Sunday, March 11, 2012

What were you doing one year ago?

Prayers, tears as Japan marks 1 year since massive earthquake - CNN.com:

'via Blog this'

As a wall of water headed to the Japanese coast and death seemed inevitable, what were you doing one year ago? After 21 years of living in America, I decided to visit my country of birth, Guyana. This just happened to coincide with the celebration of the Hindu festival, Phagwah. In Guyana, Phagwah is one of the many religious festivals celebrated by people of all fates. It is more or less neighbors celebrating with each other.

On this day, what I would come to find out was a horrible time for the Japanese people, I joined my cousins and neighbors for a grand Hindu/Guyanese celebration. We celebrated with everyone who lived on our street and then walked a couple of miles to my aunt's house and celebrated with everyone along the way. It was a joyous time. After a couple of hours, we all had a hearty meal. Then celebrated some more in a different form. The next day I called home to the US to find out that Anderson Cooper, CNN Anchor, was in Japan on an assignment. What the heck was he doing in Japan? What could have happened to warrant a CNN anchor to travel across the world? He makes these trips only when something really big has happened.

I was told a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and a devastating Tsunami hit Japan. Details were sketchy as the data poured in. When I asked people around me if anyone heard about an earthquake no one knew anything. So I went to #79 Market and asked around the couple of people I had gotten to know, none of them knew anything either. So here I was with one of the biggest natural disasters in modern history and the people of Skeldon had no idea what was going on. I tried the TV stations, the only half decent reception was a Surinamese channel. They did not carry the news. I tried connecting to the internet with my laptop from a friend's bar. There was an electrical blackout. Then, reality stepped in.

This is everyday life in Skeldon. What happens at the market or on the same street that people live on is just about all that people are aware of. No one is really aware of any happenings outside of their immediate surroundings. Am I looking at this like an alien? Of course there are people who have TV stations with CNN and MSNBC streaming live all day long. They also do not depend on the mighty Guyana Power and Light for their power generation. Their back-up generators kick on in an instant. Business and private dwelling goes on. But is seems to me that there are a handful of people who have these lines of communications.

The few who are fortunate to have live world news coverage and know what is going on outside of their immediate environs are not apt to share that information willingly. Granted these people have worked and amass wealth or are recipients of overseas assistance. Either way they have access to what the majority of people do not. I applaud them being able to be informed and know what is going on. It would be nice if more people can reach up and strive to achieve at least these basic functions. But it just seems that there really isn't that drive or desire. No motivation to want anything other than a mundane existence. Or perhaps, it is sufficient to pass on the reins to the next generation the same way it was passed on to them. I am still perplexed how after 21 years so much has changed and yet so little in Skeldon.

On my return flight to the US towards the end of March, my first image at JFK International Airport was of the Japanese earthquake on an airport TV. My experience a year ago has driven me to seek ways of reaching back into Skeldon. I am of a strong opinion that raising awareness and creating a international dialogue is a good start in bringing progress to Skeldon. Yes, the people who connect over the internet may already be on their way to heightened awareness. But maybe through a simple conversation and personal interaction with someone who is not bounded by the walls of Skeldon and Guyana there can be stirring of curiosity. Just maybe two groups of people can reach across continents and be as one. At least  there can be a sharing of ideas. Maybe this conversation can spill into a person who does not have information at their finger tips and a whole chain effect can take place. Wishful thinking? Maybe, but we can hope.

As I sit today and reflect on one of the world's largest natural disaster. It is enlightening to have access to all these images and commentary. I was just moved by a speech from the Emperor of Japan who is 79 years old, 2 days ago he had heart surgery. His speech was at the exact time one year ago 14:46 Hrs. (Japan time), being broadcasted live on CNN. The wonders of 24 hr news media. Had I not have access to information would I even bother to care? My heart and prayers go to out to the Japanese people and all who suffered and will continue to suffer for years to come from this catastrophic incident. May you find the strength to move forward.