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Comments Off on Tsunami


Maybe you caught wind of the tsunami that came through Japan recently. (Yes, I do think that was an embarrassing, vague, weather-related pun). There was an 8.1-magnitude earthquake north of the Japanese island of Hokkaido last week, according to Japan’s Meteorological Agency. This created a momentary reduction in water level, which led to a massive water surge that we like to call a tsunami, all aided by typhoon-like weather conditions. All of this according to a Geology class I was occasionally awake for three semesters ago and what I could gather from a hastily written CNN article that I read a few days ago.

Initially it was a small 16-inch wave, but in time water levels had risen by a few feet around Hokkaido. Alongside the northern coast of that island, Japanese officials were expecting waves nearly 7 feet tall, sizeable during a usually calm season, according to NHK, Japan’s primary public broadcasting agency. Now, for friends and family 15,000 miles away, the fact that this earthquake happened 1,000 miles northeast of Tokyo wasn’t much comfort. I got a handful of emails checking on me, but, understand, the distance between Tokyo and the epicenter was about the distance between Philadelphia and Minneapolis, Minnesota. Would you really worry much about your own safety if some natural disaster hit the Twin Cities?

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Teaching English

Offered the option by an administrator at my university, I hopped on a bus and taught at an English camp in the rural Gunma Prefecture for a weekend.

It was fun to interact, teach and eat with high school kids, most of whom did not speak English well but were required to only do so this weekend. I was chosen, among others, specifically because our Japanese wasn’t particularly strong. It was tough and frustrating for some of the kids but certainly got the point across.

Secretly, during breaks, I did use it as an opportunity to push my Japanese.

We bonded some and laughed a lot. Like others, I led specific lessons and groups of 10 or so rotated through this massive lodge-like space, atop a peak amid a massive, wilderness of fall colors around us.

Like any culture, they were teenagers feeling out what kind of people they are, and we were slightly older young adults, who happened to also be foreign and American, so there was an awe. This was one of the simpler, yet  more transformative and likely memorable experiences.