clinking together, and the chilling silence above it all is still stuck in my memory. It took me a moment of being tossed back and forth to realize what was going on and I immediately started to crawl frantically to the low table in my living room, curling up underneath it, my glasses askew on my face, my phone clutched in my hand as I grabbed at the legs and support of the table, trying to keep myself still. I look up and see my bookcase and tv, desperatly trying to move the table in case either falls so I wont be hit. Everything keeps shaking as I keep jostling underneath the table, trying to curl up. The worst of it comes and I hit my head on the top of the table, but I don't move, I just keep making sure my head is covered. At the time all I could hear was the noise of the apartment shaking, wondering if it was going to come crsahing down on my, wondering if this was the horrible earthquake that was supposed to hit Shizuoka any year now. I can't really breath, I'm staring at anything I can because I don't want to close my eyes... I still cannot wrap my mind aroun the fact the earth was moving, that it was carrying me with it. The shaking begins to subside and I let go of the table only to be thrown into it again... the shaking slows down and it seems to stop. It starts up again, though not as powerful. It stops again and I stay underneath the table, staring ahead, teeh clenched, chest taking in little breaths as I try to wrap my mind around what has happened. The shaking begins again very softly, and then it is done.

I laid there for a good five minutes before moving. I remember reading that you should stay where you are for a few moments after because it may not be done yet. That and getting under a table were the only things I could remember to do. When I'm sure it's done I pick my head up a little to look around. The bookcase is still up, as is the tv. At the time I didn't notice anything else, instead I frantically opened my phone and called Sally. She's lived in Japan before, she was close, she surely knew what to do. All I hear is a Japanese lady babbling at me. I close the phone and try again. Same thing. That's when I decide to call my mother, if only for the reason I needed some comfort. I shakily mistype in the number and have to do it again. I keep shaking and I don't know if its just my body reacting to the earthquake or if I was just that much in shock from it. She answers happily and I immediatly just start to break down, trying to explain what happened. She calms me down as a mother can and as she tries to assess the situation I hear sirens going off, two different kinds. An announcement is made, but its over a loud speaker and in Japanese and I have no idea. The rain started up again and I'm terrified another earthquake is going to happen. I talk with her for awhile and after hanging up I notice I have a missed call from Sally. I get in touch with her and she makes sure I'm okay, telling me to get outside and see if I can ask a neighbor as to what to do as I heard sirens and they haven't gone off anywhere else. I get out from underneath the table and don't even see the books flung everywhere or things toppled over. She tells me to get my passport, person effects to get outside. Survival mode kicks in and I operate very smoothly, very quickly. I go into the kitchen and see the microwave and rice cooker about to topple over. I save it and see so many things splaye dout on the floor, but I don't have the time. I grab my umbrella and shoes and run outside. No one was out there. I'm still shaking and I look wearily to the sky. It's an odd shade of grey, and its then I look down and see my poor bike hurled against the apartment. I don't pick it up, instead run down to the main street, only to see a boy not much younger than me walk out, look around, and walk back inside. The tv is on in his house, so that is what I decide to do. I go back inside and tur on the tv.

Though I cannot understand the Japanese, I see the pictures showing where the earthquake hit and who was most affected. Yaizu is in red and I see how far the earthquake stretched. They show video of Shizuoka City fifteen minutes away being hit and the rattling of the camera and how much it moves makes me feel almost ill. I couldn't believe I had just gone through that. That's when the texts and phone calls start pouring in. Sophie called to check on me, wishing she could come get me, but the trains and roads are closed and none of us know if another earthquake is coming. I fill up my bath tub with water just in case the power goes out and I talk with her a bit, trying to calm down. The next three hours are filled witha ll of us making sure one another is okay. Adam assuring me that the announcements aren't important (more like don't leave your gas on, and such) and that school will go on as normal probably. I keep watching the news, watching the same footage over and over again, trying to decipher what's going on. We had a tsunami warning, but it was only 21inches tall and the walls could more than take care of it. The rain stopped and after checking outside again I turn on the lights to see what damage has been done. Nothing is broken, but things are everywhere. Out of a bit of morbid artistry I take some pictures before cleaning what I could up whilst trying to get in touch with my teachers. Nothing. No one comes to check on me, so I decide to head out, very timid, very humble.

The sky is blue and everything looks so peaceful. It's eerie and I don't like it. As I walk along the road I see people picking up outside, other yards messed up, others just talking in a very gentle manner. Everyone went through this and everyone experienced it in the same awe-struck way I had. Even though it was my first and they knew earthquakes, they knew it was an event that would change their lives little by little. I pass by the barber shop as I do every day and the people there, instead of just a monotone ohayou gozaimasu, they give me one with a smile, bowing their heads a bit more than usual. I gave a small wave before heading on. Outside the school crews are cleaning up and a construction crew quickly rushes to where construction was happening to repair what has been damaged. They've been working hard all day, and very loudly. Every time they use a jackhammer that sounds like the beginning of earthquake I become terrified... but I suppose its just one of those sounds that'll forever stay with you. Once I get in the school everyone in the office looks at me with the same timid expression, though happy to see that I not only made it, but was okay. There was no one but two teachers in the staff room once I got there, and all day there have been less than six teachers at school. A few checked on me (including the deputy principal), even if they spoke no English... Daijobou needs no translation, nor does a hand on the shoulder. I said it was my first one and they sympathized, saying how they thought it was scary too and very powerful, they were very surprised. I talked with mom and sister dear a bit more on Skype and was finally able to calm down come lunch time, if only by placating myself with chocolate.

My supervisor finally showed up and asked me if I was alright, and then asked if I was surprised. Surprised isn't the word I would use, but since I cannot say fucking terrified to him, I simply say scary. He shows me the English teacher's room to get my mind off things, however once we walk in we realize no one has been there to clean after the earthquake. Books are scattered everywhere, practically covered the entire floor. Coming back to the staff room I sit down and talk to a few people, checking up on others. I already love my community here on JET. Even if its a little text message, we care enough about each other to make sure we're all okay. We get an email from the BOE making sure we're all right and giving us a few facts and some emergency numbers if there is anything wrong with our apartment or ourselves. One of the office ladies comes up and through lots of gestures she coerces me downstairs where two large packages are from Mom and Briana.

As Jamie said... "Not snow, nor sleet, nor earthquakes can stop the post office."

It seems true. The train lines are delayed or stopped, the expressway is shut down, but life goes on as normal. The scariest of mornings has turned into a very beautiful day. There is a very nice breeze and the trees have never quite looked so green. Even if Japan gave me a typhoon and earthquake for my birthday, they apologized with two love filled packages from the people I love the most in the world, those who keep me sane; my mother and sister.

I know this may not be my last earthquake, but I hope it is the worst one I go through. Japan has been about many new experiences, and this is no exception. Some experiences we enjoy, others make us feel like the smallest person in the world, but they are experiences that are necessary to drive us forward into a new day. I leave for Kakegawa tomorrow for Shizuoka Orientation, and while our earthquake safety seminar will be a day too late, I look forward to spending time with those who went through the same thing as I did. I hope they had beautiful days, and I hope they understand the power of nature as I now do.

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そうですね。。。
2:09 PM


♥ Kristina



      The Curls. The girl. The Nippon.

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