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Anne Thomas: Beauty amid destruction April 20, 2011

Posted by chezanni in Uncategorized.
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I thought my last letter would be my final one until after my move. But some people have asked me to kindly keep up these epistles. So since I will be off line for about a month starting Sunday, I realized I should get one more out before then. And very fortunately a friend sent me an email, which expresses how many of us are feeling these days.

Steve and I used to work in the same university in Sendai. It was called Shokei. He hoped for full-time employment there, but the administration had other ideas. It was planning on eliminating the English Department completely, so not only would Steve not get a position, but I would soon lose my job there, too.

Steve knew he had to support his wife and child, so started to look elsewhere. That little family ended up in the UAE. Yuki, Steve’s wife, comes from Iwaki, an area severely devastated by the recent natural catastrophes. Her father is a fire fighter there. And when all the hard work began after the quake, he worked 24/7 and ate two rice balls a day. He continues his total commitment, without holding anything back whatsoever. This is what Steve said about him in an email of several weeks ago:

“I really really, super really, respect the father more than any living person right now. He is a hero – even with radiation his people are priority, even higher than family, but ‘for’ family. No attachment in the best possible way.”

His tireless service was recognized. As Steve said in today’s message:

“Yuki’s father made the paper today for being a local hero – as we all thought he was. That’s a nice reward, perhaps.”

But what Steve said in the following email seems to sum up the confusions we all are feeling here. There is so much beauty, but also so much destruction. So much hope, but fringes of despair. So much effort, but so much exhaustion. So much purposefulness, but so much uncertainty. We build and then another quake knocks all the repairs down. We clean up, yet are told another major quake will come within a month. We live each moment acutely aware, always praying for a day filled with the simple beauties of life, always alert to what can happen suddenly and at anytime, always grateful for life itself and that we are allowed to participate in it.

Here is Steve’s letter in its entirety. It says the same things I just did, but better.

“Love being part of the letters, the lessons, the trials and tribulations.

“Yuki’s family I feel is loosing hope. I fear. They clean, as you do, another quake comes and the restart the cleaning. House washed away and the parents’ house that ‘was fine’ is now getting cracks in its walls with the 7.0+ aftershocks. They were optimistic. They are pessimistic. They were ready to face a challenge. They are having a hard go now.

“It is once again strange to hear about this from the ‘outside.’ I want to be there to help. I am happy not to be there. It is a very confusing time there and with the nuclear alert going from 5 to 6 to 7 there is even more reason to have concern and to not want to be in Iwaki, more reason to not want to be in Japan. Many what ifs play in my head. What if Shokei had kept me and what if we did move to Natori as we considered – and even found (a place to live there)? What if, what if, what if?

“I feel like a bad son-in-law as I am not there for family and a bad friend for not being there for friends. I want to help you. I want to find vegetables in small shops and look for the 2 kg bag of rice with you and sleep in my clothing to take-part in this event. I am also glad I am only writing about this desire. I am glad my wife and daughter are here (and) not exposed to the trauma that many are experiencing.

“It is good to read your letters and views as you are able to see the lessons life has to throw out. It sounds as if others are also able to see this as well, and this is the best sign. Not all can see this. I hear they even have a new word, “flygin,” for the mass numbers of gaijin (foreigners) leaving. I never thought I would have this day to reflect upon. I remember thinking about going to Tanzania (no clue about Japan), and then thinking about going to Japan (no clue again). I spent a short time there compared to you, just seven years, but fell in love with the nation.

“It is very confusing thinking about Japan, like the frog coming out in July confused and dazed, I don’t know how to look at this.

“Kindest regards, “Steve”

I guess for all of us, how we view and experience this will continue to evolve with time, perhaps for the rest of our lives.



Wondering how you can help? Aid relief efforts by clicking here to donate to the Japanese Red Cross, or text redcross to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Photo by Bùi Linh Ngân via Flickr.



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