But then on Friday, a massive earthquake and tsunami devastated the northeastern coast of the main island of Japan. I spent the weekend tearfully watching footage on TV and online and checking in with my friends in Japan. Suddenly, whining on and on about a little cough didn’t seem all that important… or even appropriate.
Instead, I tried to write something about Japan. I wanted something that would express my concern for my friends, students and colleagues in Japan and for the country I called home for four years. I wanted something that was eloquent and insightful and heartfelt. It would not be my usual diatribe about couches and cookies and unicorns and pants that don’t fit and, well, it wouldn’t be about me.
Nope, this time I would be serious. And I would talk about serious stuff.
I would feel sorry for someone else beside myself. (And then, you know, I’d promptly go back to feeling sorry for myself next week. Did I mention I’ve had this cough for like three weeks? Three weeks! That’s, like, a lot of days, okay?)
But when I sat down to try to write something meaningful, all I could come up with was this:Disasters suck.
Yeah… umm…. Needless to say, this wasn’t exactly what I was going for.
I thought maybe I just needed more time and more information, and then maybe I’d be able to come up with something intelligent and insightful. (And, preferably, something that doesn’t use the word “suck” because my grandma reads this blog and I really don’t think she’d approve of that kind of language. Sorry, Grandma!).
Admittedly, I’ve never been very good at keeping myself well-informed when it comes to current events. (Unless those current events happen to involve movie stars or… umm… Dancing with the Stars). It’s bad, really. I know I should watch more news and less reality TV and Youtube videos of kittens. I am an intelligent, well-traveled adult person – I should really be better informed of important worldly things like military coups… and not, say, my March horoscope. But I, like many people, prefer to stay blissfully ignorant of the bad stuff and ridiculously well-informed of… um… well, kittens.But, this week I made an attempt to be in touch with reality (like the real world version of reality and not, say, the Real World version).
It helps that the only English channel I get on my TV in China is the English language news. It also helps that I’ve been spending way too much of my time on Hulu, and every once in a while a clip from one of the American news shows will appear on the bottom of the screen so I feel obliged to watch it. (Including one clip from ABC News, which attempted to show the potential effect of nuclear radiation through a very “high-tech” demonstration that employed red food coloring and a glass of water. Really, ABC news? Like, really? Who’s managing your visual effects team these days? The eighth grade class from the local junior high school? While I will say the demonstration was reassuring, I don’t believe ABC News will be winning any science fairs with that number, that’s for sure!)
Additionally, I’ve been reading news articles and blog posts written by people living in the country. (If you read only one article about the tragedy and the current sentiment in the country, I really suggest you read this one in the New York Times– it’s beautifully written and you simply have to love someone whose response to pending disaster is to grab cookies and alcohol. This article gave me both hope for the country and for myself because, Lord knows, if I were ever in an natural disaster of this magnitude, cookies and booze would be the first and only things I’d think to grab!).
I’ve also read a few posts and comments from people on the Internet that have suggested that the disaster in Japan does not deserve as much attention and international support as it has gotten. Japan is a developed country, they reason, and they were prepared as they could be for the situation. One blog post, written by someone living in Japan, even suggested that instead of donating money to support relief efforts in Japan, you should just donate money to a local organization in your own country.I didn’t agree with everything I read.
(Yes, Japan is a developed country. Yes, they were relatively well-prepared. And, yes, there are tragedies all around the world every single day that don’t get the same amount of media coverage. But any amount of help and human compassion in a world full of big, bad, horrible disasters is a good thing, right?)
And there were all those hateful comments and videos circulating on the web stating that the disaster in Japan was the result of some kind of “karma.” (Now, I’m no expert or anything, but, according to my understanding of the word “karma,” bad things happen to people who do bad things, right? Well, wouldn’t saying hateful, racist things on the Internet be kind of a bad thing, huh?)
I thought that all of this stuff might trigger a part of the brain – you know, the part of my brain that’s able to produce meaningful language… and not just, say, language about cookies… or language that is going to get me in trouble with my grandma.
