Saturday, March 12, 2011

A Night at the Museum

Sorry for the length and the un-polishedness of this post.  I'm just spilling out everything we experienced in the past 24 hours or so....

We spent yesterday visiting Uneo, I'll post more about Uneo later.  We were having a nice day exploring the parks, and letting Price ride Thomas rides.

After the Thomas pit stop, we headed over to the Tokyo National Museum. It's a massive campus, with several large, imposing buildings.


We headed immediately down to the basement so we could use the restroom and change P's diaper.  I wonder if I knew what would happen within the next 5 minutes if I would have taken these pictures-
The awesome potty chair, to keep the little ones secure so mommies can go in (practical) peace.  And then the control, not to launch a space ship, just to flush the potty.

And then, because God is good, there was no changing table, so we had to leave the bathroom before I could change P's diaper.  As I walked out of the bathroom, Don said, "I think there's an earthquake."  And I said, "Really, I think it's just the elevator."  Then it started rolling, big waves and shaking.  We started to move to an out of the way place and then saw several employees ushering everyone up a short flight of stairs and outside.  So we quickly followed.  Looking up, the chandeliers were swaying like crazy. By the time we got up and out, several minutes had passed and the earth was still moving.  It was huge.  And Guammies- to give you a sense of how different this one was to the small ones we've felt- the ones we've felt in Guam are like a large truck driving fast up a street and shaking the house.  The one we experienced yesterday felt like a truck being dropped on a trampoline and being rolled around from the ripples.

Everyone was so calm though.  They didn't seem as rattled (pardon the pun) as I felt.  You could tell it was bigger and stronger than what they were used to.  Everyone just kind of stood around, and it was a good thing because then the after shocks started.  The pond in front of the museum had waves.  One of the aftershocks (we just heard it was a 7.1) was so big it was hard to stand up and the trees were swaying.


I was consistently amazed with how orderly everyone was.  As non-Japanese speaking Americans, information was initially hard to come by.  we picked up pieces here and there.  It was cold, and there was aftershock followed by aftershock.  To me, that was the worst part.  When something so big has happened, you just want it to be over, but the aftershocks coming so frequently and randomly was very unnerving (still is, as we just had one.  we are now all dressed and our bag is packed if we have to evacuate quickly from the hotel.  how i wish we were on a lower floor).  The museum staff allowed us to stay inside the grounds as more information came about.  They just asked us to move away from the buildings (which had no noticeable damage to the facades) and the trees. So, we all moved in an orderly fashion and all of us non-Japanese speakers kind of flocked together.  Announcements continued to play over the loud speaker, in Japanese, but no one seemed overly concerned, so we remained calm and I prayed for serenity and safety.  And I also thanked God for letting us be in the safest place of every where we had visited when this happened.

After about 30 minutes or so, several English speaking museum staff members sought us out to tell us what had happened, where and that the museum was closing for the day.  But the encouraged us to stay on the grounds where we were safe, had access to restrooms (Of course it was a squatty potty, and I used it and had the reverse experience with the one I had when we were in Asakusa) and limited access to information.  By this time, most of the Japanese were watching the news on their phones.  Our phones don't work here and outside of the hotel we can only access the internet via wi-fi, so we had no way to contact anyone or find out what was going on.

As the afternoon wore on, it began to colder and dark.  We learned that the trains and metro had stopped running and best case wouldn't be back up until much later in the evening.  Luckily, the vending machines here carry hot drinks, so we were able to get a coffee, hot apple cider and once very nice lady bought Price a can of corn soup (tasted like a watery creamed corn).  The museum staff realized how many of us were stranded and decided that the strongest aftershocks had probably occurred and invited everyone into one of the newer buildings, which had a very large, comfortable lounge area.

It was nice to get out of the cold and spread out.  Price made friends with everyone in the room, his favorite was the baby girl sitting across from us.

