When I told my daughter I had been invited to go to Japan again with the Tribute Center, she said “wow, mom! You get your once in a lifetime trip twice.” I was very surprised and pleased to be part of the “3rd International Outreach Program for School Children and Community Survivors of 3/11 Great East Japan Disasters.” It was wonderful to be back in Japan. I felt I was better prepared this time to understand that “none of this is about me.”
The schedule of the trip was similar to last year. To be honest, the schedule is grueling. You are up early, sleeping in a different hotel just about every night, traveling for hours between appointments, you are meeting and interacting with many people and most of the time you are being translated. Even after all of that, I can say it was absolutely the most amazing experience. The country of Japan is beautiful and clean. The Japanese people are gracious, giving and kind. This year’s trip was 12 days instead of 8 so we had time to do some tourist type things which was an added bonus.
Our journey started with a very long flight but thanks to American Airlines we flew business class to Japan. I have been spoilt – lots of leg room, a seat that can go flat, Boise headset, movies, delicious food, hot towels, blanket, pillow. storage space and no one was seating next to me. I don’t think I can ever go back to economy class. 🙂 Fast forward to the flight home that was economy class but I can’t really complain. American Airlines donates the miles for our trip. Thank you, American Airlines.
Our first official function was to attend the International Academic Conference with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Fukushima Medical University (FMU). The Mount Sinai members of our group (2 doctors and 3 medical students) were presenting at this conference. On Saturday, Dr. Craig Katz was presenting about “Displacement Post 3/11:The Anxiety of Feeling Placed”. On Sunday, the Mount Sinai & FMU medical students presented a paper on “Post-Traumatic Stress and Growth in Medical Students after Natural Disasters”. It was very interesting and informative.
On Saturday as we arrived at Fukushima Medical University, one of my fellow docents commented to me whether I thought there would be translation equipment available. I said “I think I am going to need more that Japanese to English translation. I am going to need what are you talking about translation.” Many of the presentations were in English and if not there was translation to English. There were presenters from all over the world and I felt like a little kid, who had been invited to the big kid table.
The part that was a little bizarre to me was hasn’t nuclear energy been around for a long time and now “they” are discussing what to do when things go wrong. It is a good thing they are discussing it and formulating a plan but I thought what other things do we use and there is no plan for when it goes wrong.
Mount Sinai travelers are missing from this photo. They were getting ready to present. More about my Japan trip to follow in next blog or two.