It looks like I came home at the right time, as a significant typhoon hit southern Japan more or less the day after I left. I'd run into the leading edge of an earlier one as I left Tokyo, but that mostly meant rain too heavy to go outside in. This later one seems to have done a fair amount of damage. Admittedly it was mostly on Kyushu and I spent my entire trip on Honshu. But I had considered continuing to Kyushu and even taking the ferry to Korea. So, there but for the grace of G-d ...
And, yes, I am working on the travelogue.
One of my first tasks back at work (admittedly, a self-imposed one) was to check on the status of our contractor's facility in southern Mississippi. The story was not too bad, though the problem is the surrounding infrastructure, not their plant itself. You can have all sorts of great intentions to reopen as soon as possible, but the roads to the west are gone and many of their employees are homeless. I won some kudos, though, for taking the initiative to find out not just about our program but about other work they were doing.
Of course, the real lessons of Hurricane Katrina are getting lost in the political blame flinging. It's all well and good for people to complain that the federal government had held up money to repair levees. The problem I have with that approach is that I think the building of levees (and related flood control measure) is what allows people to live in places with severe flood danger to begin with. If you build your house in the ocean, it's going to get wet sooner or later. I realize that most of the people in those areas had little choice and didn't understand the risks, but the same philosophy applies to other dangers. When I lived in California, I'd sometimes see news footage of mudslides and hear that this was the 2nd or 3rd time the same people had lost a house. Well, mudslides and coastal property values means rich people with more money than sense, but the concept is the same. I'm not quite suggesting not rebuilding New Orleans, but I'd like to see that rebuilding be more conservative with respect to the known risks.
But the lesson I really meant to write about is the realization that anybody can lose everything. There's no point being attached to stuff. I like to think that if I had just a minute to leave my home, all I'd grab is the box with the important papers (e.g. my passport and birth certificate) and I'd have no regrets about the rest. Sure, I'd miss things - and I do have things that would be nearly impossible to replace. But it's people that matter and things are just things.
Copyright 2005 Miriam H. Nadel