Tuesday, March 15, 2011


We have been home for a little more than 24 hours now.  My body and brain are finally adapting to being still, although every once in a while, I experience a phantom aftershock.  It's like after being on a boat for a while and when you are finally back on land, you still feel the sway.  Only in my case, I feel a shake or a roll.  

We began making arrangements to leave Japan on Saturday with hopes of leaving on Sunday.  And while there was room on the planes that were leaving, there was no way for us to get the 50 kilometers (31 miles) from the hotel to the airport.  Trains were maybe running, but with 6 pieces of luggage, a two year old and a newly harbored fear of riding trains in an aftershock prone region, I wasn't up for attempting an hour long train ride.  The Airport Limousine buses were not running at all.  And a taxi was a last resort because the fare was going to be ridiculously expensive.  Luckily, Don's brother has many work contacts in Tokyo and he got us in touch with someone who tried to help us by investigating other shuttles and even volunteering to drive us to the airport.

With our flight changed (by the time we felt like we had a way to get to the airport, there were no more seats on Sunday's flights) to Monday, I felt better.  But Saturday night and again on Sunday morning we had two pretty strong aftershocks.  On Saturday, Don did a good thing and made me get out of the hotel and walk around and see that life was going on.  It was better for my psyche to be outside as I felt like if another big one hit, we wouldn't be trapped anywhere.  I don't know what it was, but I was just so afraid of being trapped.  Although I stayed calm the whole time, Don stayed logical.  And we enjoyed some great walks around the hotel's neighborhood.  Price loved it because we always ended up at one of the playgrounds that seems to anchor every neighborhood in Tokyo.  He loved playing with all the other children and I loved how unaware they were.  By watching them, I was able to let go of so much of my fear.

I didn't sleep well Sunday night.  I was woken up by a large aftershock around 2:00 in the morning.  I couldn't fall back asleep because my brain turned on.  But I knew that we had a shuttle to catch in the morning, I just prayed we would get to the airport.  We confirmed our shuttle around 7 and knew we needed to be downstairs by 10:20 to catch it.  When the bellman came to get our bags, he told us that he didn't think the shuttles were running anymore.  As I walked up to the concierge  I had a bad feeling, and it came to fruition when she told me that she was glad I was there because she needed to tell me they had just canceled all of the shuttles to the airport and also that there were no trains running due to the impending rolling blackouts that would start that day to help conserve energy.  At this point, we had five hours to get to the airport and catch our flight.  But then we were told it could take 3 hours to get to the airport and 3 hours to get checked in.  Don was not with me when I found all of this out, and it was at this point I felt like I had finally hit my wall.  I felt a complete loss, and like I had been punched in the stomach.  I started second guessing everything.  Should we check out of the hotel?  should we try to get to the airport?  Should we get a cab to take us to a bus station where we'd have to wait for a seat on a bus that could take 3 hours to get us where we needed to be?  I just didn't know what to do.  

Don joined me at the desk and I delivered the bad news, and we started trying to decide what to do.  I had to step away for a moment and go have my first cry of the whole ordeal.  And then I felt bad for feeling bad for myself since we were safe and comfortable and only being inconvenienced trying to leave.  As Don and I were standing and discussing our options, God intervened and the desk phone rang.  It was someone scheduled on our shuttle, who also HAD to get to the airport.  He was interested in possibly taking a taxi, and the concierge asked if he would share with our family.  And he did!  We had heard several stories about why the shuttles stopped running, but the main theme was the horrendous traffic, so we were still a little concerned that we were going to cut it close.  But there was hardly any traffic at all, we made it to the airport in about an hour.  The man we shared the cab with wouldn't let us pay our half, he took care of the whole thing, and it was an expensive ride- almost $300.

After getting to the airport with plenty of time, we were finally able to do some souvenir shopping (our intended shopping days were interrupted).  And grab something to eat.  Once again at McDonalds.  But the menu was very limited- Teriyaki Burger or Shrimp patties (SPAM made out of shrimp).  The lines everywhere were crazy long.  We queued up to check in at 12:30, we did not finish with check in, security and immigration until 2:30.  There were so many people wanting to leave.  And several people we spoke with had only been in the city a day or two before the earthquake and were cutting their trips short to get home.  We even ran into one of the Americans who we met at the museum.  It had taken them two and a half hours to walk to their hotel, but she said they were treated graciously along the way.

Once we were checked in, we boarded our flight and made it home.  So, now we're home.  Back in the comfort of our house.  Enjoying the stability.  Not worrying about nuclear meltdowns.  Thinking about all of those in Japan who are still dealing with all that is going on there.  When I compare my problems to theirs, I almost feel guilty for feeling scared and anxious.  As I retell the story to friends, I am constantly reminded about how blessed we were throughout the whole experience. 


Kelly said...

I'm so glad you are decompressing and that you're writing is one way you do it. It's nice to have a peek into the emotions of the experience and again to read about how wonderful the people of Japan are. So glad you are home!!!

Shelly said...

What a story you will have to tell Price.....Try not to feel too guilty about being your feelings. It is true that others are far worse off, but you're still human!!! Any possibility Don will be sent back for relief efforts?

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