Going Global – Challenge 3

We enjoy connecting globally!

One thing that worked in our favour about “going global” was the ability to communicate with my daughter in Japan. Connecting with Sophie, who is an assistant language teacher (ALT) in Miyagi, Japan allowed us to become aware of time zones, lines of latitude and longitude, geography, school life in Japan and recently our knowledge extended to “plate tectonics” and the “[Pacific] ring of fire.” Our dialogue with Sophie in Japan gave us a starting point to begin connecting with classes on a global level.

Sophie at Matsushima 2009

Sophie at Matsushima, Miyagi 2009

Please see previous posts for activities we completed with Sophie. We skyped with Sophie and asked her questions. Neneng wrote a post about school in Toyoma-machi. We made a Smilebox presentation of the photos Sophie had shared with us during a skype call. We were dressed in our Halloween costumes so Sophie shared the photos she had of Halloween in Japan.

We were also able to set up pen pals with students at a junior high school in Toyoma-machi, Miyagi prefecture. We received letters that were hand written and letters that were sent electronically. Students enjoyed reading about the types of music Japanese students enjoyed and the names of their favourite bands. We also enjoyed connecting with students about the art they liked, sports they participated in as well as the food they enjoyed eating.

We also wrote two posts about Sophie’s experience during the earthquake and tsunami.

This post is part of Challenge 3 of the Student Blogging Challenge.

Tsunami At Ishinomaki, Miyagi, Japan: Sophie And Miho Are Safe

Sophie and Miho in Taiwan

Sophie and Miho in Taiwan

On Friday, March 11th in the morning, we had a series of texts from Sophie. At first she was in water up to her waist and then finally that she was safe but trapped on the second floor of a building with water up to the first floor. She was with her good friend Miho in Ishinomaki. That was the last we heard of her until 5:30 pm Monday the 14th.

Where once we were the only family to have received any message from a Canadian JET in the Miyagi prefecture, we soon became the only family with a child that was unaccounted for. Images of the area only added to our fear for Sophie and Miho’s safety. We were informed of Sophie’s safety by the office of the Consulate General of Japan in Vancouver and received a text from Sophie at almost the same time. Now they are being looked after in a school in Tome-shi.

We knew that an Australian JET teacher, Sarah, whom I knew through Sophie, was missing in the Ishinomaki area too. We were very lucky to have a phone call early this morning from her father David in Brisbane stating that Sarah was now confirmed as safe, but she had not been with Sophie. David provided great comfort to us with the reality of very little communication in the area. Later, on Sophie’s Facebook page, I was able to have a conversation with Sarah who, like her father, gave me hope that Sophie and Miho would make it through this.

Miho and Sophie - A Winter Visit to Canada

Miho and Sophie - A Winter Visit to Canada

With a JET coordinator in Sendai helping us, we were able to inform the embassy and International Red Cross that Sophie was not in Tome-shi during the earthquake and tsunami but in Ishinomaki.This is one place where Sophie’s whereabouts was confusing for people in Sendai centre. I believe Sophie and Miho had a day in lieu of Saturday when they would be attending the graduation ceremony at the junior high where they both work. They had traveled to Ishinomaki.

We also had communication with Jen, a former JET teacher who had lived with a host family in Ishinomaki. Her blog is an amazing rally of support for missing people in Ishinomaki. Thank you Jen for phoning us from Utah.

Now our thoughts are with all the people in Japan confronted with loss of family and homes. If you can, please donate to an agency such as the International Federation of Red Cross, Oxfam, or GlobalGiving. We will be supporting Miho in her effort to find news of her family.

Japan – Magnitude 8.9/9.0 Earthquake

Several nations will be providing foreign aid to help the Japanese government bring disaster response teams to the areas devastated by the earthquake and tsunami.

Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture

Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture

It will be the planning that Japan has undertaken as well as the assistance that is given from people around the world that will help ensure that earthquake survivors are supported. The map included here shows Miyagi prefecture and the city, Ishinomaki, where Sophie was stranded.

Over the school year my grade 5/6 class and I have connected with Sophie, my daughter teaching in Japan.  Some of Sophie’s students are our pen pals so we do worry about the well-being of all Japan’s citizens during this time. So many of the extraordinarily beautiful areas in Japan that Sophie loves and shared with us through photos, such as Matsushima, have been devastated by the quake and tsunami.

Sophie Surfing off the Coast of Miyagi - Oct/10

Sophie Surfing off the Coast of Miyagi - Oct/10

Sophie lives north of Sendai, about an hour’s drive inland from the east coast, but she was in Ishinomaki with her good friend, Miho, when the earthquake and tsunami occurred. The last we heard from her, yesterday at school in Comox, was that she was still stuck in a building on the second floor with water up to the first floor. She was able to send short text messages made from her phone onto her Facebook account. Out of the 22 (19?) Canadian Japan and Exchange Teaching Programme (JET) teachers in the area, she is the only one that was able to get any kind of message out. Internet connections as well as all other forms of communication are not available now. We anxiously wait to hear of her safety.

If we can try over the next few days to try and imagine the circumstances that people in Japan are in, we might come up with an idea on how we can provide some assistance during this time. We can also think how forethought and preparation could make a situation more manageable.

I do worry for Sophie’s friends in Japan who have left comments of concern for Sophie’s safety. These are people in Fukushima, near a nuclear power station, who have their own safety to consider.

Image Credit: Sophie’s own picture and “Map of Japan with Highlight on 04 Miyagi prefecture.svg” by Lincun