Category: story

sarah kay :: project v.o.i.c.e.


thoughts are with japan

Here are some snippets from Keiko’s posts:

Sunday, March 13, 2011

When I first arrived in Japan a few weeks ago, I had a deep discussion with a former Japanese colleague of mine about how Japan is the most socialist nation among today’s advanced nations. Even China with its Communist regime is closer to capitalistic America than Japan, despite it being the headquarters of some of the top companies in the world. He griped about how the average Japanese youth today are not nearly as driven as their counterparts in China, US, and Europe, and are happy producing mediocre results in their jobs, and relying on the country (and its citizens) to take care of them. It’s really only a matter of time until their lazy asses get a serious wake up call when China becomes the superpower of Asia.

Fast forward a few weeks to the day of the Sendai Earthquake. The earth shook violently and stranded tens of thousands of Tokyo citizens at their work place for the night. We heard reports that people were going to have to walk hours to get home. But an amazing thing happened that night that news reports didn’t capture since they were busy getting more vital information out to the public. The people of Tokyo came together to help each other.

There was a woman holding a sign near a major street that read, “I know you’ve been walking a long time. If you need to use the bathroom, you’re welcome to come to my house and use mine. This way.” Cars were at a stand still at intersections all over town and at times, only one car could get through a traffic light at a time. But no one honked. No one yelled out their frustrations. The only honking that was heard were honks thanking each other.

When some of the trains started running again on one of the busiest train lines in Tokyo, you could see that people were lined up in orderly rows, as they do every morning, not the panicked chaos you might imagine anywhere else.

The same kind of scene could be seen at the convenience stores and water replenishing stations. Orderly lines and no one trying to cut the line or push or steal.

When I read these stories online, I realized, THAT is socialism at its best.

Gregory Pflugfelder, director of the Donald Keene Center of Japanese Culture at Columbia University says the following in this CNN article:

“Such social order and discipline are so enforced in ordinary times that I think it’s very easy for Japanese to kind of continue in the manner that they’re accustomed to, even under an emergency.”

The communitarian spirit at the foundation of Japanese culture seems to function even more efficiently under the stress of disaster, he said. The natural American inclination is to operate independently.

“So you do everything you can to protect your own interests with the understanding that, in a rather free-market way, everybody else is going to do the same. And that order will come out of this sort of invisible hand.

“And Japanese don’t function that way. Order is seen as coming from the group and from the community as a sort of evening out of various individual needs.”

So what was I doing while all of this was going on? Living 5 minutes from my office, I knew I wouldn’t have a problem getting home. So I just joined a group of expats for a drink at the bar. Then another drink, then another. Until I was drunk enough that I couldn’t feel the anxiety that I was feeling inside. I feel ashamed now that I was thinking only about myself. But I plan to change that moving forward now that I have acknowledged how selfish my actions truly were.

So, I don’t agree with my former colleague. Japan isn’t as screwed as he said weeks ago. This strong socialist foundation is what will actually help Japan recover much quicker than any other nation that has undergone this level of devastation. In fact, I truly believe that through this experience, the people of Japan will feel an even stronger bond with each other and it will inspire the Japanese youth to step up, and not sit back taking the easy road in life any longer.

Friday, March 11, 2011

…It was around 3 pm on March 11, 2011 on a typical Friday, and I was looking forward to the weekend. I was in the bathroom when all of a sudden the 3 walls around me started to shake and within a split second I realized it was another earthquake. The second one in a week. Little did I know this one was going to be this big. I ran out of the bathroom and back to the office where my colleagues were buzzing. Oh my god, this building is really shaking. Are we ok on the 26th floor? What’s going on?! Where’s the epicenter? What, magnitude 8.9! What should we do? Get under the desk?! Should we evacuate?

The building swayed left to right for about a hour with aftershocks rippling through every 15 minutes, but all in all, we were in good spirits. Looking back now, I realize that that’s what we had to do. You couldn’t panic and acknowledge your fears because that would cause others to panic. And panicking on the 26th floor is never a good idea. But I know that their hearts were pounding, hands sweating as much as mine were…

Then the news and videos started pouring in. A tsunami in Sendai washing away entire homes and cars, an exploding oil refinery in Chiba that we could see from the office, whole towns engulfed in flames, nuclear power plants losing the power to keep the plants cool, hundreds of people missing and displaced. Then the messages started pouring in on Facebook. “Are you ok?” We all told our friends and family we were ok to reassure them, and ourselves…

…I called a friend and she asked how I was doing. I started to say that I was fine and what a crazy time to be here. Then, I started to cry. Out of nowhere. All the pent up anxiety was finally released. No, I’m not fine. I’ve been pretending I’m fine, but this is horrific. There are hundreds of people dead or missing, and all I can think about is how fortunate I am that I wasn’t in Sendai. How the rippling aftershocks remind me of what’s really going on, even if I try to put it out of my mind. When tragedy strikes this physically close to home, it’s really hard to be fine. But that would be selfish of me to complain how emotionally wrecked I am when nothing really happened to me. It just *almost* happened to me… The tears were real, but short-lived.