But after a week of watching heart-wrenching footage and reading commentary about the tragedy and getting angry at annoying, close-minded people, all I’ve got is this:Disasters really suck. All of them. Every single one.
And hateful people suck, too.
Again, not exactly what I was going for.
I sat in front of my computer all day yesterday in an attempt to come up with something meaningful and insightful and, ultimately, hopeful. After all, Japan is a resilient country. They’ve survived other devastating natural disasters, World War II and two nuclear bombs. They will survive this. (But they sure could use some help – so, you know, don’t listen to the haters and donate if you can, okay?)
Instead of eloquence, I rambled on for a bit about deep-fried bananas. (Apparently, a local specialty here in Wuxi! And, no, it’s not called gluttony if you eat this kind of thing while living in a foreign country – it’s called a cross-cultural experience!)
And, then, I talked about learning how to open up a wine cooler using the side of my bed in Chiang Mai. (Hey, don’t judge. The label on that wine cooler promised that it was made with the “finest wines.” Besides, you try to open a bottle of Merlot when you don’t own a corkscrew!).
And, to add a bit of gravity to my blog post (because, you know, this was going to be a very serious post) I wrote an entire paragraph about how to kill a spider with a toilet plunger. (Step one: grab plunger. Step two: close eyes and scream. Step three: start whacking.)
This morning, I erased everything I wrote yesterday and tried to start over.
But… uh… I ended up back where I started:Disasters suck.
It’s been a physically and emotionally exhausting week. Maybe I just don’t have it in me to write anything big and meaningful about a topic so huge and horrible.
Or maybe my steady diet of Oreos and red wine and Chinese cough syrup has given me some form of brain-rot and made me incapable of meaningful insight.
Or maybe I’m only good at writing silly blog posts about silly stuff that doesn’t really matter. (Not that I’m saying that deep-fried fruit doesn’t matter. But, you know, I’ve never heard of deep-fried fruit helping anyone survive a natural disaster… now, cookies, on the other hand…)
Or maybe I’m not very good at talking about stuff that sucks. (Unless we’re talking about stuff that sucks that happens to me – in which case, I have to say this respiratory infection really does suck. I mean, three weeks, people! Is that even normal?)
So instead of writing about big, bad horrible stuff, I’d like to write about wonderful stuff. Because, maybe you’ve also been spending the week watching similar devastating news footage and hearing similar stories of heartbreak and worrying about nuclear radiation. (Not that we have to worry about nuclear radiation — according to ABC News and their little bottle of red food coloring, most of us have absolutely nothing to worry about!) We could probably all use a little bit of wonderful, right?
So, here goes:
6 Things Don’t Suck
1. Deep-fried stuff (Which, mind you, Japan is quite good at making. Don’t let all that talk of healthy diets and long-life expectancy fool you – the Japanese do and will deep-fry almost anything and make it taste good.)
2. Chinese cough syrup. (Okay, so it hasn’t really cured my cough, but tastes like candy. And it’s medicine so it has to be good for me, right?)
3. Cookies (They’re the disaster survival food of choice, people, so keep your cupboards stocked!)
4. People (This includes all the brave people in Japan, including my wonderful friends, former students and colleagues in Japan, who I have been thinking about this past week. This also includes all my family and friends who emailed, messaged and called me last week to make sure I was doing alright and, well, all the other awesome people in the world. This does not include haters, but you knew that.)
5. Kitten videos (What? Did you think now that I’m a serious writer, I’d stop watching kitten videos altogether? Come on, I can’t just go cold turkey like that.)
6. Good karma (Again, I’m no expert on this, but good karma comes from doing good things like donating money. I know not everyone has the means to give, but if you can, please do. You can even donate to the Red Cross using iTunes! Give money and get the new Lady Gaga single all in one go! After all, good karma deserves a little dance music to go along with it, don’t you think?)