Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Monday 14th March 2011

Last night I took an early shower, prepared my dinner, put a torch in my pocket and checked yet again that the gas was off. At 6.19pm I lit a candle, which I didn`t particularly want to do with tremors every hour, and I counted down to the Tepco power outage. Nothing happened. I checked the TV for the next half hour until they officially announced they had cancelled it.

I got to bed around 1am and slept on and off being woken every so often by tremors or quakes or aftershocks, I don`t really know the difference. When does a tremor become a quake? And does it really matter? More than the jolts it`s the continual swaying that tires you out because you don`t know if it`s going to turn into something. Lying down you feel it more too. At 5am there was a quake that had me crawling towards the table – I was sleeping on a futon next to it – but it was fairly short. It also woke up the neighbours. I waited to hear if they were going to go outside but instead they took showers and went off to work.

I am punch-drunk with fatigue. I`m a heavy sleeper but being woken every hour or so is very draining. You tense in case you need to move quickly, but then it`s all over and you have to try to go back to sleep. My neck is so stiff I can`t turn it properly.

This week – this week! It`s only been 4 days! - has been a steep learning curve for me and the Japanese people. We have all learned what a microsievert is. And how to get to places when you have to walk there. And what to buy when the shelves are emptying.

As a foreigner here I have felt more isolated than usual. My previous university had a large foreign faculty and we made a “jishin tree”, an earthquake list detailing who to phone and whose house to check after a quake. At my current university there are only four other full-time foreign staff and they all have families. A Japanese friend emailed me, “Be careful when walking around and living alone”. No-one will be rushing to dig me out if the building goes down.

So I have learned to watch people closely. Where are they going, what are they buying, what are they saying to each other? Listening in to a few conversations in the supermarket, most are saying, “I called and called but I can`t get through at all”. Getting through to anyone by mobile or landline is problematic. You get the engaged signal most times. Since I don`t understand all the news bulletins I am resorting to going round the shops watching people, looking for clues as to what I should do. Surprisingly, several local shop-keepers have asked if I am OK. Granted, I am the only white foreigner in my neighbourhood but I never realised they remembered me. When I went to the 100 Yen shop to buy a spare torch (I got one the day before they all sold out) the shopkeeper welcomed me back. Did she think I`d do a runner? I am not French.

I have to say that Facebook has been a real lifeline. I never wanted to join, I only did because my students asked me, but when the phones failed I was able to get a lot information quickly, and give it out to those who understand less Japanese than me.

The only thing I don`t understand yet is, is everything in Tokyo back to normal now? Because if so, I want to drain the emergency standby toilet-flushing water from my bath and have a nice long soak.

Question: Where did all the crows go? I`m a big fan of crows and one of my favorites can deconstruct a bin bag in seconds before the Monday morning rubbish collection. A couple roost in a water tanker on top of an adjacent building but they are not there. I haven`t seen a single crow since the quake.

1 comment:

  1. Reading this post made me think of one of Margaret Atwood's novels. But it is true for you, you are there.

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