As any parent would, Spouse and I have been talking with the Offspring regarding their experience of the earthquake. Since many of our family members are physicians, I feel that I too am qualified to make not only medical but psychological evaluations in the midst of crisis situations therefore, I proceeded forward with the fervor and demeanor of a preeminent couch clinician. Spouse and I separated the still warring factions, isolated Offspring #1, and led in with what House taught us on his most recent visit to rehab.
“So, how are you feeling.” It’s difficult not to smirk when delivering such lines without the Saturday Night Live cameras rolling. It was again necessary to remind myself I was in full parenting mode. To which Offspring #1 relayed his version of experiencing an earthquake at school:
Offspring #1, 8th Grade, Male, 14, Only Interest Snowboarding
“Wow… Hi, so apparently I’m offspring 1 according to my mom. And as you know Japan just had a huge earthquake/ tsunami/ fire/ a million other things. I’m not sure I even know the severity of everything that is going on. I have just been watching some videos on YouTube and reading articles and stuff and it seems pretty crazy. But one thing that makes me know this is a big deal is the fact that the city is shut down, no taxis, buses, trains, subways nothing. I was planning on taking a day trip to gala- yuzawa a ski resort today using the shinkansen (bullet train). But obviously that’s not happening. Especially because gala- yuzawa is the prefecture next to the prefecture hit the hardest by the tsunami.
So, my mom wanted me to write and share what happened in my day today. It was no less than chaotic. Well, to start off I was in algebra class. We had just finished an easy quiz and now we were doing a few work sheets, pretty laid back. All the sudden my desk started moving a little bit. The two doors opened on their own. In the middle of a complicated problem I yelled at my friend to stop moving my desk. He told me it wasn’t him, and I realized I was experiencing my second ever earthquake I’ve ever felt! YAYYY! Everyone was laughing and it was quite exciting especially because now it was getting bigger and more fun. But then the mood started to change as we were told to go under out desks. I thought my teacher was joking at first, why would I go under my desk that is so stupid. I have never had to do anything like that before. Also, my algebra class is on the second floor of a somewhat temporary away from the main building of my school. Anyway now this thing is getting really big, the girls are all crying, the guys who were so excited are even getting a little scared, no one had ever experienced an earthquake like this. I was pulling out my phone to try to get some footage(terrible footage), and I could even see the outside staircase shaking so fast I really thought that thing was done. Then I noticed my always reliable teacher, perfectly calm he was getting some homework together. He then started to hand out the homework during the most intense earthquake in a very, very long time. After it stops, all the books on the shelves had fallen off, the room looked terrible. He then walked outside onto the field, when another one started. This one was different, it felt like the world was slowly turning upside down, it felt like I was extremely dizzy like I had never been before. We then waited about an hour on the field, couldn’t call our parents, no one knew what was going on outside of school, were there tsunamis? Had people died? Where are our parents? I hope my snowboard didn’t fall over and break! We waited for an hour in the field with these thoughts, all the girls annoyingly crying. Anyway, there was some very bad luck involved with me in this. Yes, I had the kyogen, an ancient Japanese play that my Japanese teacher talked me into doing. In this play I was taught, by a Japanese Living National Treasure (Endo Sensei). I play the part of a mushroom. I have to wear a traditional kimono and a weird hat, I regret it so much. I look pathetic. Anyway, I’ve been practicing for this thing for like 3 months every Wednesday, I actually missed a track practice for this thing. A bunch of Japanese schools and all these other people are coming to watch. Long story short, it got cancelled. I had to suffer through some more crying from girls when they found out, I was overjoyed with happiness.
