You can read part 9 here.
The morning of March 12 rolled around fasterer than I hoped for. Even though we all just went through an earthquake that changed the GPS of Japan, caused the Earth to shift on its axis and left tens of thousands missing and feared dead, the show must go on. I had recently started working for a wedding outfit in Tokyo The wedding was still on. Flowers, food, gifts, and guests were ready for the big day and cancelling was not an option.
With three hours of sleep I was out the door. On my way to the station I was greeted by people who likely spent the night out somewhere in Tokyo. Everyone’s face, I'm sure including mine, was just blank with lack of expression and life.
At the hotel where the wedding was, I was greeted by all the staff. We shared our stories, and it seemed I had walked the furthest the night before. Others were at home during the quake. We all had big stories to share, talking over each other like a bunch of hens in the yard.
It was a stretch for all of us to put on a "Happy Wedding" for the couple and their guests. Not knowing what to say to the couple, I took them by the hands, looked them in the eye and said, "Yesterday was a horrible day. But today is your day. It's a Happy day." They both looked at me with appreciation.
It was a morning wedding and I was home by early afternoon and was finally able to get through to my parents on the phone. They shared how so many people had called, concerned for me. We talked for about an hour. After that I thought I'd check my mail and FaceBook. I had around 200 notices, replied to some comments, but found it easier to click the "like" option with the little thumbs up.
The days that followed were filled with aftershocks, 1-3 an hour. There was a feeling of constant movement. I did some clean up, but I held back on putting some things back in their proper place due to the constant shaking and the threat of very large aftershocks.
After the fourth day, I felt I was done with the drama of it all and I wanted to disconnect from the TV, stories, and the news. I decided to go to the gym. I was greeted by a sign that read "closed until further notice". There was just no escaping.
The rhythm of Tokyo was so off that stores were finding it difficult to get restocked. Even convenience store shelves were going bare. I decided to go to a local supermarket and wait outside until it opened. So many people had the same idea.. After waiting for an hour, I was let in. An announcement “take only what you need” was being repeated constantly.
Once again I was amazed by the Japanese people. No one was overfilling their carts or moving around in a frenzy. People were very calm and organized. The store was the barest I had ever seen, but there was still plenty of goods to chose from. I would later learn that some things that were hard to come by (that didn't cross my mind) were diapers and feminine products. Many more things in the days and weeks to follow would become even more scarce.
For the first time since last September, my own drama of being diagnosed with AIDS and losing my job didn't seem all that bad. It was easy to forget about all my problems that I had struggled with just a few weeks ago. So many people had lost their lives, or lost loved ones, so many had lost their homes. Who was I to complain? I had my home, food, and my health.
However there was a new threat now. Reactors at a nuclear power plant in Fukushima had been compromised in the quake. Now we were all living with the threat of radiation.
What did this mean for people living in the Tokyo area? We were being told that we were safe, but some embassies, like the French, were telling people to get out of the country. I too was contacted by the U.S. Embassy.
The greater Kanto area had to scale back on its power consumption. For us, it became known as Setsuden. The whole region was set up into groups and there would be rolling black outs. Bright and illuminated Tokyo with all its neon and JumboTron TVs had become darker, almost eerie. Some trains had removed many of their florescent lights and most station escalators were turned off. Tokyo had become a strange place with an ominous feel about it.
I went back and forth about leaving the country for days that turned into weeks. My parents were ready to fly me home. I was getting lots of pressure from friends and family that were State-side to leave Japan. Even my own doctor was ready to give me a two months prescription if I decided to go. The thought of being separated from my doctor and care team didn't sit well with me, though.
April was upon us and I finally came to a decision. I would not go!
I had been through so much since last September. Super sick, diagnosed with HIV, then finding out it's AIDS, getting fired from my job , losing my money, losing friends, dealing with depression and suicide. Then the earthquake, constant aftershock, radiation threat, and more.
I knew if I left, I most likely would soon return to Japan. The thought of walking hand in hand with the rest of my Japanese community seemed to be the obvious choice. (As a result of making some friends in Japan on twitter I became part of a group called "Gaijin Heroes." That story will come later. )
So I stayed. There were still a lot of aftershocks, some radiation, but nothing too serious. April turned into a great month. The cherry blossoms were stunning as always, but the droves of people out to party under them were much more subdued than in years past.
I had to go back to the doctor in early April. I was a bit apprehensive about going back to the place where I had experienced the earthquake. When I got the results of my blood work in May, my CD4 was level. The stress of my personal issues of February, the stress of the earthquake and the weeks that followed in March were not friendly.
However, I was feeling pretty upbeat.I was excited about spring, because I knew I could start one of my favourite therapy treatments - gardening.
Spring had sprung! And me with it!
While writing Part 10, I learned of the passing of Whitney Houston. Feeling slightly nostalgic and maybe a bit cheesy I thought I would watch "The Bodyguard." In the movie, her character Rachel says "I'm afraid, and I hate my fear." This lwas something I too had felt. I realized back then I could not live in fear. I could not let fear control me or influence my decisions. I had to cloak myself with courage and bravery. It's not always easy, and it's something I still need to work on from time to time. But it's something that has helped me in this journey.
In the movie, Whitney’s character performed at an event for AIDS research. I was reminded of all that Hollywood and the entertainment industry has done for HIV/AIDS, the millions of dollars they have donated for research and people affected by the disease.
For this I'm super grateful. To them I want to say "Thank you and God Bless! I may be alive today because of your generosity."
I'm sure they do not hear “thank you's" enough.