Sunday, March 13, 2011

LEARNING FROM CATASTROPHE, REACHING OUT

I fnd myself, like many others I imagine, unable to tear myself away from checking twitter etc for breaking news about Japan. And so it was wonderful to hear a familiar voice addressing me directly from there, Elizabeth Andoh.

Elizabeth Andoh is a scholar of Japanese food and culture, a remarkable woman in many ways. She publishes an online newletter called A Taste of Culture. She just sent out an extra one, which is a gift to us all, for it grounds those of us far away in the human reality there in Japan. Here is some of what she says:

When the first huge, terrifying quake hit on Friday afternoon, March 11, I was in Tokyo preparing for a class the following day. Having lived through several large quakes before (including one in which I was trapped in an elevator for hours before being rescued), I knew what to do. Trembling (me, and the earth together), I went into automatic mode, shutting off anything that could cause a fire, propping open the front door and one other escape route in the kitchen (door frames can shift causing them to jam shut), donned my emergency kit-knapsack (containing flashlight, extra batteries, water, essential medications, money, identification papers, gloves, face mask, first aid supplies, extra sweater with hood). The initial quake lasted for several minutes -- it seemed as though it would never stop.

Still trembling (me, and the earth together), I turned on the emergency news channel and learned the center of seismic activity (the largest on record in Japan, currently revised at 9.0) was Miyagi Prefecture, on the Pacific coast, north of Tokyo. Gigantic tsunami (tidal waves) were predicted, and came... and keep coming. As do tremors of varying degrees (as I type this, my desk sways slightly in a minor aftershock).

Transportation and communication services have been widely disrupted -- frustrating and frightening. To conserve energy, limited and rotating shut-downs are being scheduled throughout the Kanto Plains area. At this time I have access to the Internet and grab the opportunity to make two requests:


Elizabeth goes on to tell those of us far away how we can best help: by donating to the Japanese Red Cross or Doctors Without Borders or CARE or International Medical Corps. And she also advises people who are in Japan that they should assemble an emergency kit for themselves, the instructions for which are to be found at href="http://72hours.org/index.html">72Hours.org

This reminder of the fragility of things, of life and terra firma even, is painful, even for those of us far away. And it's a good reminder. I know I don't have any kind of emergency kit packed. I just blithely continue day to day, assuming the sun will rise in the usual way tomorrow. It's a good idea to be prepared, not anxious, but just ready, so we can be less of a burden to others if disaster does strike.

And in the meantime, let's help those in trouble each of us in our own way, as we hope they would rush to help us in similar travail.

3 comments:

Cynthia Bertelsen said...

Thank you for sharing this and reminding us of the many blessings we have. I agree, I also go day to day, most of the time, but events like these quakes remind me not to. It only takes a moment to give thanks for the straight, solid highway, the well-stocked grocery shelves, and clean water.

Having lived through a revolution in Haiti and in various other trying circumstances, I can't imagine living through a massive earthquake like the ones suffered in Haiti and Japan.

. said...

thanks for this post. She is a treasure.

cassandra said...

Glad your friend is safe, and like her advice. Being prepared ourselves is, as you say, socially responsible. Here's my city's emergency preparedness kit recommendations: http://vancouver.ca/emerg/prepyourself/supplykit.htm