Monday, March 21, 2011


国内 kokunai :internal, domestic
海外 kaigai :overseas, abroad, foreign

exactly three months since I've come back to the USA from Japan.

I was only in Japan for about four months, so the time since my return is steadily growing closer to exceeding the time I actually spent there.  (Which is sort of negligible, considering that my previous twenty years of life were all spent outside of Japan.  anyway.)  I'm pretty used to being back at Berkeley now...not totally, but much closer to before-study-abroad than where I was in my last post. 

Lately, a couple people have said to me things like, "good thing you went to Japan last semester, eh?" or "aren't you glad you came back for spring?" 

Who could've foreseen the enormous earthquake that hit on March 11?

It's Japan, so earthquakes are kind of a given...and I'm from California, where earthquakes are also not-so-surprising...but a 9.0?  With aftershocks ranging from 5.0 - 7.5?

from the news sources I've read through, spite of all the terrible things--nuclear threat; inhospitable climate (ex: snow); lack of gas, food, and shelter; people stranded far from home and loved ones; death; suffering; too much to list...--Japan has been prepared for disaster, and that has saved lives.  Buildings that have been earthquake-proofed; alert systems; improvements in government response compared to the last huge earthquake (Kobe); a culture that seriously respects and values community; stories of individual and team heroism, narratives of hope spread through social media like Twitter/Facebook/etc and also through traditional news outlets. 

Japan's people have suffered and many are still suffering, ten days later.  It's the greatest national crisis since World War II; recovery is going to take a while...a lot longer than ten days, or even ten months.  And what defines "full recovery" anyhow?  I don't know...

Honestly, and for reasons beyond physical safety, I am glad to be home.
My heart flies back to the people in Japan, though, especially those in the Tohoku region, but definitely to all affected by this quake.  And I wonder, a bit, at how different my study abroad experience might have been if I'd gone this semester, or stayed over from fall.  How is everything different because I am seeing it from the outside, from overseas?  What is it like being there, seeing from within?  I cannot really know, and I'm not sure exactly how much I should try...

All sorts of distances and divisions separate me from Japan.
But these are all overcome by shock at the enormous loss of life, sympathy for those who suffer, our shared humanity, and hope.  Hope that is inspired by great examples, large and small, of those contributing to relief efforts and recovery; hope that is inspired by how the Japanese government has adapted its strategies and learned lessons from past disasters; hope that, through this difficult time, people will emerge with greater love and value for one another.


Recommended donation sites: Global Giving, Red Cross
other people have already made the persuasive arguments for why giving money is an effective way of helping.  These links are just here as an option.  In my opinion, they are a good option.

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