Will & Tracy

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Part I -Disaster training- The "Oh Sh*t training for foreigners"

I realize that in every part of the world there natural disasters. In the US I've lived where there are tornados and hurricanes and yes, I still go on with every day life. Moving to China - there were more man-made potential disasters to watch out for than natural, but I went on with daily life there as well - and lived to tell the tales... Therefore, I'm not sure why I was so overly panicky about moving to Japan because as I told my husband ..."but honey, they have earthquakes thar', and then the guilt trip... 'do you really want our son to live in 'the ring of fire'." In the first couple of weeks I swore I woke up a half dozen times thinking that every little jolt was a major earthquake - instead it was probably just my husband's gas or my snoring that woke me up. This fear is compounded by the fact that the language barrier is once again high and now that I have a kid, it was even more worrisome on how to figure out how to call the police or ambulance if we needed help.

To try to alleviate this fear and to possibly meet some foreigners, I agreed to attend a disaster training class for foreigners this past weekend that my "darling husband" found online. They supposedly had a simulator there so you could actually feel what a 7.0 earthquake felt like. Great, scare the shit out of the foreigners even more.

I arrived to find about 6 in my group - great - an Italian couple who have lived in Japan for 3 years and speak Japanese (why are they even here), a single older Brit gentleman and a 25 year old woman from the US (prospective friend?? yes yes) - that is a full time teacher about an hour outside of Osaka (no no). All in the group had been in Japan at least a year or two and spoke some level of Japanese. Grrr. Oh well, at least the Japanese instructor that lived in Southern California for a while was entertaining. The class was in fact in Japanese with videos and simulators and the Japanese dude just stood behind us and translated. It was actually very high tech with full scaled models of towns, etc...so at least I wasn't sitting in a classroom all afternoon. We moved over to the simulator and first experienced the 7.0 earthquake that they had in Kobe 12 years ago - yeah it rattled my teeth, but wasn't too bad - I can handle this I thought. Then they had to start with the fear tactics - which of course worked - "The next one you will feel it an 8.4 magnitude quake .... and then added .... researchers feel that an earthquake of at least 8 will hit this area in the next 30 years! SAY WHAT! Oh yeah and that there is a fault line that runs through the center of Osaka. Are you KIDDING me? Yeah yeah - I call bullshit on all of those people that told me : " Well if you had to live anywhere in an earthquake zone wouldn't you want to be in Japan?" I mean really - what kind of reasoning is this....

So as we go from simulation to simulation, the fear is growing rather than being alleviated - they want me to make a practice phone call to the emergency number. I'm thinking "Oh, great, if they have this type of simulation for foreigners, surely they have an English speaking line that I wasn't aware of." Yeah, that would be a no. They said (and the others confirmed) that there *may* be someone who can speak a little bit of English, but don't count on it. I am making mental notes at this point to learn the words/phrases for "ambulance, fire, help and get me the hell out of this country." Please note that I do realize that I am living in foreign country - that would be Japan - and no the entire world does not revolve around English only speaking Americans. We need to get over that people. Except me in my crisis drama mode of course.

After the class, do I feel prepared to handle an Earthquake? Well... I know how to use a fire extinguisher and about 10 different ways to use a plastic grocery bag as a first aid tool. Do I think hiding under the IKEA plywood dining table is really going to save Finn and I from falling debris? No, but at least I have a two-tone plastic blanket and a book full of Japanese phone numbers as my free parting gifts - oh yeah and a completion certificate telling me that I can now handle a disaster (well at least that is what I think it says in Japanese). Actually, I really do feel a little more prepared - being in Japan is probably one of the more safer countries to be in for any natural disaster - and gosh they are so darn nice and helpful that I trust they will help in anyway they can. Bring it on...


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