Tag Archive: Sendai

May 28

Back to the Good Life

I’m typing this (or at least starting to type this; we’ll see how long the battery holds out) in Sendai city, waiting for the Curry Express to come and pick me up, ostensibly at 16:30, but we’ll see. While I wait, I’m burning a good ass-mark into a seat in the Starbucks near the station’s East exit.

 

Given that I’ve been occupying prime real estate here for over an hour, I should probably buy something else, but since I haven’t had a call from my rescuers yet to tell me they’re on their way, it might be wise to save that for later.

 

So how to sum up the experience of volunteering in Oofunato? I have no idea. I’m not going to get all drama-queen on you and say stuff like it was shocking, or that it was a life-changing experience. The images I’d seen immediately post-quake had prepared me to some extent, and I had been pre-warned about the various smells and such. None of my crews came across a human body (or even an animal body, barring one dead frog I found yesterday); maybe that would have changed things.

 

Despite my differences with All Hands as an organization, which I’ll deal with fully in a future post, I was very impressed with all the people (yes, even the ones I think are assholes and/or idiots) who came out from all over the world and volunteered to help the country that I love. Many of them have been and will be here for months, and we, as residents of Japan, owe them our deepest thanks. Even people who are assholes and idiots can be good people on some level, and I salute them for that. I particularly, though, salute the volunteers I met who not only worked hard, but weren’t assholes or idiots. I met some amazing people, who will remain in my memory for the rest of my life. In a good way.

 Cleaning the tambo in Rikuzentakata, Day 2.

The work itself, being out on the streets and in the fields, in many cases doing work that no one else was willing to do, made me feel like I was finally doing something concrete to help Tohoku. I only really did three days of back-breaking labour, a drop in the bucket in the grand scheme of things, but it did feel good, and I want to do it again.

 

I read yesterday that there is a shortage of volunteers in Iwate-ken, so I will be looking for ways to get back there and ways to encourage others to go. We are just beginning to take the first few steps on the long road back to normal, and we’re all going to have to pitch in if we want to get there.

 

And wow! My ride’s arrived 45 minutes early. Will post more later in the week when I’ve caught up with all the work that’s been piling up.

May 21

Today’s Tweets Extrapolated

 

And the good ship Curry Express is off for Tohoku! (@ YC&AC) http://4sq.com/jmI0TI

I woke up at 4:30, and was on my bike and off to the departure site by 5:20. Good friend Dave had driven my heavier bags over yesterday, so I didn’t have to worry about how to carry them. He will also pick up my bike and drive it back to my house today.

 

Someone farted on the Curry Express. I suppose it was inevitable.

We left nearly on time (6:10), and while it was inevitable that someone farted, at least it wasn’t me.

 

 

The driver didn’t forget to take this down; I saw him put it up. (Aboard the Curry Express.) http://lockerz.com/s/103320684x2_6288c6c

None of us were quite sure what this mean, other than the driver had less patience with us this week. Who can blame him? A bus full of adults is noisier and much hard to control than a bus full of easily-cowed schoolchildren.

Road breakfast of muffins and samosas aboard the Curry Express.

I personally preferred last week’s croissants, but the samosas were amazing.

The Curry Express is making great time. Only 130km to Sendai from here.

We changed routes this time, avoiding central Tokyo, and saved more than an hour just by not sitting in traffic!

Just a few klicks out of Sendai. Stopped for a slash, and suddenly had to run back to bus before they closed the highway!

This was a hoot, watching our Japanese navigator and bus driver trying to herd everyone back from the toilets when they found out the highway was closing.

Arrival in Sichigahama. Time to serve some curry (in the rain).

Photos soon (still on a bus). Fewer people than last week, and although it was raining when we arrived, we actually ended up serving indoors this week, AND it stopped raining and got sunny. After we finished serving the people living there, we served the volunteers, some of who were cute, and some of whom were very tattooed.

Curry served. Cats herded. Back aboard the Curry Express and bound for Sendai station.

Not quite. The group did its usual kerfuffling. This isn’t an exact science. I could see that our driver and guide were getting a little antsy, as was I by this point, because we were coming up on 15:00 and I had a feeling that my last train from Sendai to Ichinoseki was sometime around 16:00. My bus from Ichinoseki wasn’t until 18:20, which I probably shouldn’t have mentioned, because I think people fixated on that time…

We just passed a 5-storey mountain of bulldozed rubble.

And I just checked the train schedule. It’s now 15:15. My “last” train is at 16:43, which will give me about 45 minutes on the other end, in a station I’ve never been before, to figure out where to catch the bus.

There is some doubt as to whether I will make my train at 16:40.

Given how close we were to Sendai, I kind of wish they’d dropped me before this second leg of the trip to drop off some food, find out what else is needed, and chat with volunteers. By this point I’ve made it clear what my deadline is. The driver and our navigator know what I fear: we will not make it in time.

Train duly missed. Will take the next one and will have 7 minutes to get from train platform to bus stop or I don’t get to Oofunato.

Sure enough, we pull up to Sendai station at 16:45. I quickly try to rig up a way to effectively carry my bags, but to no avail. Also, this entrance has no escalator/elevator. Hilarity, I’m sure, ensues. The next train I know of leaves at 17:43, and will arrive at 18;13 in Ichinoseki. Only 7 minutes before my bus departs.

Paid an extra 1780 to get on the Shinkansen. Now I have 11 minutes to find where my bus is with my Zsa Zsa Gabor overpacked bags.

Good news: found a train that leaves at 17:30 and arrives at 18:09. Bad news: those extra four minutes cost me.

Have made the humiliating call to a good friend for help. Will owe said friend big time.

I call my friend, @peacefulandjust, and humbly ask her if she can find out where exactly I need to catch my bus from Ichinoseki. Just knowing where to go will save me precious minutes.

 

Made it just in time, all thanks to @peacefulandjust. On the last leg of my trip to Oofunato.

@peacefulandjust comes through. As I’m retying my bags together (this time using my bungee cable), I get a message telling me Bus Stop #5, West exit.  The train stops and I bolt… well, as fast as I can with my bags. I make it just as the bus pulls in. Minutes later, we are on the road.

So, that was my day, in a nutshell. Going to sign off now and save what little power is left on my laptop for an emergency.