It has been rough this last week watching the events in Japan clash, one disaster after another, like dominoes. It would be ridiculous for me to say that I have struggled over this, even though this is how I feel, when there are so many people RIGHT NOW struggling for balance. It is so hard to imagine people who have lost family and friends, who have lost their homes, who don’t have access to food and clean water, and now those who are facing radiation exposure.

Yesterday, I read how the U.S. and Japanese governments have urged Americans (and other foreigners) to leave the country. Obviously, this is a precaution and may or may not ultimately be a necessity, but it makes me wonder what then is in store for the nationals left behind. Four American bases are insisting that the military families evacuate. This includes Camp Zama, an Army base and Yokosuka, a Navy base. The names of these places may not mean much to some people, but they aren’t just foreign places to me.

Ten years ago I participated for the first time in a youth services organization that placed me at Camp Zama, Japan. I was 23 and had only ventured out of the country previously to visit Vancouver, Canada, a three-hour drive to reach all the underage drinking a 19 year old could desire. Japan was obviously going to be a different experience. I left home for a destination where I didn’t know anyone and didn’t speak the language.

When I think about my time at Zama and Yokosuka, as well as the entire two years that I eventually lived, non-consecutively, in mainland Japan and Okinawa, what comes to mind are not just memories. I am inundated by experiences that I could not have had if I had never risked my initial discomfort of trying something different. I think about the friends that I made whose names and faces still manage to put a smile on my face years later. And, I think about me.

I think about who I am now; how the adult I have grown into, the beliefs that guide my day-to-day life, and my overall understanding of my role as a fellow human being has been largely impacted by these experiences. I don’t like to think back to all of the bullshit I surrounded myself with prior to that initial departure. Instead I will just say that Japan is special in my heart because it provided me with an escape from a life I didn’t even fully acknowledge that I was tired of living.

And this is why my heart is broken. I’m not sharing this to earn sympathy. I’m sharing because I feel horrible for the difficulties this nation is facing. I feel like help is needed so badly and I guess I just want to make the situation real for others… like it is for me.

Plus, I absolutely hate the idea that someone can open his or her big fat ignorant mouth and speak of “heathenism”, and “god’s will” as being the cause of such disaster. I wish these people were held accountable for the words that are only hurting when they should be helping. I wish that somewhere among their religious edicts that they instead incited compassion for others, as opposed to a “who is most important” in the faith race, because it is simply not okay. Talk about those “non-issues” when people’s lives are not in a state of ruin.

And so, Japan, I know you are having a hard time right now, but I want you to know that I am thinking of you. Thank you for the friendships. Thank you for the experiences and knowledge imparted. Thank you for the ability to eat sushi with chopsticks, and everything else you taught me. Thank you, most importantly, for welcoming me with open arms. You helped me grow into the adult I am today.

If anyone is interested in donating to the relief fund, go here: 

Side note: Sandra Bullock donated 1 million dollars and Ichiro Suzuki donated a little over a million as well. It is nice to see people who make such crazy amounts of money giving large donations.


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