Ok now… the dreaded bus ride. There is not much I can say about this. We left at 4 from our school, and got home at 11. Normally about a 45 minute bus ride, about 20 km home. Also the worst thing happened; my phone ran out of battery within an hour of the dreaded bus ride! What was I to do! Anyway, I thought they were joking when they said we’d be home late. So what Tokyo did was they shut down the highway, all public transportation, so people had to take their cars or walk. The kids at my school who take the train home, had to sleep at school. The road we took was completely covered in traffic, we had an average of about 10 minutes per .1 km. Yes, I’m serious. We had limited food, each kid got some gum, and a slice of ham. Lucky for me I had some serious cash in my wallet. I went into 7 11 for a “bathroom break” and got some sour cream and onion Pringles, and these other weird Japanese chips. I forgot to go to the bathroom. I had never been annoyed so much for food, but I didn’t give in, I didn’t even give food to my own sister (offspring 2). So, I basically stared out the window the entire time, it was no less than sucking. But I finally, got home, this water thing in the driveway of my apartment was trashed because of the earthquake. I got into my house to see two broken vases and my mom’s Japanese teacher. I didn’t care I immediately ran into my room, nothing broken! Went to the bathroom, then I went to sleep. Yesterday was nothing short of chaotic.
Offspring 1 J
P.S I wonder what that day would have been like if there were lower schoolers there, they had conferences so they all stayed home”
I just can’t resist making one comment- his math teacher sitting at the desk, during one of the largest earthquakes in history, putting together the homework.Unperturbed. Classic.
So- without further ado- here is Offspring #2
Offspring #2, 6th Grader, Female, Interested in Too Many Things to List
I’m Offspring 2, and this is the post my mom asked me to write about my experience in the 9.0 (that’s how bad it was where my school is) earthquake.
Around 2:50 pm, I was sitting in my Study Center class, where I had to work on keyboarding. I was just finishing up a seven minute typing lesson when I started to get really dizzy. I typed for a few more seconds, then realizing there was an earthquake, I paused my lesson. Everyone in my class was hesitant. Should we go under the desks? Or was that for earthquakes that were worse? No one was sure. Our teacher told everyone to get under the desks. I felt kind of stupid, hiding under my desk like a kindergartener playing Hide-and-go-seek. But I did as I was told, because this was probably the second earthquake I had ever felt, and I could see everything shaking dangerously hard around me. My friend called out to me from across the room,”Put your hands over your neck to protect it from glass!” She has lived here for six years, so I just automatically assumed she is going to have more earthquake experience then I have. Clasping my hands over the back of my neck, I looked around. Some kids looked absolutely petrified, some were crying, and some were giggling at the craziness of it all. I was confused. Weren’t earthquakes supposed to be much shorter than this? I was going to ask my friend, but she was on the verge of tears so I decided to keep my mouth shut. I wondered if I was going to die, and if it was going to hurt too badly. I hoped it wouldn’t. The ground wasn’t rumbling anymore, and nothing was shaking too badly. My class and I stood up warily, looking at our teacher for instructions. She quickly ran out of the room then came back, telling us all to evacuate the building, and go to the fields. As we went, no one seemed very worried. People were laughing and talking, and the teachers were NOT happy with that. They told us to be quiet, and quickly go to the fields (it wasn’t in a very nice way). When we got to the fields, some people went to their siblings looking for support, needing someone to tell them that it was going to be ok. Personally I didn’t see what the big deal was. Sure, it was an earthquake, but the building didn’t collapse, and no one got hurt at my school, so I was just a little bit wary about it all, and the aftershocks weren’t helping. Everyone had to move to the middle of the field, so that the poles surrounding the field wouldn’t fall and crush us. We sat their patiently for an hour, anxious to contact our parents and make sure themselves. Five and six people per group, advisories slowly walked into the school to grab their belongings, and go to the buses, parents, and gym to eventually go home. We had to wait on the buses for roughly 30 minutes before we left, and once we finally did, it was much worse. Inching forwards on back roads, which felt like an inch per hour, we slowly crawled towards Tokyo. There were only two stops we took: one for people who ABSOLUTELY had to stop right there to go to the bathroom, and another one for everyone else to get some food if they had money, and to quickly go to the bathroom. I saw Offspring 1 in the store, and I asked him if he could get me some food. As you might have already read, he decided it was best to just feed himself, instead of sharing with his younger innocent sibling. Instead, I got to share a couple packs of chips with 40 other kids, who were just as hungry as I was. This went on for 6 ½ hours, and we were sitting in a stuffed up bus, getting tired and cranky. My best friend is on my bus also, and she had her first Tokyo tap dance class at 7:00 that night. We left school at about 4:30, so I was sure that we would get home in time for her class. But unfortunately, we came a few hours too late. Instead of coming home a couple of hours before 7:00 like I had expected, we came home at 11:00, with empty stomachs and exhausted limbs. Finally at home, the only thing that I was thinking about was food and my stirring stomach, dreading the aftershocks that were on their way to Tokyo.
