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O Fim duma Viagem

Prepared for an Emergency

JAPAN | Tuesday, 26 January 2016 | Views [304]

Thursday we reviewed vocabulary and basic ideas that would be necessary in an emergency. (Basic idea that seems so counterintuitive to me: in an emergency, get outside. This works for earthquakes, since the building you're in might collapse. It works less well in tornadoes, which is the main natural disaster I'm used to practicing for.) Then we got in a train and transferred like three times and got lost coming out of the train and eventually ended up at the Abeno Safety Center.

There, we were given a crash course in what to do if there was a major earthquake. Which will hopefully never be relevant, but is probably good to have had since, as established, I am not used to earthquakes.

I'm pretty sure the target audience of Abeno Safety Center are children about half our age. Which at least meant the information was not flatly delivered in a two-hour lecture we were intended to listen to and absorb. Rather, it was delivered in short, specific bursts, followed by a hands-on activity.

The first part gave some general information about earthquakes and fires, since, right after an earthquake, the risk that mostly-wooden buildings would catch on fire is pretty high. Then we went into a theater room, strapped on seatbelts, and watched a fake news station about earthquakes. And, in the middle of the program, right as a woman was showing off her earthquake preparation kit, the ground, both on and off the camera, started shaking. And shaking. And pottery was falling (on screen) and people were panicking (on screen) and unimpressed college students were blinking as the lights came back on and we were told to go to the next room (off screen.)

In the next room, we were told that, although the first thing we should do in an earthquake was duck under a table. However, once the ground stopped shaking and the immediate risk of being hit by flying objects was gone, we should turn off all potentially flammable things. So to illustrate this, we were told to look around the room and try and find things with red lights, and turn them off so the lights became green. The circuit breaker should be the last thing we turned off.

It's pretty easy when every dangerous and on object is clearly labeled. I'm pretty sure the more important skill comes in being able to identify and neutralize fire risks, but they didn't teach us how to do that.

We'd skillfully eliminated fire risks in the kitchen, but someone in a neighboring room had left their iron on (I'm making this up) so fire had broken out anyway. We now needed to crouch low to the ground and move quickly through a corridor to avoid smoke inhalation. If we had a towel, we should use that to cover our mouths. If nothing else, use our hands.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to scramble on the ground when your hands are, respectively, holding a stack of papers and trying to cover your mouth with your scarf? One way to find out! And this is why bags are a wonderful invention that shouldn't have been relegated to the lockers outside.

Once we'd made it through the smoky hallway, we were taught how to put out fires using fire extinguishers. Take out the pin, aim the nozzle, and squeeze. In the scenario, water came out and aimed at the screen where a grease fire was occurring. In real life, don't ever do that, but for simplification purposes, it worked. The hard part there was too resist the urge to not use the fire extinguisher and see how sophisticated the virtual scenarios were.

Then we stepped out of that room and into post apocalyptic Osaka on a summer night. We practiced making emergency calls (really hope that the situation never comes up, or if it does I can make someone else do it. Even with the words I should say displayed on the screen in hiragana, it was hard) and learned which buildings to avoid. (All of them. You never know when something can fall down or catch on fire.)

From there, we proceeded to a room that let us experience more earthquakes. If by “experience more earthquakes” you mean “stand on a raised platform holding a bar while the ground shook a lot. I'm not sure what point we were supposed to draw from that, but the best I can do is “honestly, earthquakes are nothing to worry about… provided you're not by any buildings or objects.” Because even at pretty severe levels, the shaking ground isn't that bad by itself. It's what the shaking ground does to otherwise stable objects that's the problem. It's a problem I'm hopefully slightly more prepared to face now.

From there we went back on the train for another forty minutes, and got off at the Super to do specific grocery shopping. (Specially, Suzuki-sensei’s grocery shopping.) Then back to the school, just in time for my 2:30 check-in interview. (Note what did not appear yet in my schedule for the day: lunch.) The interview went. Questions about my routine and my life in Japan that I still don't feel qualified to answer. Questions about what I want to see and do that I should be able to answer (but can't.) Etc. And then fifteen minutes later it was done.

I went back to my room, dropped off my stuff, did a little with internet, and was working up the energy to get up and get food when Mayuka came into my room with an official looking sheet. She referred back to a picture on her phone to tell me what to write in each spot, then told me that at 16:00 we would be heading… somewhere to do something official. I acknowledged that, then ran out to get a quick lunch.

After that, Mayuka and I grabbed a train. To be honest, I still don't know where we went or what we did, but I think it had to do with some subset, possibly empty, possibly non- proper, of fixing my address and getting registered for Japanese insurance. Mostly I just went where Mayuka told me and let her change the rapid Japanese of the workers behind desks into simplified instructions. She seemed to think everything was good, so I'm going to assume it was.

We caught dinner on the way back, at the same place CET had brought us the first day. Mayuka kept encouraging me to ask what things were in Japanese. Which, while probably good for my language skills, was hard to do when all I could think of was getting back to my my computer, my bed, my books, my knitting… Honestly, my apartment. The one in Paris I don't have any more. This is quite possibly the most homesick I've ever been.

At least Osaka's interesting. Overwhelming, but interesting. If I were feeling this way in Oxford, Ohio, things would be really bad.

Tags: earthquake, fire, moving in, safety

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