I’m back to being strong now and praying for the people of Sendai. And donating. I’ve never felt this passionately about providing resources and support in any kind of natural disaster before. I realize the importance of that now. The news reporting plays an important role in getting people to donate. The coverage and reports on BBC and other world news organizations has made it look like the entire nation of Japan is a set for the movie, the Day After Tomorrow. Tsunami washing us all away… the truth is, Sendai is as far away as San Francisco is to Los Angeles. But the people of Sendai are getting hit hard along with the northern provinces. And they desperately need the help. So, with the news reports drumming up attention to this tragedy, I hope that will inspire people all around the world to donate even a few dollars to help these people out.

Here’s a link if you’re interested in helping. You can choose your preferred charity and organization. Don’t wait. It’s for a worthy cause. Trust me.

Lastly, I wanted to say thanks to all of my friends and family that have contacted me and sent their well wishes. It’s a pretty crazy time to be here all alone, but it’s great to know that I am not alone. So thank you.


the scent of life by laura bramon good

her writing is exquisite and when i don’t know where else to turn, her words manage to speak to a part of my soul grasping for air

The Scent of Life
Monday December 13, 2010

By Laura Bramon Good

Two autumns ago, the autumn I would have given birth, I went to London and spent days wandering, working my sadness to sweat in the chilly gray rain. On my first aimless morning I walked from Notting Hill to Hyde Park and on to Brompton Oratory, in whose dark turrets candle smoke hung like clouds and at whose Sacred Heart altar I found a novena leaflet that read like a chain letter.

I considered the leaflet’s bald promise that in fourteen days of novenas and leaflet-ing, my dreams would come true. I pocketed it, knelt at the dim Mary Magdalene altar, and wrote my child’s name in the register of prayers.

Then I continued down the cobblestones and sidewalk to Harrod’s, where I walked straight to the parfumerie. I had just turned thirty. I was a woman. I needed a scent to follow me.

The Chanel counter struck me as a good place to start, but that first day I leaned awkwardly into its gold and glass buffet. I had never purchased a perfume before.

No. 19 was the scent I wanted first—grassy, rainy, like the damp greens I had crossed.

No. 5 fascinated me: it was very bodily, and years later, walking the streets of Vienna, I would pass the sweaty, doe-eyed horses of a hansom cab and recognize in the musk of their bodies and the tannins of their bridles some memory of that rich perfume.

But both scents were so foreign to the floral and vanilla fragrances that had always stood, in my mind, as feminine perfumes. A patient saleswoman noticed my worry and suggested that I spritz No. 19 on my neck, walk the city for a day, and see how it wore on my skin. If I liked it, I could come back and buy a bottle—and if I didn’t, I could try Coco or No. 5.

I took her up on the offer and returned every morning that week, wending my way back through Hyde Park and the dim Oratory to the bright Chanel counter. Each time, I decanted and mulled over all the perfumes and their beautiful bottles, and then I chose the one I would wear that day. Some perfumes pooled at my skin, sweet and rare but glassy, inert. Others clung awkwardly, catching and tugging at my own scent like the stitches of an unraveling scarf.

I couldn’t tell you which notes spoiled on my skin—neroli, mayrose, muguet. I knew and still know almost nothing about the essences and elixirs that compose modern perfumes. But I knew that while walking the fog and chill of that city, the grapefruit-tinged citron of Chance Eau Fraiche caramelized on my skin and made my body smell as if it had bloomed of its own accord.

That was what I longed for: to bloom, magically, despite death and fear and the shame of being a grave. Perhaps it was unwise of me to spend so much money on a small bottle of the leaf-green perfume, but I did it. And I did not regret it.

I still don’t regret it, especially in this new season of grief. A good friend recently asked me how I was making it through, and without a moment’s thought I said: “Chanel, lingerie, and anti-depressants.” “A formidable trifecta,” he said, and we both laughed, but not because it wasn’t true. Every day I have to do the frivolous work of reminding myself I am a body. If I don’t, I won’t make it through alive.

In the mornings I spray a cloud of the leaf-green perfume in the sunlight of my room and I walk through it slowly. The scent falls on my skin and hair, lingers for a bit, and then rises again, changed with my heat, and I know I still living, still breathing, still hazy and pink and alive with the maze of my own warm blood.


happy holidays

trapped 68 days, first chilean miners taste freedom

Please read this NYT article about 33 miners trapped underground for more than a month. I can’t begin to imagine all the physical and emotional trauma and struggles they, their loved one, everyone involved went through. See the interactive graphic to see how they are being rescued.

william & julie wan and tai shan love

You must read William Wan’s article “Love, worry send Tai Shan fans to China” which tells a sweet story of 4 women and their love for the panda Tai Shan, reporting on their visit Tai Shan at Bifengxia Panda Base in China since he had been moved from the National Zoo in Washington a couple of months ago.

Take a look at Julie’s darling captured moments that will make you go AWWWWWW!

And don’t forget to watch these adorable videos!

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