(Writing from Toronto, Ontario)
The day after the megaquake, we headed down early in the morning to Jusco, Miyagi Coop, and McDonalds – long lines at Jusco and the Miyagi Coop, but the McDonalds was not open. I took pictures of the refinery burning in the distance – it lit up the night sky with the power off the night before. When we got back to the apartment, we decided to raid the school of any supplies and food that may have been there. We sent two people to the school and I helped Rama tidy up her apartment. It turns out that she had a lot of stuff in her kitchen and I now understood why she sat in her apartment for 30 minutes staring at the pile of food, dishes, appliances, and sauces all over her kitchen. Her fridge opened up during the earthquake and threw food all over the floor. Her brita filter fell off the counter and left pools of water on the ground – soaking up all of the packaged sauces on the ground. It took us fifteen minutes to figure out an attack plan and we spent thirty minutes tidying up her living room and another nintey minutes getting the kitchen in order. By the time the others made it back from the school, we had had enough of tidying up and were playing Scrabble. The other teachers had found a 24 pack of cans of cold Green Tea, some bottled water, batteries, lights from the physics class (we had a shortage of flashlights at the time), hand wipes, and hand sanitizer.
Heather and I tidied up our own apartment for a bit and then headed down for dinner. Dinner Saturday night was Vietnamese glass noodles, green curry, coconut milk, pork chops (roasted slowly on Rama’s bar-b-q on the balcony), and veggies. We cooked the noodles in the canned Green Tea (to me the canned Green Tea tasted horrible on its own) but it got the job done. We ended up cooking everything in the Green Tea as we didn’t want to waste the little water that we had collected. Heck, I even used it when we made espresso in the morning. Most of us ended up sleeping in our own apartments except for Heather and I because we were on the fifth floor and we could feel the earthquakes a lot more due to the building being designed to sway to dissipate the energy from the earthquake.
The next morning a group of us decided to go downtown. We had heard a few buses go by the second floor apartment window and at around 10:30am we were waiting by the bus stop with a few other people. We waited for a total of 20 minutes and surprisingly the bus picked us up but not at the right time which was a little unnerving. That coupled with the fact that the bus that we had taken many times before made a left hand turn where it wasn’t supposed to go, caused my heart to jump into my throat. It turns out that there was extensive damage to the road on the normal route and we were by passing the worst of it. We drove by buildings with traditional Japanese roofs that had the tiles shook off, a burned out shell of a building, and many buildings that had cracked facades or piles of tiles at their base. When we finally arrived at downtown, we finally had a cell signal and many of us called our families for the first time since we lost cell service in the northern part of Sendai.
When we were downtown we had a few shocks in store for us. First, people were lining up for water out of a public tap / water fountain. Second, there were people lining up to charge their cell phones, while a few gentle souls were giving out ice cold water (it was about 12C that day). Third, there were still line ups for food. The first thing we did was join the crowd of people charging their phones at an extension chord that someone had connected outside of a restaurant. Then we lined up to get into a 7-11 (there were roughly fifteen people waiting to get in, which paled in comparison to the lineups for other grocery stores). Most of the shelves had been picked bare of any nutritious food and there was no bottled water. We picked up some green tea, variety of other drinks and then set off downtown.
Then we made our way farther downtown – seeing bookstores with their books litered all over the floor, models knocked down, and saw a group of people who had gathered in front of a newspaper. This was our first glimpse into the destruction that the earthquake and tsunami had caused (see picture above). It was at this point that we were fervently checking our smartphones to get videos and updates on the disaster.
A fireman spoke to us for a bit and told us about an evacuation center close by that would have information on when electricity and water would be restored. When we finally got there, he found someone who spoke English fluently and it turns out that they had no information for us – nada, zip, zilch, nothing. They had no idea when anything would be turned on in any district of Sendai nor where we could get things like a radio, flashlights, etc.
While we were downtown, we also had some miso soup that was being served for free in front of a restaurant. Needless to say, it tasted delicious. When we made it back home, a few of us went to stand in line at Jusco to get some more food, and Rama cooked up Caldareta – a Filipino dish that was delicious. We ended the night playing poker, getting a radio to work, and heading to bed around 11pm. Heather and I took the radio up to our apartment and struggled to understand what was being said on the government broadcasts. We fell asleep around midnight on Sunday night.