And finally, an 9.0 earthquake. The first 12 days of the vacation were fantastic. We saw lots of things. I played with my nephews, celebrated birthdays and had a fantastic time. More on the fun stuff in another post. And then on an innocent afternoon, right as was about to take my nephew out for a walk the ground started to vibrate. It wasn't the first earthquake that I'd felt since I got there so we weren't alarmed. I even remember that my SIL asked my nephew if he could feel the earthquake. And then the vibrations got stronger and the building started to sway...and then the earthquake alarms went off and we knew it was serious. Since I got back people have asked me if I was scared during the big earthquake and the answer is that I don't think I knew enough to be scared. First, we had no idea the magnitude of it. Secondly, I was laying underneath the dining room table trying to keep my nephew calm and feeling safe.
If I had panicked, he would have panicked and I didn't want that, so while the ground trembled, the building swayed and the earthquake alarms blared, we sat under the dining room table and I answered 100 questions from a 3 year old about earthquakes. I think he kept me from being scared every bit as much as I calmed him.
I think it's so funny that everyone keeps asking me about the "Big One" and how it feels to have survived an earthquake of that magnitude, but what really freaked me out was not "The Big One" but everything that came afterward. The "aftershocks" a lot of which were 5.0M andabove. That first evening and night, there were strong aftershocks about every hour or so. It was kind of like waiting for the other shoe to drop and have another big one. I don't think I slept that night or...the next three nights either. Everytime I would just about drop off, we would have another strong aftershock. We were on the 18th floor of one of the newer buildings in Tokyo that is built with earthquake safety measures, so everytime there was a strong one, the building would start to sway. The coincierge said as long as we were swaying, it was good. If we started to go up and down, that was bad.
The next day, I got up to learn that my flight had been cancelled. I rebooked my flight for anther one that day...and then realized another problem...how to get to the airport. The highways were closed so they could check for damage. The trains weren't running. The airport buses weren't running and we couldn't get a taxi. So, I called back the fanatastic people at United and rebooked the next flight out I could get, which was Monday. The United Agent said that the person she had talked to before me was someone who had been in a taxi on his way to Narita airport for 9 hours. I'm really glad that I couldn't find a taxi, because I don't even want to know what that cost him.
It was only on Saturday that we really learned about what became the biggest stressor, which was the situation with the nuclear plant. So, for the next two days, we sat around in the apartment, watched CNN obsessively for news about the earthquake and the nuclear situation. I didn't sleep a lot. I could barely eat there was just this pit in my stomach. I was terrified and not sure what to do a lot of the time. They were making announcements at street level and at times we could hear them, but since we didn't speak japanese, and me not at all, we really couldn't understand it.
Finally, Monday came around. At that point, I had mixed feelings about leaving. I was scared out of my mind and wanted to leave, selfishly, for my own preservation, but on the other hand, I didn't really want to leave my SIL, 2 nephews and my brother there. I felt as is I was abandoning them. Monday morning, we found out that the airport buses still not running from the hotels, so I ended up taking a taxi from their apartment to the Tokyo Air terminal to take a bus to the airport. Then, when I got to the airport, the lines were unbelievable. It took me 2 hours to check in with my luggage. Then another 1.5 hours to get through security and immigration. It was a good thing I left 6 hours before my flight because by the time I got through all that, I had just enough time to get to my gate before my plane took off.
It was an incredible relief when the plane actually took off. While we were sitting waiting to board, there was yet another strong earthquake and I had theis brief thought "Oh God, we're not going anywhere" but we went ahead and boarded an left. About 3 hours after we were in the air, thankfully once everyone was asleep, I found myself crying. Just tears running down my face. I think it was the relief of being away from all the stress. I still didn't sleep. I don't sleep on airplanes. Unfortunately, for my rebooked flight, I had to go through Chicago, so it was close to 20 hours before I got home around 10pm.
I went to work on Tuesday. I couldn't just stay around the house. I figured I would just get through it and rip off the bandaid all at once. I probably should have stayed home because everyone asked questions about the experience and what I felt and I didn't really have an answer for them because I didn't even know how I felt. I'm not sure what kind of an employee I was for that first week. I ended up with a sinus infection and I was exhausted because I wasn't sleeping because of the jet lag. It took me about two weeks to feel like I was functioning. I'm pretty sure I was a complete bitch those two weeks between feel like crap.
It's been a month now. I'm still not sure what I feel about the whole experience. My SIL and nephews are safe in Indianapolis here in the states staying with her parents. My brother, though, is still in Japan. As for me, I think I'm still figuring it out. I'll post another post tomorrow about all the fun I had, and I did have fun, along with yarn and fiber pictures.