Thursday, March 24, 2011


I really should start writing about something else than earthquakes soon. I have started speaking and thinking about other things. But in interaction with other people it is difficult, because everyone else (too) is so immersed in the tragedy in Japan. I become their link to the disaster; I might be able to provide new information or at least a new perspective. So they ask. And I feel compelled to answer. Partly because I've been told it is good for me - a way of coping with what happened. But also partly because I am too polite to say I would rather like to talk about something else. I should also add that half the time I don't want to talk about anything else. In fact, I have something of a love-hate relationship to what is currently happening in Libya. That came out wrong. I don't like what is happening in Libya, period. The rational me feel this way. But. There is an irrational (and lately strangely vocal) part of me that feel that Libya is stealing focus from Japan, at the same time as I appreciate that something is taking my and everyone else's mind off earthquake/tsunami/nuclear power plants for a while. I told you I was irrational.

What all my "parts" have in common, though, is that they feel it is time to provide a sort of "FAQ" - frequently asked questions about the earthquake. That way, I can just refer people to this post when they ask too much...

1) How does an earthquake feel?

This question mostly comes from people here at home, where we are blessed with close to zero earthquakes (and the ones we do get, every 50 years or so, are generally quite small).

The truth is I have a hard time explaining this. First of all, it is difficult to explain a physical feeling. I try to liken it to being on a boat on a very volatile sea, which falls well in tune with my personal experience during the major quake, where I was battling sea sickness while listening to the waves of the pool just outside the window. But it still feels different. I'm not sure I'd be able to explain the actual, physical feeling, mixed with the sounds of the building croaking, the silence of everything else, and the fear in your stomach that you don't know if this is the big one, or if more will follow.

Secondly, I think my body is starting to rebel. Whenever I try to remember exactly how it feels, I cannot. And when I try to push it, I get a physical reaction much alike the aforementioned sea sickness. Which is another very good reason why I should try to avoid talking more about it.

2) Did your house fall down? Did anything break? 
No and no. Well, technically, my phone broke, or rather the SIM card inside it. I've had it replaced, and it works now.

While I understand this questions, it also sort of riles me. I get that my personal belongings and their potential breakage makes the whole thing more real to people observing from far away. But at the same time, it feels very careless. Even if my entire house had fallen down and all my things had been destroyed, it wouldn't have mattered as long as no one were hurt. No one I know were hurt, thankfully. I saw absolutely no destruction in Tokyo (though I know some happened - like a caved in roof and some burning buildings).

In the areas where the tsunami hit, however, there is nothing left. All buildings have been crushed. Thousands of people have been killed, are injured, or they are still missing (which by now probably means they are dead too). This is what should concern us, not my broken SIM card.

3) Were you scared?


4) Will you be going back? 

I have no idea. Here is what I know of my future: today I am baking a cake. Tomorrow I am going to the library. On Sunday I am visiting a friend. After that - blank.

If the situation resolves in Japan, I might be able to go back before my position ends. At the moment the embassy have been temporarily relocated, so my old office isn't there anymore. Many of my colleagues have left, some of my non-work friends too. Tokyo feels different to me now than it did before the earthquake.

At the same time, I really, really miss it. I miss everything the way it was, of course. And I regret all the things I didn't get to do. If possible, I'd like to make up for that.

Before I make that decision, however - assuming I get to make it - I need to consider my options here. Right now I don't have any plans. It feels incredibly weird. But I will soon start applying for jobs (I would have done this anyway, since I'd at any rate would have to plan for a post-Japan life, only now I don't know if post-Japan has already started or if it still means July). If I end up having to chose between going back and taking a job here at home, I might not be able to afford the former.

Thus, I just don't know.

5) Are you experiencing nightmares?

Not as far as I can tell. Though the other night there was a weird one with my trying frantically to get a decent shot of the "supermoon" while some guys in uniforms were chasing me to make me eat cake... Not sure if this is related...

Seriously, though, I'm not really traumatized. At least not here, at home, where I am safe. But I do get slightly jumpy whenever I feel shakiness akin to that of an earthquake...

6) Will you write about this?

Well, I have, haven't I? In length, right here, on this very blog. And apparently I still am. But will I write a novel/short story/poem/song/drabble/whatnot about the earthquake? Never say never. It's still too fresh. Also, I don't have a story about this. I have a million impressions, but no story. At the moment it feels more likely that I will take those impressions into another story rather than writing it as it was, but I can't say for sure. I might.

7) Can I interview you about the earthquake for my newspaper/radio show/blog?

It might be a stretch to say this is a frequently asked question, but it's been asked. I feel incredibly uncomfortable about this. First of all, I hate the focus on me personally. Not just because I don't want to be a local (or otherwise) celebrity, but also because I don't want to be one over this. People died. People are suffering. People lost their lives. I lost my SIM card. I should not be the center of attention here!

Secondly, this focus on the "wrong" thing reminds me strongly of the coverage of the disaster in (certain parts of) the media. I left Japan feeling that the reports were fairly balanced, and that the focus there was on the "right" thing - the people suffering as a result of the tsunami. I came home to find a news-coverage in love with  radiation and meltdowns and other terms carelessly employed to spread fear and sell papers.

Finally, I still am quite emotional about what happened. I don't feel ready to share these emotions with the world, especially not random strangers. If and when I will, I'd like it to be on my own terms, and not the media's.

I'm sure there are more questions, and my list of answers is not exhaustive. I will of course still answer questions when asked. I do want my friends and family to feel they can ask me anything about this. But I also hope that by trying to close the case here, I might be able to close it a little in regular conversation as well.


LTM said...

It's good to get these thoughts nd feelings out and to work through them. And be prepared for them to hang around a little while.

I've never been through an earthquake, but the storm surge from Hurricane Katrina wiped out *every* small town on the Mississippi gulf coast, and we watched and heard stories of people in trees trying to hold onto the hands of their loved ones as they were swept away.

Then New Orleans flooded and it was like those people were forgotten. It happens. The mind can only hold so much trauma.

But you remember and you will do something with this. And you will heal and life will go on.

Be strong and know you have friends who care about you and about those who lost so much. ((hug)) <3

Deb and Barbara said...

Thanks for sharing, Cruella.

welcome to my world of poetry said...

Many thanks for this post, it's good for you to talk or write about what happened, but it is certainly good for us to know what really happened, who was there/
God Bless and good luck.


M.J. Nicholls said...

Strange you should write this and I should come across this lovely project. You should write something for this:

Great post.

Hart Johnson said...

You said all this so well, Mari... and even with how turbulent I can tell your emotions are on the matter, I managed to laugh and smile a couple times.

I think people want to connect with YOU on the matter because you are approachable and seem real. You are articulate, and even in your plea to NOT be the center of this, I want to run and share this very real expression of yours with all my friends so they can GET IT.

Your point is so important, but see, the trouble is you make it so well... *hugs to you*

Anne Gallagher said...

It is very good to write about this, and talk about this, no matter how you may feel about the intrusion into your life. It's a healing process which you need.

None of us can imagine the devastation or loss that you have suffered through, and if it helps you to write about it, I, for one, will listen.

H.B.Markor said...


Liza said...

Of course nothing I have been through can compare...but writing things out is always the way. Do you think there is something you could do/organize from your current location to help Japan that would also, perhaps, help you?

Rayna Natasha Iyer said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and impressions, Mari. I will not ask you any of those questions, promise.
But I neither will I ask you if you want a tight hug- I will just give one to you virtually!

Cruella Collett said...

Everyone - thank you so much for your kind words, both to this post and the previous ones. It means the world to me :)

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