The moment the earthquake hit in Tokyo
Tokyo is not exactly a hardship posting.
The food is among the best in the world and everything works with polite efficiency.
But this last week has been so tough that messages are going around the expat community with details of where to get counselling for trauma.
Friends have scattered around the world, unable to take any more uncertainty about radiation and aftershocks from the earthquake.
When it hit a week ago I was on the street.
At first I felt dizzy, then within seconds it was clear the ground was moving under my feet.
Everybody stopped where they were, some braced themselves against walls, others dropped to the ground.
And they looked up fearfully at the skyscrapers swaying above, creaking and groaning.
My thoughts were with my wife and children. Where were they?
There was no screaming and no panic as the ground seemed to roll, like the deck of a ship at sea.
If it was frightening in Tokyo, imagine the horror to the north where the shaking was much stronger and a tsunami was about to roll in.
People immediately pulled out their mobile phones to watch television, anxious to find out what had happened.
Office workers poured down into the street from the buildings above. They were shocked, but remained calm.
And they gathered around the giant television screens that usually show advertising in Tokyo but had switched over to live news coverage.
People were trying to call loved ones but not getting through.
I tried my wife's number about 30 times, before I finally got an e-mail from a friend who was with her.
They'd been in a playground and sat on the ground during the earthquake. They were shaken up but unhurt.
I was in a beachfront hotel in Sri Lanka during the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004.
The hours immediately afterwards felt anarchic, but it wasn't like that in Tokyo.
The city was darker than usual, there were huge crowds in the streets and the traffic was log-jammed.
But people remained courteous and polite.
With the trains out of action they waited in long queues stretching around the city blocks for buses and made way for each other on the pavements.
Thousands, perhaps millions, began the long walk home. Others spent the night sleeping in their offices.
Disasters begin with a shock and slip into sustained misery.
Systems and infrastructure we take for granted break down.
That first night in Tokyo people stocked up with food and the shelves of convenience stores were stripped bare.
During the week, queues at petrol stations got longer as people grew fearful about the crippled nuclear power station in Fukushima.
Along the north-east coast it was much worse.
Bereavement, homelessness and shortage of supplies compounded by snow and cold.
Through it all the Japanese have sustained their discipline.
This nation has been badly hurt by its worst disaster since World War II.
The strength of its society will sustain it through the months and years of rebuilding ahead.