Helping Japan

NYTimes had an article today about the many foreigners living in Japan who are trying to leave the country – a perfectly understandable response, given the still-unfolding emergency there.

However this was my favorite part of the article:

But not all foreigners were fleeing. One Briton said he was not about to leave.

Michael Tonge, a schoolteacher in Sendai, the closest major city to the quake’s epicenter, said that many of the expatriates in his area were “forming groups using things like Facebook to try to get aid and help to the people who need it.”

“Sendai has been my home for over five years,” Mr. Tonge said, “and the people of this area have taken me in and made me feel very welcome. I can’t leave them now, after this. I think that’s how a lot of the foreigners here feel, too.”

Well done, Mr. Tonge. I salute you.

Closer to home, my friend Steve, who owns Public Barber Salon, is sponsoring a fundraiser for Japan on April 2. Check it out and stop by if you can. Or make a donation here.

Two Dogs Rescued in Japan

I always feel a certain reluctance to share videos like this. I worry it seems as though I’m overlooking or discounting the vast human suffering currently going on in Japan.

But when I examine my own feelings about what’s going on here, I think what evokes the pathos is not simply the “awww” factor of one animal looking out for another. Our relationship with companion animals is simple and uncomplicated – and because of this, it can evoke the best part of our own humanity. I think it can also give us something to aspire to – remaining loyal to others even in the face of great hardship. I’m sure there are countless people in Japan who have done and continue to do exactly that.

From what I’ve read, both dogs were rescued subsequent to this video being taken and are in shelters.

And please donate what you can to Doctors Without Borders. They’re at work in Japan and throughout the world, providing urgently needed care and supplies to victims of natural disasters and wars.

Thinking of Japan

I shouldn’t be watching the news – but not watching seems like I’m sticking my head in the sand. What to do? Of course I’ll donate more money – but it feels so inadequate. I wish there were a solution…

I’m sure most of you have already been able to put a human face on the suffering that the Japanese people are experiencing. I’ve been lucky enough to visit Japan twice – and its people and its culture affected me in a way no other country has. It was, for me, the most amazing of all my travels thus far. I found an absolutely beautiful and fascinating country and a people who were kind and engaging.  Which has made watching this disaster all the more difficult for me…

One day in Osaka, I went to visit the castle, right in the center of the city. As I arrived, there were small groups of elementary school children roaming the park in front, all looking for Westerners with whom they could practice their English. I was lucky enough to be approached (OK, they actually chased me down – it made me feel like I was famous!) The kids were both shy and gregarious – and after quizzing me in English about various facets of Japanese culture, I was presented by each group with a handful of origami cranes and kites they’d made, along with a postcard thanking me for helping them with their studies. Needless to say, they remain my most cherished mementos of my visit.

Please give what you can to JSNC Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund.


I’ve seen numerous references both on TV and online to the “looting” going on in Haiti.  And I have to say, it really pisses me off…  Here’s a population that has just seen their city virtually destroyed; there is no water, electricity, food, phone service; bodies are piled in the streets; survivors are homeless and likely injured…  And many are going into stores and taking things like food, pots and pans, fabric, clothing.  “Looting”? Is that really what this is?  It sounds more like “trying to stay alive.”

There’s a much better and more cogently written piece on this same thing at The Awl.  I recommend it.  And I agree with the use of the term “salvaging” to describe most of what is going on in Haiti…

Looting Overtakes the Media


The news reports coming out of Haiti are shocking and grim…  Please donate what you can.  There are lots of great organizations out there that are already engaged in relief efforts to the Haitian people trying to survive this catastrophe.  I sent my money to Doctors Without Borders, a fantastic organization.  I hope you’ll join me…

Update: An article from the NYTimes about relief efforts in Haiti and the great difficulty of getting help to those who need it.  I suspect the news will only grow worse in the coming days.  Please do what you can to help.

Aid Workers Scramble Amid Haiti’s Chaos