Northwest NEWS

February 12, 2001


Northshore student in India invites questions, comments

My name is Sophia, and I was born and raised in Washington state. I attended elementary school in Woodinville, high school in Bothell, community college in Shoreline and have spent the past four years at the University of Washington.
   I am a UW Husky who spends the Fourth of July with hundreds of others underneath the stars at Gasworks or Myrtle Edwards Park, I take weekly jogs around Green Lake; I tramp around the north Cascades; I hang out at local coffee shops, and I volunteer for local causes. I don't use an umbrella; I wear sandals with shorts in 40-degree weather; I shed a tear as the Kingdome fell and often spend my Sundays discovering the International District or riding the Burke-Gilman Trail.
   I am your semi-average college student, with one twist: I am presently studying abroad in India. On the morning of Jan. 26 along with my fellow classmates, I felt the earth shake, literally, under my feet.
   As you already know, the earthquake was in Gujarat (population 64.7 million), a state on the opposite side of India from where I am studying, Tamil Nadu. To put this distance into context, the distance between Gujarat and Tamil Nadu is equivalent to that of Seattle and San Diego.
   Although I was on the opposite side of India, I felt that 7.9 earthquake. Imagine sitting with a newspaper and coffee one morning in Seattle and feeling the waves from an earthquake in San Diego. Since arriving in India, I have gradually become more conscious of the fact that even with enormous cultural and religious differences, the experience of life itself is the same all around the world. We eat, breathe, cry, laugh; we share experiences of greed and poverty, love, joy, insecurity, hunger.
   What is my point? The purpose of this writing is to remind people that the effect of the earthquake extends beyond the geographical limits of India. By the mere fact that we are human beings, we share a fundamental connection, and must realize some sense of duty to help one another. Geographic boundaries are rapidly losing their significance as people realize that they are world citizens. Although I am well aware of the problems existing in Washington state, I also make efforts to educate myself about other problems in the world that are equally or more urgent. However, if we start to think of all the children in this world dying of malnutrition, people being tortured and held prisoner for their political beliefs, and our careless exhaustion and over-consumption of natural resources (just to a name a few), it is easy to be left with an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness. Yet, I write this letter to ask people to remember our duty as human beings, to have compassion, empathy and to remember to help those who are in need.
   We must contribute efforts within our capability. We all choose our battles - the important thing is that we pick a battle - and remember that each individual possesses the power and strength to fight injustice. It is easy to lose sight of what's important; to be sucked into academia, jobs, families, to become escapists. I am often guilty of that myself. Yet, one week ago I felt the vibrations of an earthquake that has claimed the lives of over 25,000 people, and has displaced hundreds of thousands of families.
   I appreciate this opportunity to jump on the soapbox and convey my world views, my two cents to people at home. If I can be of any assistance in directing questions regarding the earthquake, or if you have comments in general, please e-mail me:, or
   Love and much hope for peace,
   Sophia Kan, senior at the University of Washington