Wednesday, 18 September 2013

A touch of typhoon

Rude Boy: You and I haven't had a class together since like spring 2011.
President: Wow. Sounds like a bad omen.
Rude Boy: Mm?
President: Spring 2011...?
Rude Boy: Oh. Shit. Well...I'll just withdraw if it looks like anything bad's about to happen.

I guess I'd better get on that.

If you're not aware, a typhoon hit large parts of Kyouto, Shiga, Hyougo, Ayamane, and also apparently Toukyo, though much less directly. Kyouto and Shiga seem to have been the worst-hit, being inundated with powerful rains and flooding. I sort of shrugged it off at first – typhoon, big deal. It happens. But then I was cruising Facebook and I saw this picture:

Yeah, I flagrantly ganked this from a stranger's FB feed. Sue me. Actually no, don't.
If you live in Kyouto, you should recognize this spot. Or maybe not; it took me a good ten seconds. That's Sanjou Oohashi in the background, Sanjo Keihan Eki further in the background, and, directly in front of us, a pedestrian footbridge. It's one of the most popular meetup and hangout spots in the city, and I was pulling through there once a week at bare minimum.

It's difficult to describe, now, what I felt in the moment I saw that photo, and over the following day. Of course at that time I was a little more uncertain of the situation. Last I read, only eight people have died, several of them rather elderly, and the news reporting all seemed to focus on evacuation efforts and property damage rather than loss of human life. But without being there, I had no way of knowing what things were actually like on the ground. I couldn't read the mood, and know whether Kyoutoites were bonding and powering through or despondent over the destruction. Most of all, I felt like I should be there. Not even that I should be doing something to help, just like I should be in the thick of with everybody. I didn't have any information, I couldn't do anything to help, maybe there wasn't even anything to do, and I felt thoroughly cut down to size.

I thought: Can forces of nature stop destroying my adopted homeland now.

And also: Please God, don't let this be a day that we remember for years.

Because I still recall with great clarity exactly what I was doing when I found out about the Touhoku Earthquake. Hell, I remember every detail that came for the next month, because of everything we were all doing. I didn't want this time to be like that. Let it wash away like so much water, a non-lethal non-event.

Of course I feel a little silly saying this now, knowing as I do that everything was pretty much ok. Udon is fine. Shiga is fine, English Club people are fine. But there was about a 48-hour period there where I was checking in and nobody was responding, which, rationality aside (they're busy, they might not have power, some people suck at texting), had me concerned.

It's weird that this typhoon could be even a fraction as affecting as Touhoku was, despite being a grain of sand in comparison to a beach, just because it's a place that I know well, and have developed a certain affection for (even though I still maintain that Kyouto is kind of shitty). I wondered if this is what it feels like to live in New York, and be watching a movie, and have it depicting scenes in places you could walk to from where you're currently sitting watching the movie. Actually, you probably get used to it.

So I tried to imagine my Canadian hometown undergoing a similar crisis. Try as I might, I couldn't make it real. Because these things could never happen to you, right?


  1. Having a number of friends who live in Boulder, Colorado, I knew them feels, bro.

    What's your Canadian hometown? I get the same feeling, hard to imagine something terrible befalling any town in Canada. We're natural disaster-less, right?

    1. Yup, it's always hard being away from people you care about when they're in crisis, be it a flood, a death in the family, a Godzilla attack, whatever.

      I live in a town of less than a hundred thousand somewhere in the neighbourhood of Vancouver. As I blog anonymously for various reasons, I hope you'll forgive me for not being more specific than that. Canada as a whole has been very lucky, more than we usually take the time to realise.