I read the writing advice: Write in your own voice
I read the writing advice: Write in your own voice
I wrote about this event last year – over two days if I remember correctly – but it’s impossible not to remember on this date. I haven’t read last year’s slices since last year so sometime it will be interesting to read them together and combine them into a complete account.
It’s March 11, a day that will always be in my heart and my mind. It was four years ago today that the Great Tohoku Earthquake and tsunami hit. It was a day that I was in the office sitting at my desk around 2:45. My boss came out of his office and was talking to one of my colleagues about the building shaking. I really didn’t notice until I heard them talking about it. At that time I had very limited earthquake experience** so I didn’t really look out for that sort of thing.
I realized that the building was, in fact, moving. The guys were calm and laughing so I didn’t think much of it. But it continued for about 30 seconds more, quite long for an earthquake, and so the boss suggested that we leave our building. The quake continued as we walked outside. We could see the cars moving in their parking spots and the poles and posts shaking. Up to this point I was pretty calm, but it was quite a lot to take in so I decided to sit on the curb. It was the first time in my life that I was afraid of the ground. The “solid” earth did not feel solid. It felt like waves of liquid moving beneath my bottom. It shattered any sense of security that I thought I had. At that moment, it seemed possible that, somehow, this island that I was standing on, that I lived on, was going to be destroyed. And that I was going to be destroyed with it. It was a very long earthquake. Not just seconds or even a minute, and a minute-long earthquake is pretty long. I didn’t think it was going to stop. Of course, it did stop. We looked around. Everything seemed ok. So, we marched ourselves back into the building and went back to work.
It was difficult to get back to work though. We were all distracted and a little nervous. We weren’t back at our desks for long before we got an aftershock. It was over 7.0. It was also long. We left the building again.
When the ground rested, and we re-entered the building, we went right to the television. We could only get the Japanese news and we didn’t understand Japanese, but we didn’t need to. We started to get the first views of the Tsunami. There were 2 very small clips, but we could see that a wave had come up somewhere along the coast.
Still, it seemed that the earth had settled and things were ok. It was 4 pm on Friday afternoon and time to go home for the weekend. I got in my car and headed to the other side of base. I live on an Air Force base and the flight line runs down the center of the base. I have to cross the flight line to get from my office to my apartment. Well, on this Friday as I approached the flight line, the red light came on indicating we couldn’t cross. This happens frequently. We get stopped for a couple of minutes while a plane lands or takes off. It’s part of living on base. I could see that a plane wasn’t taking off so I waited to see the incoming plane. And I waited. And I waited. And when it finally touched down, it was not a military plane, but a United plane. We sat there for the next hour and watched 11 commercial airplanes land on base. I later found out that Narita had been closed and these planes were going to run out of fuel, but as soon as I saw the second plane land, I knew something was really wrong.
By the time I got home the real picture was starting to develop. I met my friends at the club and we watched the scenes on tv. The unbelievable, horrifying scenes. The 9.0 earthquake itself was not as devastating as you might think. The tsunami, however, caused destruction that I thought and hoped could only happen in movies. If you haven’t watched a video (there are tons of them on Youtube), here’s the one I watched today: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Mc4sQT_2GGE&feature=youtu.be. I hadn’t seen this one before. It’s a longer clip so you really get to see the before and after picture.
Anyway, after the 11th there was still the little nuclear incident and the missing people and the empty store shelves and the closed gas stations. Except for the nuclear incident, none of those really affected those of us who live on base. But it affected our friends and colleagues. And it allowed us to see the true nature and spirit of Japanese people who continued to be kind, patient, and giving without looting, stealing, or gouging.
If you like jewelry and would like to support a cause connected to that day, check out the Nozomi Project http://nozomiproject.com/. They use pottery broken in the earthquake and tsunami to create beautiful jewelry.
I haven’t written about that day since the SOLSC last year. This is a writing piece that I should work on so that I could adequately describe the physical feelings and the emotions, but it’s so emotional that it’s draining and I can’t commit to that mid work week.
**(Btw, my prior limited earthquake experience happened on August 17, 1999. I had just moved to Turkey to teach and was in the middle of a week of orientation in Istanbul when a 7.6 earthquake hit, killing 17,000 people. I guess that would be a good August slice.)
Once again, like every day last week, today I got home from work, fed myself, and then sat down to write. I do have moments throughout the day when I ponder possible topics, but once my bottom hits the sofa, none of them seems appropriate. Today I was home a little earlier than usual so I decided to put on a movie as background noise. I went to the closet, looked through my DVDs, and chose Never Been Kissed. I hadn’t seen it in a really long time, but I’ve seen it enough that I wouldn’t be distracted wondering what happens next.
The movie started and I started reading other slices in the hope that I would be struck with inspiration for a topic. Sadly, my computer seems to hate me at times, and this was one of those times. It was spinning and thinking and stalling – taking forever to complete basic functions. I had no choice but to pay attention to the television in between tasks so as not to become impatient and lose my temper. Then I was really dismayed because my background noise, this old, comfortable, nostalgic movie was… ridiculous.
