Thoughts and prayers to Japan

Since the earthquake happened in Japan, it’s been on my mind a lot.

I worked as an English teacher for a year on the west coast opposite of Sendai, which is the city closest to the epicenter, and one that has suffered massive destruction from the tsunami.

I occasionally went there when I had the day off, so to see the destruction that’s happened and being able to tie that to the places I’ve been is difficult.

I’ve talked to a few friends in Japan, who after the earthquake were stuck in their workplace and had to stay there because the trains stopped running but I haven’t talked to anyone who has been directly impacted by the tsunami.

I’m sure that I will soon though, as so many people there were, and I did know people from the area.

Right now Japan is implementing rolling blackouts to save power and trying to stop meltdowns at the nuclear plants. But the day-to-day life has to get back to normal in places like Tokyo. So my friend who was stuck in the office for a few nights will have to return to work soon.

I have a lot of good memories of Japan and after talking to friends, obviously hope that things can return to normal for them.

During training, the first thing they tried to teach us were the procedures for an earthquake, which was get to an open place – a park, field or something similar.

If you can’t, get to a bathroom, which is supposed to be the sturdiest place in the house or building, in Japan at least.

Next you can leave a message on the emergency contact line so that people inquiring about your whereabouts are sure you’re alive and are able to get a message.

The last thing is to get to higher ground in case there is a tsunami.

But the trainers – afraid that most of us who’d never felt an earthquake would be leaving their classrooms at every tiny shake – said to use the common sense solution: If the kids you’re teaching are worried then you better move.

So in Japan, you live knowing that the threat of an earthquake  is close but never think something might actually happen.

But it does.

– Arne Petryshen is a reporter for the Grand Forks Gazette