Once inside, the staff turned on a TV and we were able to see the extent of the damage and were as shocked and saddened as all of those around us.  By this time we were 3 of about 7 non-Japanese.  There were about 60 people total.  At 6:00, the staff came and told us that the trains would not be running at all and invited everyone to stay and spend the night.  They told us we had one hour to go to a local shop and buy provisions (which remarkably, there were still plenty of- it didn't seem like hoarding or panic was going on, several restaurants were even open) for the night. At this point, Don wanted to leave, hoping we could walk back to our hotel and catch a cab somewhere along the way.  But it was going to be a 3-4 hour walk at night, in the cold, through very unfamiliar territory.  And the museum staff didn't recommend us trying it, especially with Price.  So, after much discussion and Don realizing it wouldn't be good for our marriage
my mental health, we decided to just stock for the night and spend the night at the museum.

The museum staff was FABULOUS!!  They checked on us throughout the evening, they provided futon type cots for me and Price and the other mother and baby.  They also gave everyone blankets since the heat would not be on throughout the night.  There were aftershocks off and on all night.  Nothing to large and we could usually tell they were coming because an alert would go off on the tv and several cell phones.  Also the large windows, that had been secured by metal gates, would rattle as one would come through.

Price slept the best of the three of us.  Don and I grabbed winks whenever we could.  This morning, they provided a simple breakfast of bread and butter, instant coffee and hot tea.  And as usual, the staff checking on us and inviting us to stay as long as we needed.  We decided to try to get back to the hotel so we could have better communication (although, I truly appreciate the fact that Japan makes pay phones free, even for international calls during an event such as this).  I, however, had serious reservations about being on a subway for 40 minutes.  So, we decided to take a cab (if one could be found).  We are so fortunate that one of the museum staff volunteered to walk us to the train station, helped us locate a taxi and arranged for us to share a cab to get back.  And then because our cup overflows with generosity from the kindness of Japanese strangers, the man we shared our cab with refused to let us pay our share of the fare.

We are doing ok.  We are tired.  I will admit to being (again pardon the pun) shaken up.  I just want it to be over and for us to be out.  I am afraid of trains, I am afraid of elevators.  Tokyo seems to be ok, from what we've seen.  The trains are running, there is street traffic, we have electricity, cable and internet.  I am sad for how much devastation has occurred.  I am overwhelmed by the generosity that we have been shown here and also by the concern from our family and friends who we have heard from.  And know that we are blessed beyond words to be here.

Please continue to pray for us and for the people of Japan.  We will

5 comments:

Amy Hall said...

All I can say is Wow! I'm so glad that you all are safe. I'll pray for all of Japan.

Lori Price Taylor said...

Wow! I am so very glad you werent in an area that experienced the worst of the destruction. It is wonderful to hear how wonderfully you were treated. Thank you for your update! I really enjoy reading your blogs! I love you guys!

Jennifer said...

Wow. As soon as we started hearing the news, I was like "There's a girl who's blog I read who's on vacation in Japan!" Naturally, my husband thought I was a little crazy. But I'm so glad that you're okay, and I'm so glad that everyone was so nice to you! I would have been losing my MIND! I mean, bad enough to be trapped IN Japan for the earthquake, but to actually be trapped at a museum? You are a strong woman, lady. Very impressive. Here's hoping you make it back to the little island that could in a reasonable amount of time...

Kelly said...

I'm a little teary-eyed after reading this. I'm so glad that you three are safe and heading home soon (if not already). I think what touched me most was your descriptions of how wonderful the people you've encountered were to you. Something about that touches my soul! Oh friend, I wish you very safe travels home.

Jennifer Wilmore said...

I have been thinking of y'all and praying for you for the last few days, and I have to admit that reading this got me a bit choked up. I can only imagine how you must have felt, and I'm happy to know you were in a safe place and treated with such generosity and kindness. Love you all and am glad you're on your way back to Guam. On a lighter note, I'm glad that you and I both had to take pics of the Japanese toilet controls! Great minds think alike!
Jen

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