Saturday, March 19, 2011

We were in Japan when the earthquake hit!

There are two parts to this post - the first one is my personal account experiencing the earthquake in Japan. The other is a reflection of how the earthquake experience surfaced my true loyalty for my country.

----- Earthquake experience in Japan -----
I am still in Japan, Kyoto. My family is with me. This is our ninth day of our first holiday trip to Japan. I had more than I bargained for.

We experienced the effects of the earthquake on our first day. Having touched down at Narita Airport, we took the Narita Express train to Tokyo. We felt our first tremours when the train stopped at Chiba station, 45 mins away from Narita Airport.

The carriage we were in rattled quite violently. I seriously thought that we were changing lines but it became clear when I looked out the windows and saw lamp posts swaying to and fro! People we all scrambling out of the buildings nearby and there were loud siren sounds.

It was initially exhilarating but we soon realised the severity of the situation. After two hours of waiting in the train, it dawned on the passengers that we were not going anywhere that night. A passenger having mobile access on his laptop shared the news with us.

8.9 magnitude of earthquake had just struck Japan off the coast! Counting back, it was about the time we touched down the airport. Imagine the earthquake hitting Japan while my plane was touching down. Truly thankful to God!

All train services in Japan were suspended and the railway lines disrupted. The good news is that we had heating in the train and we slept on cushioned chairs. Other commuters in Chiba station had to sleep on the floor because they could not get home. It was freezing cold. One of my colleague working in Japan walked 4 hours back home from Tokyo.

The second night was in a guest house. I experienced another bout of tremours when the room started shaking. This happened in the middle of the night. As usual only I was awake. Rachel and missus were rocking in their sleep... snoring. In such situations I know God is with us and I thank Him that we were away from the coastal regions when it hit. Our hearts are with those who had lost their homes and loved ones.

I was told that Japan experiences more than 1000 a year. That is a hefty number but everybody still goes about their daily living as if part and parcel of life.

In spite of this adverse and catastrophic event, the Japanese people were orderly and calm. There were anxious faces but I truly admire their courage and resilient spirit. There was no looting reported or chaotic reactions. Truly organised. And heart-warming too when I heard local citizens offering free lodging to these stricken families. By the way a big BOO to Channel News Asia (CNA) for profiteering on the demise of others. Shame on you!

----- Personal reflection of the earthquake -----
I read the news of foreigners fleeing the country. I can understand their flight. They have nothing to gain out of this calamity. I can also comprehend the Japanese sticking their necks out for their homeland. Especially the 50 Fukushima heroes.

Unfortunately I can imagine how Singaporeans will react in the face of such calamity.

I can imagine a widespread panic. I can imagine my government-welcomed foreigners leaving the country in droves. I can imagine having a national crisis because a lot of these critical jobs had been taken up by foreigners, eg nurses are now leaving the country. I can imagine my ministers telling us to remain calm yet sending their loved ones on the first plane out of the country. I can even imagine looting happening. Interestingly I did not hear any news of looting in Japan.

Sadly I can imagine myself among the throngs of people heading to Changi Airport and lining up at an airline counter.

Before anyone starts a 'higher-than-thou' flamewar on my blog, all I can say is these are my heartfelt words. No use hiding behind a fake loyalty and noble chivalry. We, Singaporeans, are a pragmatic lot... a saying often heard.

Since I am in a reflective mood, I will pen down my honest feelings. I do not know what I am defending as Lim Zi Rui had honestly pointed out.

My Singapore. More than 30% are foreigners in my homeland. I am not sure if the 'kampong spirit' still lives within her shores. Meritocracy rules the day, and a mercenary-spirit lives amongst us. The fittest survive, the goals outweigh the journey. It does not matter if my table-tennis batters are China Chinese as long as we get the gold medals and put our country in the international sports arena.

We employ foreigners where locals could have filled those positions. We pay exorbitant salaries to these foreign talents when we could have fed two to three Singaporean families with the same amount. My president is going to get a hefty pay increase of close to a million and my ministers are looking forward to a huge increase/bonus. My fellow citizens meanwhile have to erk out a living under high inflation and wait for a 30% increase of their wage over the next ten years.

I am told the ministers need to be paid millions and MPs given good money to keep their talents. Yet many of  these people have never contested in any elections and represent us by means of walkovers. These people do not need to be challenged with natural disasters, large land mass area of a country spotted with large cities larger than Singapore herself and far between each other. I am told that Singapore is always in a precarious position because she does not have natural resources. Perhaps that itself is a blessing in disguise because these ministers do not need to wreck their brains during such catastrophic events. Pffft, they hardly even know how to deal with a once-in-fifty-year flood in Orchard Road!

I don't know how the Japanese are managing and coping with calamity after calamity. But having visited their country and observing their undaunted spirits, I am convince they will emerge stronger.

In the case of Singapore, I still don't know what I am defending.

No comments: