Friday afternoon, I was sitting in the teacher's room, reading and waiting for the day to end so I could head home. There were no classes in the afternoon because kids were getting ready for the school's 50th Anniversary Ceremony the next day.

At about 2:45, the ground began to shake. It was just a small rumble, not uncommon in Japan. But then it suddenly got a lot bigger, like turbulence inside a big plane, but on the ground. There were only about 5 or 6 of us in the room at the time, and someone turned on the news, but the power was cut almost instantly. The shaking continued for a long time, but wasn't severe enough to evacuate. Then it finally stopped, and a few teachers came running back in for information, while those already there began to clean up. The teacher who sits behind me apologized for her papers falling all over.

Then the second earthquake hit, much stronger and faster than the first. The vice principal announced over the PA system to get out, and the other ALT and I followed the other teachers outside.

The Homeroom teachers each lead their classes outside where we all convened in front of the school. I remember worrying about my shoes, because we wear different ones inside to keep the school clean. But everyone ran out into the dirt and mud in their indoor shoes. (The front of our school is undergoing construction - our new school building was just completed in January.)

Students were either crying and scared, or thought the whole thing was a joke and a great break from working. These were all 1st and 2nd year junior high school students, so about 13 and 14 years old.

We wait there for a long time, and the shaking stops, but aftershocks hit every five minutes or so. Soon, the VP decides to move the students a little further away from the building. We move to where the track would be, and it's pretty much the safest place in the area, as it's high in the mountain, away from the beach, and in an open area thanks to construction.

It's cold though, and we didn't have time to grab coats or anything. I had grabbed my phone, but that was it, and that was near useless since my prepaid plan had expired the day before. I was planning to buy more minutes that night. But with the chill, it was sometimes hard to tell if you were shaking from the cold or from the ground.

We waited outside for maybe an hour and a half. I entertained some kids and distracted myself by talking to them in Japanese, which they still find fascinating. I was also translating as much as I could to the other ALT, who speaks almost no Japanese at all.

Around 4:30 or so, they decided to send everyone home, because there was nothing more that could be done, and they wanted the kids to be with their families. We got sent home too, and went back in the building to quickly grab our things and go.

On the way home, I saw a few downed garden stone walls, and some damages shingles that had fallen or broken glass, but that was about it. Once I got home, I went inside for a moment, but the aftershocks were still really strong at that point, so I went back out to my parking lot to wait, which was a fairly safe place to be. I tried to go to a friend's place, but I only knew the building and couldn't find the apartment.

Eventually, it got to be too cold and it didn't look like the aftershocks were going to stop. So I went back inside. Friday night was the worst night. There was no power, heat, or water. My dishes and things had fallen out of the cabinet and shattered, and my room was a complete mess.

My phone died almost right away, because of no battery power. My kindle had a bit of power left, and I used my still-chaged computer to charge the kindle's battery as much as possible, but then I could email and use twitter to let people know I was alive.

That night, I spent huddled in bed, with my coat on and my bag and shoes right next to me. I didn't sleep well at all.

Saturday, I woke with the sun, and even though the sun rises at about 5am, it sets at about 6pm, so I needed to use the daylight as best I could. I tried to find my friend's place again, but failed, and decided to try to get some more food, drink, and information.

Power was still out, but some stores were selling goods by hand. The market I went to let people in 30 at a time, tallied totals by hand with managers naming prices. Most everything sold for normal prices, if not cheaper. People were polite and patient and very kind. Store workers still shouted "Welcome" and "Thank you for shopping with us." While I was waiting in line, someone came around with newspapers, and I was able to get a first look at what happened in Sendai and Tokyo, as well as a little more information on the quakes themselves. I could check CNN on my kindle, but only for a short time, and couldn't get too much info.

The rest of the day was spent looking at damage, and that was about it. The most I really saw were the walls and damages roofs. I couldn't get in touch with anyone else. Saturday night wasn't as bad as Friday, but it wasn't fun either. Aftershocks still shook my apartment.

Early Sunday a couple other ALTs found me at my apartment and let me know where everyone was gathering. I made plans to meet up with them later. Until then, I went down to the beach to see the damage from the tsunami. We only got about 2m, and most of the city is up on a cliff, so there was no damage to houses. Just a few boats overturned or sunk.

Sunday night we were all together, which was a welcome change. The power came back on, too, after 54 hours, so were could recharge everything and get in touch with people and get more information. We thought we got water back, but that seemed to be a bit a of a fluke.

So now it's Monday. I went to the store again today and bought more food and water, and have been trying to get more information, though it's been very hard. My biggest concern now is the 70% chance of another magnitude 7 earthquake closer to Ibaraki than before that might happen in the next few days. Also the nuclear reactors. The ones in Fukushima are about 100km / 50mi away, so I'm not in the evacuation zone, but there is another plant in Tokai, which is only 15km away. It's supposedly stable right now, but another quake could be bad.I knew several people who have gone to Mito or even Tokyo. The trains aren't running right now, though, so it's difficult to go anywhere.

Right now, all I can really do is wait. There are still aftershocks going on.

Comments (1)

On March 24, 2011 at 11:05 PM , Brianne said...

I'm so glad you're okay!!! Crazy stuff!