"Into the Desert" by Nancy Karakane

[Secondary Pre-Visit LESSON PLAN: Best Friends]

from Out of the Desert

April 1, 1943

Poston, Arizona

The girl wore only a simple brown serge garment, that was girdled by a white cord, on which were the mystic knots of trinity. She had purchased this at the Mission of Capistrano, and it was one of her dearest possessions.

As the breeze blew into the room, fanning back her jet black hair, it revealed the features of an Oriental. The slanting eyes, high cheekbones, and sallow skin belonged to Masako, a typical Japanese girl, smartly dressed and with American ideas and ways.

Today, she was sitting in her favorite arm-chair, cuddled into a ball, listening to the radio. All of a sudden, she sat up straight! What was this she heard? Could it be possible? Then with a sudden inspiration, she lifted her face towards the heavens in pain, while her lips moved with a silent prayer. For what she heard was that which every Japanese was to hear every day, for weeks to come. It was the first announcement of the evacuation of the Japanese from the West Coast!

This announcement struck Masako with a strong sense of rebellion. It was hard to realize she would have to leave school and home. In a few days Nobu, Aiko and Chiyoko checked out of school and evacuated to Manzanar. Next, Chiyeko, Masao and Shigeo were leaving. All her dearest and closest friends were being divided and sent to different camps! Mortification overflooded her thoughts. She resented the actions of the government and could not understand why all the Japanese had to sell their homes, furniture and everything that was near and dear and go to a windy, dusty desert to stay perhaps for years.

Then the dreaded announcement came of the evacuation of Los Angeles. Masako wondered where her destination would be. The last place she expected to go to was Poston!!!

Finally, after weeks of selling, shopping and packing, the day of evacuation came. Masako went slowly and sadly around the neighborhood, head bowed, tears on the verge of falling, saying farewell to friends she had known since she was knee-high; friends with whom she had attended school; friends that were true! It was hard to believe that she had to leave them and never see them again. As Masako clasped hands with her best-friend, Irene, Irish by birth, the tears that were on the verge of falling, finally stole on their downward path. Masako handed the white cord, with the mystic knots of trinity, to Irene, for Irene had been so fond of it. Masako knew that her dearest treasure was worth giving to this dear friend.

On the morn of May 29, 1942, at the Santa Fe Station, Irene and Masako were again clasping hands only this time, Masako was hanging half-way out of the train window and Irene was standing on the platform. The train started to roll slowly, slowly, slowly, until it left only a tiny dot, the figure of Irene.

Since Masako had stayed up the previous night, without a wink of sleep, she was restless, and soon after her home and friends were left behind, she fell into a deep slumber.

When she awoke, she saw marvels of nature which seemed as though they could be created only by rubbing Aladdin's Magic Lamp or by a mystic wishing well. Miles and miles of vineyards and orchards showed their greenness in the sparkling sunlight. The valleys and the hillsides were profusely in flower, glistening in their great variety of smiling tints and shades.

As the train drew near its destination, she felt a sudden wave of hot air, becoming stronger and stronger. Could the destination be a place of great heat? Finally after thirteen hours of boring traveling, she arrived at Poston!

The heat was terrific! Her first impression was severe, critical. The place was nothing but a 120 degree oven, swarming with dust, dirt, and insects of every type! So this was the kind of place to which the Japanese had disappeared! But after a few weeks, she changed her opinion of the place. She tried to like this new kind of life. Again she lifted her eyes, shining and alive, towards the heavens, while her lips moved with a silent prayer of thankfulness. Then on her face there came a serene smile of hope. Though the heavens towards which she gazed might become stormy, and lightning spears of hatred, fear and prejudice came hurling towards her, her expression of confidence would never change, for she would always remember, there is still hope.

Nancy Karakane


Drawing of two girls

Last updated: February 28, 2015

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