A Letter from Japan

March 22nd, 2011

This was sent to us by a neighbor.  It’s from an American English teacher in Sendai, one of the hardest-hit cities.  It moves me deeply.

Hello My Lovely Family and Friends,

First I want to thank you so very much for your concern for me. I am very touched. I also wish to apologize for a generic message to you all. But it seems the best way at the moment to get my message to you.

Things here in Sendai have been rather surreal. But I am very blessed to have wonderful friends who are helping me a lot. Since my shack is even more worthy of that name, I am now staying at a friend’s home. We share supplies like water, food and a kerosene heater. We sleep lined up in one room, eat by candlelight, share stories. It is warm, friendly, and beautiful.

During the day we help each other clean up the mess in our homes. People sit in their cars, looking at news on their navigation screens, or line up to get drinking water when a source is open. If someone has water running in their home, they put out sign so people can come to fill up their jugs and buckets.

Utterly amazingly where I am there has been no looting, no pushing in lines. People leave their front door open, as it is safer when an earthquake strikes. People keep saying, “Oh, this is how it used to be in the old days when everyone helped one another.”

Quakes keep coming. Last night they struck about every 15 minutes. Sirens are constant and helicopters pass overhead often. We got water for a few hours in our homes last night, and now it is for half a day. Electricity came on this afternoon. Gas has not yet come on. But all of this is by area. Some people have these things, others do not.

No one has washed for several days. We feel grubby, but there are so much more important concerns than that for us now. I love this peeling away of non-essentials. Living fully on the level of instinct, of intuition, of caring, of what is needed for survival, not just of me, but of the entire group.

There are strange parallel universes happening. Houses a mess in some places, yet then a house with futons or laundry out drying in the sun. People lining up for water and food, and yet a few people out walking their dogs. All happening at the same time.

Other unexpected touches of beauty are first, the silence at night. No cars. No one out on the streets. And the heavens at night are scattered with stars. I usually can see about two, but now the whole sky is filled. The mountains are Sendai are solid and with the crisp air we can see them silhouetted against the sky magnificently.

And the Japanese themselves are so wonderful. I come back to my shack to check on it each day, now to send this e-mail since the electricity is on, and I find food and water left in my entranceway. I have no idea from whom, but it is there. Old men in green hats go from door to door checking to see if everyone is OK. People talk to complete strangers asking if they
need help. I see no signs of fear. Resignation, yes, but fear or panic, no.

They tell us we can expect aftershocks, and even other major quakes, for another month or more. And we are getting constant tremors, rolls, shaking, rumbling. I am blessed in that I live in a part of Sendai that is a bit elevated, a bit more solid than other parts. So, so far this area is better off than others. Last night my friend’s husband came in from the country, bringing food and water. Blessed again.

And somehow as I experience the events happening now in Japan, I can feel my heart opening very wide. My brother asked me if I felt so small because of all that is happening. I don’t. Rather, I feel as part of something happening that much larger than myself.  This is hard, and yet magnificent.

Thank you again for your care and Love.

10 Responses to “A Letter from Japan”

  1. EverettK Says:

    Very moving!

  2. Tom Logan Says:

    Tim, your blog keept me in touch with Japan better than all the news stations combined. They focus on the extraordinary; you bring us the sublime. Once again, thank you for sharing.

  3. Sylvia Says:

    That’s beautiful.

  4. Suzanna Says:

    The person who wrote this letter gives me the greatest sense that Japan may have suffered a terrible tragedy but the people who live there have not lost one bit of their humanity.

    People helping each other, working together, appreciating all that they still have in the midst of such terrible destruction is truly inspiring.

    Thanks for posting the letter. It’s beautiful.

  5. barbara macdonald Says:

    Thank you Tim

  6. Lil Gluckstern Says:

    Really moving, sadness and fortitude. It still brings tears to my eyes. Look at how we can care for each other; hopefully we remember this in the good times. Japan, and your friend, have such a long road to recovery.

  7. Gary Says:

    My God, we have a lot to learn from people like that, don’t we?

  8. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Hello, all, and I’m so glad the letter touched you as it did me. It actually teared me up, coming as it did on the very day they found the body of another American English teacher who wasn’t so fortunate.

    I do want to clarify that I personally don’t know the woman who wrote this letter. One of the people to whom it was sent shared it with a neighbor and she in turn shared it with Mun, and then I with you.

    But it really does say something about the potential of the human spirit and about some of the traits the Japanese have displayed during this terrible time.

  9. Laren Bright Says:

    I have seen a couple emails like this one — all essentially emphasizing the cooperation, pulling together, and absence of things like looting or violence.

    Let’s hope that this type of disaster is not what’s required to bring u to the awareness of our shared humanity. But then, whatever it takes…

  10. RJ Baliza Says:

    in times of natural tragedies, we are stripped down to our very basic core. there is no african-american, white, hispanic, asian. there is no religious belief there is no nationality. there is only humanity. we are humans first before anything else.

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