Arriving a few minutes early, I grabbed the comfy chairs in the corner of our Starbucks. Anxiously I sat there, staring out this window and then staring at that window, watching for her. Checking my phone, watching the minutes tick by. I ordered my toffee nut cappuccino. Took the first few sips of foam. Glanced out the window…and then I saw her, a flash of unfamiliar blonde hair but the unmistakable face and purple tights. Janelle, one of my dearest girlfriends, home safe and sound from Japan! I ran up to her as she walked through the door and we gave each other the biggest hug.
“I’m sorry I’m late!” I reminded her that she is, in fact, several months early.
Last September, Janelle excitedly moved to Tokyo on a student exchange program. She had been dreaming and talking and planning this move for what seemed like forever. The plan was to come home later this summer. As we emailed and skyped while she was there, she repeatedly told me how much she loved the country and how she already didn’t want to say goodbye.
But within a short few days, before she could grasp a hold of the situation, everything changed. Her future was suddenly shifted in a Tokyo subway train station.
We sat there for over two hours as Janelle told me her story. How she and her friend clung to one another as the earthquake rocked Japan, yet how so many others remained calm…this was, after all, Japan, where the cities are built so structurally sound, and where the people of the country keep their emotions and reactions in check. Once above the underground, they watched a giant screen on the side of a building show the tsunami sweeping over the land. Janelle scanned the crowd, and not being able to make sense of the conversation around her, wondered if they should be running? Or…WHAT exactly was going on?? She told me how sleep those next few days was unattainable since every few minutes, after shocks shook you awake. And then the news of the radiation scare. And then a flurry of phone calls and strong advice to come home and furious packing and angry tears. The director of Janelle’s school in Tokyo tried to convince her to stay…that the media was making it a bigger deal than it really was…but in the same breath, he also told her that the Japanese government has a history of lying to the people. Her mind was made up. She caught a train to the airport just before they stopped running, but it wasn’t until her plane lifted off the runway that she was able to sigh a bittersweet sigh of relief.
Incredibly lucky, Janelle is happy to be home, yet her heart is still in Japan…trying to look ahead while still sorting through the events of the past several days. Thinking of the friends she didn’t get to say goodbye to, and the people she met in the airport who had narrowly escaped the tsunami, or who had friends still trapped because of it. The gravity of the situation sinking in. Processing it all. I just know that I’m beyond grateful for her safety and her homecoming…love you Janelle! xo
If you haven’t already, PLEASE donate to the relief efforts in Japan. Like those of the Red Cross. However little or however much you can. Its actually so easy – for us Canadians, all we have to do is text the word ASIA to 30333 to make a one-time donation of $5. Or, click HERE to be taken to the Canadian Red Cross website for more ways to donate.