HMMM, Offspring #1 had money and didn’t share his food with OF#2? What are we raising? Apparently a CEO.
First came earthquake, next tsunami, now nuclear power plant meltdown.
Currently the Clampitts are watching the Nuclear reactor in Fukushima to see if we’ll be donning hazmat suits and walking to the American Embassy compound for evacuation. I want Howard Stern to play my part in the movie version which will include a dramatic helicopter rescue by Navy Seals. According to initial reports, citizens close to the reactor were advised to wear safety masks, shut off the air conditioner (that’s what they said) and cover exposed skin with wet towels which seemed somewhat feckless given the apparent power of the atomic reaction to melt through any organic material. However, our bags are packed and by the front door. I just hope I don’t grow a second nose in the process, as my first is already quite prominent and fully functional. Many ExPats have fled the area in a mad stampede, umbrellas fully extended to protect themselves from the deluge of toxin filled acid rain which is the next predicted plague to follow the trifecta to hit Japan. The “Evacuation Vacation.”
In the end, there are areas for improvement in my emergency management plan and given the dire warnings of aftershocks occurring until March 17 at a magnitude up to 7, I still have time to implement the following:
1) Restock the pantry with additional canned goods. I realized that although the Clampitts can survive for a week on Spam, red beans and tuna, we’ll emerge on the other side wagging scurvy tongues at each other. Better add some canned peaches.
2) At some point there was enough drinking water hoarded to support a whale shark in our bath tub. Although I clearly said,”DO NOT DRINK THIS WATER”- I was ignored. I’ll take my revenge methodically on each offender as the perfect opportunity presents itself, in the meantime, the next batch will have an alarm sensor coupled with electric fence wiring to keep the heavy drinking water abusers headed back to the tap.
3) During this ordeal, the only device that continuously functioned was the email on my cell phone. However, when it died, just exactly where was I to recharge this critical device with no electricity? At the evacuation point in the middle of Yoyogi park plugged in to a tree trunk? I bought solar chargers today for all the phones.
4) We had a crank operated radio with a plug-in to charge other appliances. It worked like a charm- my Japanese didn’t. This is for English-speaking emergencies and camping only.
5) I gained a new best friend during this ordeal. Twitter. I love you Twitter and I will never fling insults about Twitter users being self-absorbed narcissists again. Now I am one. Twitter feeds from the Japan Times, NHK, CNN, the journalists covering the scenes, the US Embassies here and abroad, put out messages real-time. I knew of the Nuclear Plant explosions within minutes of the occurrence versus 1-2 hours later when it was officially reported. Now I truly understand how Twitter and Facebook can mobilize a motivated nation.
6) Finally, dealing with the Offspring’s reactions. A- children mirror their parents and will first do what Spouse and I do. Poor kids. B- The older one is desperately trying to get back to normalcy. Eat at the same places, go snowboarding, resume life as he knows it. The younger one wants to get out. Leave. Be safe. Be free. Go on vacation. We have to keep talking. Well- sensibly.
7) Rumors. I’ve often wondered how people in crisis situations decide to leave. Libya, Eygpt, Germany… When does one have enough information to categorically declare, “This is no longer a safe place.” Rumors provide fodder for bad decision-making. Emails circulating on power outages that never occur,” the embassy is with holding information” etc. In the end, one must gather all the facts, weigh them, develop a plan, a back up plan, and be ready to go at a moment’s notice. Just in case.
God Bless all of you for your prayers, thoughts, affirmations, songs, and support. The people of Japan still need that. Thank you, thank you, peace to you. And unless I’m typing through gloved hands, the posts will “Business as Usual” starting on Tuesday….