Posted by: mariabro | April 11, 2011

Day One, a little intimidating

Anyone who has ever worked on commission (or “unlimited income”) will understand what I mean.  The first day of every new month you start at zero.  $0.  Nada.  Starting a new blog is kind of like that.  But I know I have to start somewhere, so today will be the day.  Exactly one month after the 9.0 earthquake in Japan, the massive tsunami and the nuclear disaster.  If I can’t find anything to write about after going through that, I might as well go back to selling bonds.

Which leads me to what I am doing in Japan.  This will be like the two-minute intro to the soap opera to catch you up on the past week’s action.  I have lived and worked in Tokyo for the past five years.  We moved here with our three children for my husband’s job and we have stayed longer than we anticipated. I worked as a financial planner for ten years in Canada before deciding I wanted to make less money and work more hours in journalism and television production.  I specialize in financial news and was a producer for BNN in Canada and Bloomberg Television in Tokyo

From the financial shock of 2007 to the recent N-squared disasters (natural and nuclear, or nucular according to G.B.), to the Real Life of an Expat Wife, it will be a personal insight into the headlines and the glamorous gossip behind the news. Part travelogue, part career guide, part expose, it will keep you riveted to your kindle.
But for today I will start with the terrifying experience of 3/11.
The day started in a great way.  We had a T.V. crew come to our house and film for a pet show.  The Japanese love pets.  Our white Golden Retriever Yuki, is a hit wherever we go.  She has been on the show twice now.  After the crew left I lay down to rest up for a big night out on the town to celebrate my birthday.  My youngest son was home from school that day.  At 2:46 we felt a little rocking, which is pretty standard when you live in Japan.  But it kept going.  And getting bigger and louder.  My son ran up to my room to get me up.  I told him to let me rest a little while longer.  Then I realized this was not a “normal” earthquake.  We ran downstairs where my 90-year-old mother was trying to walk with her walker.  She was asking me what was going on.  I kept saying “OMG, what should we do?”  When neither my mother nor my 7 year-old son could give me an answer I turned to Facebook.  My postings during the three minute earthquake were as follows:
  • Omg how long will this earthquake last? Longest ever? March 11 at 1:48pm
  • Omg
  • omg this is scary
  • drawers opened, pictures rocking and things falling off the counter
  • its still going, craig work is being evacuated
  • our alarms are going on, I’m going to school
  • Picked up the boys at school, have grandma and yuki in the car. Brittanys on the bus and craig’s at work. Still rocking
  • Thank God for Facebook as we can’t call or text

The tick-tick-tick sound of the windows and the rumbling, like a train rolling through the house, are of some of the things I will never forget from that day.  My first inclination was to get out and go to an open, flat area.  That is not what you are supposed to do, they teach the kids to “duck and cover”.  But when things are shaking and falling around you, you tend to want to get away.  We jumped in the car to drive to school to pick up my older son.  The parents lined up in a fairly orderly fashion to pick up their children.  But as it was only 3:00pm they decided not to let them out until regular dismissal time at 3:30.  So, we stood in the street waiting nervously.  Then the first aftershock hit.  The utility poles swayed and the electrical wires waved above us.  I heard an announcement in Japanese over the public address system.  I asked someone what it said.  “A Tsunami warning”.  I wasn’t worried as that is standard procedure after an earthquake.  Then they decided to let us take our children.  I guess two earthquakes and a tsunami warning were enough.  My son came out to me and hugged me.  Some of the mothers were crying.  The children had ducked under their desks and stayed there for over half an hour.

Finding an area that is open and flat in Tokyo is not easy.  I decided to drive to the Imperial Palace in the centre of town.  It took about 20 minutes to get there.  Traffic was very orderly.  Then around 4pm we saw people in suits and hard hats start streaming out of the office buildings.  The trains were all stopped so everyone was trying to flag taxis on the side of the road or resigned to walking home.  Traffic started to build.  We had the radio on and it kept transmitting more tsunami warnings.  My older son started to cry.  It finally hit him.  I turned off the radio and decided to head home.  We live in one of the highest areas of Tokyo so I felt that may be the safest place for us to be.

We have a three story house so we headed up to the third floor and set up camp.  The boys brought snacks upstairs, and played Wii.  I looked in the fridge and found a bottle of champagne.  Now was as good a time as any to crack it.  We sat upstairs in the playroom for 6 hours waiting for more news, waiting for my husband and daughter to return.  The aftershocks continued.  Cellphones and texts were not working.  The only way I could reach my daughter was on Facebook on her iphone.  I could email my husband on his blackberry.  thank God the internet was working.  My husband arrived home around 10:00pm.  My daughter was on the school bus.  It took them 8 hours to get home.  I walked to the bus stop at midnight to meet her.  Along with a small group of parents.  We clapped when they got off the bus.  As I was waiting there for her I noticed salarymen wandering around with maps in their hands.  I don’t think they had ever been above ground in this neighborhood.  They were walking home and had no idea how to get there.  Many walked for 6 hours to get home.  My daughter said she saw them walking away from Tokyo while  her bus was driving into Tokyo.  Lines of men in suits walking along the darkened streets trying to get home.

No one was rushing or looting or shouting.  The Japanese people accept this as part of their lives in Japan.  Shougani.  It can’t be helped.  This perfectly describes the Japanese mentality for better and for worse.

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