Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Aftermath: A Strange Way to Begin

Yesterday, as I was driving home from work as a preschool teacher assistant, I called my parents to tell them about my lackluster day.  I called to tell them about my experiences as a kitchen assistant and a giant cushion as four and five year-olds shifted around, trying to find the perfect position to cut off blood-flow to my legs.  A few minutes later, my boring day at work was the least of my worries.  I had no idea of the devastation Japan had experienced thanks to this powerful earthquake and tsunami.  With the words of my father, "There may be no Japan now," ringing in my ears, my stomach clenched so hard that I feared I would never eat again.  Quickly I called the director of International Studies at Ithaca College, Rachel Cullenen, and asked her if she had heard anything from Akita International University (AIU) about their status or if it even still existed.  With her usual calm and motherly voice, Mrs. Cullenen read the following message to me:

Dear colleagues,

I am writing to inform you of the situation here at AIU after the earthquake that happened in the northeast of Japan today March 11.

International students, faculty and staff who were on our campus when the earthquake hit the above region are safe. So far, we have found no major damages to our campus facilities.  However, phone, electricity, water and internet have been cut off in Akita. We will do our best to take care of all students.

Since we have no access to our AIU email account, we are temporarily using this gmail account to contact you. We will send you the most updated information as soon as any new developments of our situation have been witnessed.

Sincerely yours,

Division of International Affairs
Akita International University

With this reassuring message, my thoughts turned elsewhere.  Arriving there in less than twenty days, I could only wonder how this would affect my studies abroad.  I realize the over all gravity of the situation will definitely cause some difficulties, but to what extent?  I will not really know till I get there which I will freely admit frightens me a great deal.  However it is something I will face, an added facet of challenge to my adventures in Japan.

Once I get there, I have no idea what I will do, but I want to help in some way.  I am not going to delude myself, like many I have talked to, into believing I'll be able to save someone's life, or bring order to a chaotic situation, or anything truly major.  At most I may just be handing out clothing and food to a group of displaced workers or playing with children so they will not see the worried faces of their parents.  However, that is all that is really needed.  Just a smile at the end of a long line, a cheerful face with a bowl of food, or a new friend to play with or talk to.

In the end, it will be the actions of individuals, which will build a road for Japan's recovery.  And of course it will recover, quickly I would think.  Japan is a strong nation with an indomitable work spirit and an even stronger pride.  It will not stay kneeled for long.  And I, personally, cannot wait to see it rise again.