Mar. 11th, 2011

cuttlefishery: (music)
A lot of times, it's difficult to grasp disasters when they happen in other countries. They feel kind of surreal; it's like watching a scary movie instead of watching video of real lives and real people being destroyed like almost nothing. I'm guilty of this kind of mindset just as much as anyone else in the world is; I'm human, too, and we're all egocentric (in the psychological sense, not in the insulting sense, of the word). We all have a hard time empathizing with people half a world away.

When something happens to your own country, though, things are hugely different. Suddenly it matters more. Suddenly you want to do more than just mutter "oh my God, how terrible," at the television, and then move on with your life. These people are -your- people--heck, they could've been -you-. It's an entirely different feeling simply because of human nature.

Today I'm experiencing something unlike anything I've ever felt before, and I wish, for the sake of Japan, that I didn't have to know what it felt like. Japan isn't my home country, but in 2008 I lived there for six weeks. I spent a week being humbled in Hiroshima and going shopping in Tokyo, and for the rest of the time, I divided time between living in a dormitory in Tenri, a hotel in Kyoto, and with a host family in the Nara area (mine was in Sakurai). I learned how to navigate the bullet trains and subways, the regular trains and walking the streets. I communicated with shopkeepers in Hondori shopping arcades, I sung karaoke with Japanese college boys I never saw again, and I got myself from point A to point B by reading street signs and maps on my own (and politely asking for directions a few times). I ate okonomiyaki and drank sake. I had pickled radishes for breakfast. I learned. And even though it was only six weeks, Japan was home--and it felt more like "home" than anywhere else I've ever lived, too.

So today I regrettably learned what it feels like to watch the devastation of another country that still feels like home. It's a very strange sensation and it puts all of my own problems into perspective, to be sure. I feel like I've been walking in a daze since a friend called to tell me about the news early this morning. I want to do anything I can to help; I wish I had the ability (financially, mentally, realistically) to hop on a plane and go over there and -really help-, but at least I'm going to donate to relief efforts and keep praying.

I take comfort in knowing that, as long as they were at home, my host family should be fine. Sakurai is considerably south of the farthest reach of the earthquake, and far enough inland that the tsunami shouldn't have affected them. I have such lovely memories of playing Mario Kart with nine year old Aoba and five year old Hiyori (who stubbornly told me to call her "Hi-chan"), my "sisters," and playing winner sticks with an entire box of popsicles with them and "Mama-san," as she told me to call her. I didn't spend much time with "Papa-san," as he was a businessman who worked very long hours, but he seemed like a kind person and a bit of a dork, since he woke up early to watch One Piece with me on Sunday morning. I came to love the Hara family, and I and Mama-san both cried and hugged and cried some more when we had to say goodbye.

I've sadly fallen out of touch with them, but they're in my thoughts often and my memories always. I'm so glad to know that they are most likely alright during all of this... but I realize that they are four people out of thousands upon thousands. My heart cries for Japan tonight--for "home."

I know this has been long and convoluted but I needed to say it, so thank you, anybody who read it. <3

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cuttlefishery

August 2012

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