Aftershocks

So, where were we? Yokohama, Japan: March 11, 2011. Earthquake, aftershocks, tsunami, impending nuclear meltdown. Oh wait, I wasn’t aware of that last part yet.

After the first major earthquake, I was overcome by this elated feeling, mostly of relief. This is an earthquake prone region of an earthquake prone country. In the back of your mind everyone is always aware that the “big one” is inevitable. This particular biggish one wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Not here, anyway.

But I’d never experienced something of this magnitude (bad word choice) and didn’t realize how the supply chain would be effected. One day post disaster: no bread, milk, eggs, yogurt, meat, veggies because the trucks didn’t arrive. Day 2 PD: nothing. No tissue, maxi pads, diapers, no food of any kind whatsoever. I don’t know how much was a result of supply issues and how much was due to panic. But suddenly we had to make due with what was in the house, indefinitely.

If you’ve ever been in a Japanese house in the city, you’ll know there isn’t much storage space. We’re used to shopping every day and don’t keep much extra around. MIL just happened to have bought 10kg of rice that morning. I had enough flour for one loaf of bread. There was a can of unused baby formula we used instead of milk. It made for nice coffee, actually. The aftershocks seemed constant and with that stress level no one was very hungry. We made do.

I was getting lots of e-mails from people I hadn’t seen in ages, wanting to know if we were okay. I answered some, but honestly I didn’t have the emotional reserve to deal with any more than was already on my plate.

News started to filter in about a nuclear plant being damaged, but it didn’t seem urgent and I wasn’t as worried about this as securing food for my children.

Then I got an e- mail from a friend with ties to a nearby US Navy Base. Families from the base would be evacuating. If we had a place to go, we should leave.

The next day I got an e-mail from the embassy as well. Friends were leaving for their home country in droves. The international news and the local Japanese news were often at odds. I was confused and worried, sleep deprived and in desperate need of a coke cola.

HRH, on the other hand, had been overtaken by some sort of “We Japanese,” 我慢, suffer together, tighten your belt times a thousand persona that was foreign to me. We were one of the lucky few with a place to go, dammit, but he would hear nothing of it. With memories of Dad’s suffering at the merciless hands of lymphoma less than six months before, I wasn’t able to view the danger of radiation induced cancer as an abstract threat.

But I also had a child who would be starting school in two weeks. That is such a big deal here. There would be a ceremony and monetary gifts, plus lots for me to prepare in the way of purchasing school supplies and making bags for school use. If we went to the US, there was no way we would back in time and over jet lag soon enough to start school in good condition. Not to mention the cost of the second set of premium priced last minute transpacific tickets in six months.

But eventually the camel’s back was broken by conflicting advice over water. The Japanese authorities were recommending babies not be given tap water. I got an e-mail from the embassy again (this was getting wierd) not to give it to anyone three and under. But there was no bottled water to be found anywhere.

I started to pack while HRH looked for relatives to take us in, indefinitely. It wasn’t my first choice, but by that evening we were on a plane filled with women and children on our way to rural Kyushu.

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