Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The aftermath part 1

Taking advantage that Rocio just came back to Japan, and was staying at our house, I went to the lab early Monday to see what was happening there. I arrived around 9am to campus. There were a lot of people walking around, specially very young people with their parents (the entrance exam was programmed for that weekend, then extended to Thursday, then canceled). Also, the new library construction didn't stop, they were working pretty hard actually. Also, the people in the offices of university were there like if it was any other day, the only difference was that all the lights were off to help saving energy. Since the power plant situation, the electricity company was afraid that the demand of electricity wasn't going to be enough, so they decided to make scheduled blackouts in the Kanto area (this includes also Tokyo and Chiba). The interesting thing was that most (if not all) the residents made a great effort to save as much energy as possible to reduce the demand of electricity and they succeeded because that day the blackout was canceled. The problem is that the company didn't say they were going to cancel the blackouts and everyone was super confused, so most of the Japanese were complaining and angry because they didn't do the blackout... hehe.

I had to use the stairs to go to my lab in the 5th floor and it was like a ghost town, there was absolutely no one there that day. Maybe it was the time, but normally there are a least 2 or 3 persons or at least my professor. I did the paper work I left on Friday when the earthquake hit and then by 11am I was finished. I was waiting for my professor to come, but he came in the afternoon. Since our friend Rocio had to do some things in the afternoon, I went back early to be with Noran and the baby. The situation didn't improved at all. The aftershocks were hitting hard and the nuclear plant was getting worst. I stayed home the rest of the day and some friends came at night. Although there were many people in the house and we were all quite relax, Noran was still in shock and from time to time she got super worried again. That night we slept a little bit better since the aftershocks were less frequent.

The next day I was woken up by a call from a good friend of ours. He told me that he saw in the news that the situation in the power plant was getting out of hand and that we should go to his place in Osaka. By that time the 2nd reactor had just blown up and people were very, very scared. I told him that we didn't think was going to affect Tokyo at all, so that in any case we will consider the option. I told Noran and she told me that it was a good idea to go, I told her that for me it wasn't necessary yet. I called my professor and he advised me to take the baby out of the country for a while as a prevention. He told me that the radiation problem wasn't bad and that there was a very small chance for adults to be affected, but that he didn't know about kids. Before this call I was only worried about Noran being in shock, I figured it would pass very soon, but after the call I started to think what should I do. I was convinced that there was no chance for the radiation to affect were we live, but what if I and all the experts were wrong? what will happen to my baby? I started to get more stressed out. The news from abroad were flooding the Internet with the worst cases scenarios (mostly made up), my family in Costa Rica was worried, Noran's family was worried, our friends were telling us to run out of Japan, rumors that the government was hiding information, etc. So I started to get worried as well. The problem was that, my visa and Noran's was going to be expired on April 4 and we just had applied a week ago for the extension. Also, Nadia didn't have a passport yet (the procedures in Costa Rica are very, very slow), neither her Japanese resident visa. So for us to go out of Japan was even a more difficult decision, specially if there was not that much danger in the first place. The invitation from our friends in Osaka was getting more and more appealing. First thing I did was to call the Costa Rican embassy to see if there was a way of getting Nadia a passport fast. The consul told me that we can jump the procedures because it was an emergency case, so that was a little relief for me. At least with her passport we can go to Egypt or Costa Rica  without a problem, the problem was to come back to Japan. To make things worst, Noran got a call from the Egyptian embassy. The guy that called was new (he didn't know were Chiba was!) and told her that they were evacuating Tokyo and the embassy was moving to Osaka. He told her that Tokyo was in the danger zone now and that they asked for airplanes to come to take all Egyptian back home, but from Osaka. Of course Noran freaked out and then the decision was automatically made, no more thinking about it, we were going to Osaka. She started to make her bags and I was checking how was the best way to go: by car, or by Shinkansen (bullet train).

So you get an idea of the distances in Japan. There are around 223Km from where we live (Chiba) to the Power Plant area. Osaka is 432Km from Chiba.

After some time, Noran called the embassy to ask about the baby's passport problem. This time she talked to a more important guy and he told her not to panic, that they were making the arrangements to get the airplane (they didn't even know when the airplanes will even come), but still they didn't know if they were actually coming. Also told her that the embassy wasn't evacuating, that they were just preparing to take the people that wanted to go back. That calm her down a little, but the decision was made and I didn't want Noran to be more worried. We decided to go by Shinkansen to avoid any traffic problems. So we took our bags and went to Chiba Station to buy the tickets, hoping that there were trains at that time. When we were going down the stairs of our apartment I checked our mailbox and found the notification that our visas were ready! We just had to go to the immigration office to get them. It was a relieve, but we didn't know when we will be able to get them. For a second I thought of staying one more day, but we already were on our way. We arrived and all the station was dark, no more annoying sounds everywhere. It was quite peaceful and nice. We bought our tickets and got into the train to Tokyo to get the Shinkansen. After a little bit more than 3 hours of trains we were in Osaka.

Just so you know up to this day I'm talking about 47 earthquakes had happend (4.7 to 5.4 in magnitude!)! and up to today (March 21 of 2011) 660 earthquakes had happend!! :O You can check them out in http://www.japanquakemap.com/ Now you understand better why Noran was so freaked out and still doesn't want to go back!

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