Editor’s Note: June 2011
June 2, 2011
Each Friday morning, Michael Luzia would leave his job teaching English to schoolchildren in Onagawa, Japan, and take the ferry to the tiny island of Izushima. As he recounts in "Aftershocks," on page 30, it was there, at the island school, that he lived through one of the few 9.0 earthquakes ever recorded. When he finally got back to Onagawa, he reunited with his girlfriend, who had survived the quake and subsequent tsunami. All else was lost: apartment, furniture, clothes, documents. "The only things we ever found," he said over coffee in Vancouver recently, "were our vacuum cleaner, on the railroad tracks, and my Canadian flag, on the second floor of a ruined building down the street. I looked for my car for a kilometre in every direction."
Though Luzia, 27, felt guilty about leaving Japan, he believed he could be more useful in Canada. Getting back here proved challenging. The government was spectacularly unhelpful, providing no phone access to the Canadian embassy in Tokyo (calls were routed to Ottawa), refusing to issue a temporary passport unless he paid the $200 fee in cash, not even offering tea or water to desperate people who hadn't changed their clothes in days. "Countries like South Africa and China sent buses to Onagawa to pick up their citizens, then flew them home," said Luzia. "Our government did nothing. They didn't even extend their hours at the embassy."
Now, having spent time with his family on a farm near Abbotsford, and having obtained a new visa, Luzia's back in Japan, where he's taught since 2008. He may stay with a friend who lives 90 minutes from Onagawa and commutes to the area. Or he may bunk at the damaged school with other teachers, though there's not even a shower. Luzia is working with the Rotary Club of Richmond to directly help the kids of his Japanese hometown. "I can be
the guy coordinating relief on the ground," he explained. "Steveston is supporting Onagawa specifically-one fishing village helping another-and I'll find out from the principal exactly what's needed by the surviving kids and their families, from stoves to toothbrushes, and make sure donations get used for that."
Adele Weder divides her time between Vancouver and Haida Gwaii. After many visits to profile mayor Pam Goldsmith-Jones, she finds West Vancouver almost as disconnected as the Charlottes: “Vancouver and West Van share an obsession with real estate, but in many ways, it’s another country”
Ayden Fabien Férdeline interviewed this month’s You Are Here homebuyer. “Adam Kay offered an interesting perspective on why the housing bubble is likely to affect some areas more than others.” Férdeline has previously profiled chefs Cesar de la Parra and Harry Kambolis
Neal Giannone is a UBC writing student and editorial intern currently working on a collection of short historical fiction on savant MC Aaron Bishop Coulombe. He contributed to the 125 Reasons to Love Vancouver; next month, he examines the zealous independence of real-life superheroes