It snowed again today....
We were able to sit and visit with a Japanese friend tonight. We compared quake stories. She was glad I'd made it home from Tokyo. I was glad to hear her family was all safe. We showed her "Nuclear Boy". We talked about shortages, natural resources and such.
Japan has no natural energy sources. If they want electricity to power their modern culture, they must build nuclear plants. Many are now shut down. She has a friend who is one of the workers at Fukushima. Anyway, this power shortage is going to go on until they can reopen other sites and build new ones. In America we have MANY natural options for energy - we choose not to use them. Another story, another day....but in Japan this is it. Things ARE going to be short for now and some time to come. Locally, pachinko parlors are closed or running with 1/2 power, convenience stores are closed, other businesses are closing early, and theaters etc are not up. Japanese understand and accept this. Americans not so much.
I've heard a lot in the past week about how families should go home to conserve Japan's resources. These comments have come from families who have chosen to take advantage of the State Department's Voluntary Departure option. It is not my intent to criticize those who have left...frankly there are MANY valid factors which led some to decide to leave, it's not my place to have an opinion on other's decisions....medical issues, ages of children, personal fear levels of family members...all contributed to some leave. However, the wide spread comments and complaints make me sad...from those who have left and those who have stayed. This is something I do have an opinion on. ::snort::
I decided to ask my Japanese friend what SHE thought, does she and her friends (30 year olds) think that Americans should go home to conserve Japan's resources? My question opened an unexpected flood gate of comments. I share some of the thoughts here as I think it is good for us to consider how we appear to others. We've been spoiled here. Americans don't have to sort their garbage (the company does it for them, Japanese do this on their own), the city supplies electricity for a very nice standard of living on base, we've been welcomed by most Japanese with open arms, they make allowances for our lack of cultural awareness. She and a friend had been at one of the town hall meetings. They were sad, angered, perplexed by the questions and comments so freely shared.... Of course the boisterous give and take of an American discussion is a bit out of the Japanese communication mode too.
"Why do we have to sort our garbage?"
"When will you open the THEATER?"
"Why do we have to light only two rooms?"
"When you will pick up bulk garbage again?"
"When will the bowling ally and library open?"
"When will Burger King, Popeyes etc be open?"
"When will the gym open?" (I can understand this as many have PT tests upcoming and so I guess could be worried as results affect careers.)
Honestly, none of these are LIFE THREATENING inconveniences. Consider all Japan has been through and all they are struggling to overcome. I would bet there is not a person in Japan who has not been affected by events on the 11th. At the very least the whole country has lost a percentage of it's electricity. It's a time when Japan is looking to get ESSENTIAL things up and running.....and we're complaining our garbage pick up will be once a week, we have to sort our own garbage and don't have a theater and bowling ally? Really?
She shared of teachers caught in the Sendai quake and tsunami....who didn't like the evacuation center and came up north. Then talked to the foreign press and complained about "no walls, only rice balls to eat, no heat or privacy" and said, "They don't understand our culture. They should go home." Privacy is simply not an issue in Japan. Community rules. Rice balls are actually a staple. All pull together to endure.....these teachers, well-meaning and some of them considering themselves to be missionaries, lost credibility with their comments to the press. Note this is her perspective and the teachers may have feared for their safety and not simply been unhappy with Japanese evacuation centers...but again...THIS is the perception.
She told us with sadness, "When we have it to offer, we will gladly do it. If we could supply all the families want, we would. We can't. They should go home." What she was saying is, if you can't adapt, if you can't accept the inconveniences of the situation, if you want to be a guest only when all your needs are being met, it is best to leave. Japan considers it an honor to take care of guests....and I sensed hearing the complaints and knowing they were not meeting the expectations of Americans was painful.
My heart has been begging for CHRISTIANS (Americans and others) to SHINE in the LIGHT OF HIS GLORY....many Japanese equate American with Christian....and we've left a bad impression with our petty complaints and lack of willingness to pull together. It breaks my heart.
I questioned further, for a family like ours, one who is willing to stay, accept the shortages and help - should we go home? Are we using valuable Japanese resources? Would they be happier if we left? She said our shopping helps the economy. The base employs many people. She also shared that Japanese culture doesn't "just act" - but "Americans just go volunteer...like Jared san at the pig farm....we need your help." I'm at peace...it is good for some to leave...but as a whole Japan doesn't wish all Americans would leave to conserve resources. They are very grateful for all the help we've "just volunteered" to do. Will Japan eventually need to cut back the number of dependents on bases? I hope not. Will the situation be better in a month - maybe slightly - but honestly the conservation will go on for a long time...and really.....we should have probably been more aware of our energy consumption...isn't that true of most people in most countries?
I'm discouraged some Americans have left a bad impression on the Japanese people. I'm encouraged other Americans have endeared themselves to the Japanese with their "Can do, let's get it done, NOW" attitude. I will be very careful not to complain about inconveniences, it's not the Japanese way. I've been personally motivated to "buck up". I think it is important for all of us to think of how our reactions are perceived...for His glory.
I continue to believe God can and will use this for good...in His time and in His way.
Living all of life before the face of God...