Elan copes with disaster in Japan

Illustration by Kien Ha

 

By Christopher Yee

Miki Itsubo finds herself preoccupied in English class these days.

She came to the United States from Japan in 2006 so that she could improve her English, but she still has difficulty keeping up with the pace of in-class discussions.

Her current problem, however, is not listening comprehension.

Despite the fact that English 103 is the last class she needs to complete her transfer requirements, Itsubo’s mind is a wasteland of guilt and sorrow.

“I feel guilty that I am in class and working on assignments while so many people are working hard to help the Japanese people,” she said.

Itsubo, a business major, has had to live in two worlds since just before midnight on March 11 when news of the earthquake came out.

She has plenty of homework and readings to complete, but much of her time outside of the classroom is spent on the Internet watching Japanese news feeds and reading any information available.

“It’s kind of depressing to me when I see people acting like nothing happened. I know it’s a different country, but I just get sad when I think about all those people (suffering),” said Itsubo.

Much like everyone else with relatives and friends in Japan, Itsubo spent the day after the earthquake trying to get through to her family over the phone.

She considered herself fortunate to be able to speak to her mother for two minutes.

“She told me everything was okay and my family was safe, but the call cut off right after that,” she said.

Itsubo came from Tottori in the southern part of Japan, far from the disaster area in and around Sendai, but she explained that she felt the need to call because she is in a foreign country.

Even though Itsubo’s loved ones were unaffected by the earthquakes, tsunami and nuclear facility explosions, she still feels compelled to find out as much as she can so she can feel closer to her homeland.

“I feel connected to the people in spirit,” said Itsubo.

She did her best to stave off feeling unable to help by emailing everyone she knew, asking them to help by donating anything they could to the American Red Cross.

“I wanted to make sure everyone knew. I didn’t know if people here were aware, so I wanted to do everything I could,” she said.

One of the few comforts Itsubo has had is the outpouring of aid from the entire world. She appreciated the United States Navy’s quick response, and she was especially amazed when she found out that a Taiwanese telethon raised $24 million for Japan.

“When I heard about that, I cried,” said Itsubo, coming close to tears again. “I can’t believe how generous people are.”

As Itsubo tries to move on with her life and her goal of transferring to one of the California State University campuses, her main concern is people becoming cynical about how much help Japan will continue to need.

“Someone wrote that people should not donate money to help Japan because it’s a highly developed country, but that’s so stupid. Any country that suffered the same damage would need help too,” she said.


 

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