Monday, October 31, 2011

It's the little things that get you.

Call me crazy, but I'd like to go to Iwaki, Fukushima before I leave Japan.

Yes, I know the risks and health consequences of going there. But that doesn't change this feeling of need: I really want to see Iwaki.

Earlier this year, in June, my boyfriend looked at me and asked me if I wanted to go with him to his hometown. The look on his face at the time was one of disbelief for what he had just suggested, mixed with an ache that can't be healed with ibuprofen, Hello Kitty band-aids, or time.

My boyfriend was on the phone with his Mom when the first earthquake hit on March 11, 2012. I remember the silence after he hung up the phone and the sound of his voice when he said, "My Mom's never scared." And when I asked what was wrong, all he said was, "A really big earthquake..." Before his voice faded off as he typed quickly on the computer. His parents are lucky; they live inland and only suffered the wrath of the earthquakes. But the rest of my boyfriend's hometown was soon featured on world-wide television broadcasts.

I admired my boyfriend's determination and want to return home, especially when his parents told him to stay in the States, away from the radiation and decomposition. For months he kept saying, "I have to go home," or, "It's the last time I can see my home." While I was struck by the magnitude of the event when it first happened, it didn't fully reach me until today.

I felt this nagging tug at my heartstrings during speech class. Our teacher had asked us where would would go in Japan if we could make a trip, as well as where we'd like to go before we left. I raised my hand. She looked at me, and "Iwaki" left the room breathless.
I explained to my teacher why I wanted to go, and she asked me to talk to her after class. I knew what she would say, and it felt like my stomach fell to my knees.

It was one of the few times I had heard my teacher speak full sentences in English. Usually, she would translate an unknown vocabulary word or grammar point, but she looked me in the eyes and said, "I wouldn't recommend you going to Fukushima." I kept telling myself the equivalent of "Be patient," or "Keep going" in Japanese, but I could feel the smile twitching on my lips. I wanted to cry, and my teacher knew that what she said had upset me. I told her I knew in my head that it was bad to go there, and that everyone I told had looked at me like I was suicidal, but she understood that my heart wanted me to go.

It's a time when being an emotionally-oriented person doesn't do any good.

I'm not sure what my boyfriend would say if he were reading this. (Or what he's thinking if he is reading this, for that matter.) I'd like to guess that he'd tell me not to go there because it's dangerous and really a bad place to go. The look on his face when he talked about "home" upon his return to the States was something heart-wrenching in itself. I'm sure everyone else reading this is saying, "Don't go! Don't go! It's dangerous! Think of the radiation!"

Don't worry; I don't think I'm going to go. At least, I don't have the time or monetary funds for going anytime soon. And I highly doubt that my source of income would allow me to go.

When I first told everyone that I was going to Japan, I was asked, "But . . . is it safe?" Even now, I still feel that I mean it when I said, "Kyoto is relatively safe. The food is probably contaminated, as well as the water and air, but I want to go, despite all of the possible risks. I feel the benefits are much better."

Usually, I follow my gut. If I could follow it now, I would still go to Fukushima. It's one of the few times I wouldn't want to go somewhere alone though. I guess I'll have to wait for a day when I can return with my boyfriend. I don't know if he'll ever decide to go home, but I'd like to think that someday he'll take me there.

I want to see what happened for myself, help people where I can, and learn as much as possible while I'm in Japan.

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