I spent 2.5 magical years in Nagoya, Japan from ’89 to ’92. I was an Assistant English Teacher on the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program (JET) and I team-taught in 13 Junior High Schools for 4 to 6 weeks at a time.

I have always valued the tremendous opportunity I was given to live in Japan because I was able to experience a culture that was fundamentally different from, yet fundamentally similar to my own. (Yes, it’s a real paradox). I greatly respected the people I met and strived to fit in. I did fit in. The experience was life changing because of the many Japanese people who went out of their way to welcome me and make me feel special.

I was on vacation in Cuba with Ivan and friends on March 11, 2011 when I heard about the 9.0-magnitude quake and tsunami in Tohoku/Sendai. In Cuba, the only Western TV news station we could view was CNN and I couldn’t trust the coverage. Now back in Toronto for not even 24 hours and here’s the news that has personally reached me:

  • My good friend Carol Summerhill’s daughter is in Kobe, Japan teaching English. Thank goodness, Carol emailed that her daughter is “safe.”
  • My Investment Advisor sent me an email saying “Thought you may be interested in reading a perspective on the situation in Japan from our Canadian market strategist.” Far from it. My thoughts are NOT on how this tragedy in Japan will affect my RSP.
  • The US JET Program Alumni are raising money for the US Red Cross to send to Japan. Thank you, good people! I’m heartened and I’m going to contribute unless I can find a more direct route (still looking, but refer me if you have suggestions). *Note: As of April 3, the Canadian JET alumni have raised over $11,000 for the Red Cross for Japan relief.
  • And finally, my cousin Naomi wrote to me: “Julie, my thoughts turn to you as unimaginable times are happening in Japan right now. I pray for you and all of those in Japan including the close ties you have there. Take care…”

Here I stand on the sidelines. Safe and sound; yet 45 kilometers from a nuclear plant in Pickering and 70 kilometers from another in Darlington.

I’ve emailed my friends in Japan offering them a place to stay in Canada should they or their family or friends ever need it. I’ve asked them to let me know how they are.

It’s the very least I can do, but I’m going to keep thinking about it.



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