The movie was so preposterous that I was fairly certain that I would not be able to keep it on. In fact, I was going to have to throw out the DVD. I was waiting for my comment to post and I looked up just in time for the club scene. So, first of all, who goes to a club where you can be 16 or 25 or sitting on the sofa eating ganja cake? And what English teacher is super excited to see his high school student at this club while he’s standing there holding two beers? And then just good-naturedly laughs when that student, who is now high from ganja cake, is up on stage making a complete fool of herself? And how is the guy in the van who is watching everything from the hidden camera on the pin on her chest able to laugh at her dancing? He can’t see her from that camera!! Awful! Just terrible!
The movie only goes downhill from there, but my comment finally posts and I’m able to get back to work so I don’t get up and turn it off and destroy the painfully embarrassing DVD. Still, my computer continues to be difficult so there are other times when I’m forced to focus on the movie. Until, I realize that I’m at the end of the movie. That last scene when she’s standing on the pitcher’s mound waiting for Michael Vartan to come out and give Drew her first kiss. The clock is counting down. The crowd is cheering. We’re all set up for the happy ending. The movie viewer is starting to reflect on her own life and how many times she has put the pressure of a metaphorical countdown timer on events, tasks, people in her life and quit at the sound of the buzzer. And Drew Barrymore’s time runs out, just as the viewer’s time has run out so many times in life. Tears are streaming down her face as she empathizes with Barrymore’s pain and embarrassment. But, wait… the crowd starts to cheer. The camera pans around the stands. There he is! Michael Vartan! So young and attractive with that innocent smile – not the smile of a teacher who was hitting on his student just two scenes ago. He runs onto the field and immediately engages Barrymore in a passionate kiss. The viewer grabs a tissue to wipe her cheeks.
Damn it! Sucked in again! The movie is over and I don’t have one word written. No worries, Pitch Perfect will certainly do the trick!
Today I bowled in a tournament. It is when I bowl in a tournament that I am most aware of what a bad American I am because this is the place where I am surrounded by Japanese people that I know but cannot talk to. Yes, I’ve become one of those people who moves to a foreign country and then doesn’t learn the host language. I always defend myself with the fact that I don’t plan to stay long and Japanese is really hard to learn. But it’s been five years now. I have bowled with some of these people for five years and I can’t speak to them. It’s really unforgiveable.
Fortunately, bowling has its own language. Of course, that language is English, but at least there are some things I can say that they will understand – “nice shot,” “good game,” “lucky!” It’s not that I want to have long, intellectual conversations. I just want to be nice and polite like they are.
If I could understand my opponents, maybe I wouldn’t think they were so nice. But when I don’t understand a language, I just block the sound of talking. I assume the person is kind and has good intentions because I have no words to contradict that idea. This is particularly true with Japanese people because they are not often physically expressive. They just seem calm and peaceful. Even in a bowling center with the whirring of the machines, crashing of balls hitting pins, cheering, music playing, and babies crying, it’s still fairly quiet in my head.
But I wonder what they think of me? Do they resent that I live here and can’t speak to them? Do they think I’m so serious about my bowling that I don’t want to be distracted by conversation? Or do they think I’m just snobby? I guess when I resigned myself to not learning the language I also gave up the right to want others to think I’m nice and considerate.
We had a guest in our office this week – a Japanese teacher who was working with our Host Nation instructional support person. Last Friday she went to lunch with us and Monday I received this gift. Can you imagine a thank you gift for sitting with someone at lunch? I have enjoyed the plant all week, but only in writing this post did I try to investigate what type of plant it is. Apparently, it’s a hyacinth. Seems like I should have known that but I guess I’ve never received nor grown one before.
I’ve been obsessed with this amazing gift all week. When I received the plant, there were three stalks, but none of the flowers were open yet. The plant sat on my desk and I watched as they opened throughout the day on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. On Friday, one of the stalks of flowers was leaning over quite far so I cut it to make room for the new stalk that has popped up. I wish the photograph could capture and communicate the smell. My lilies (another gift last week) are almost all gone, but I’ve brought the Hyacinth home for the weekend and my apartment continues to smell like a fresh floral bouquet.
It’s a terrific olfactory reminder to be kind to others and appreciate their company.
My obsession at work included several photo sessions.
I wish I had prepared better for this writing challenge. Ideally, I would have spent the past year working on slices. Maybe I would have some pieces to revise, some ready to go, and some I would write new. But I didn’t prepare. So, each day after work I am trying to brainstorm ideas and draft and make something presentable enough for others to read. Often what happens is that I just post something, even if it’s not fully “presentable.”
Unfortunately, today when I came home from work my mood started going downhill. I should have been elated about making it through the week and having a day off, but instead the little irksome events from the day and week settled in my brain. Once I started writing, they traveled through my arm and the pen onto my paper. The result was something I would not want to share with others. So, I started over.
It is hard enough for me to write one piece each day, but some days I am writing 3 or 4, hoping to stumble into something suitable for the public. Today it just wasn’t happening. I went bowling and bought myself a beer. I’m not a big beer drinker and I never drink while I’m bowling, but desperate times called for desperate measures. Sadly, I found that neither the beer nor the bowling were helping. I considered not posting. I’m the only one who would be disappointed and I’d get over it.
I don’t want to quit on the 6th, though. Surely I can make it through the first week. I decided to make a list of things I can do to improve my mood:
Still, I had nothing to post. I was running out of hours in my day so I decided to go ahead and read other posts and respond. There’s no surprise ending here – I obviously did not come up with something clever, creative and upbeat to post. But I did figure out something else that lifts my mood: reading slices of other lives.