Tag Archive: Rikuzentakata

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 27

Last Day in Oofunato–The Best of Both Worlds

Today I got back into the canals… the ones on the rice field, though, not the ones in the city. The ones on the paddies definitely smell better.


I’m so tired that I can hardly type. I’m writing this while I wait for my photos to transfer from my camera card to the PC. That will be done in a moment, and I will brush my teeth and go to bed. All I am waiting for is an appropriate photo to post with this entry.


Annnddd…. nope. Too tired. Will try tomorrow on train

May 26

Paddywhacking and Meetings

2011-05-26 12.48.24

Today I signed up for the Paddywhacking crew, which meant that we went out to a bunch of rice paddies in Rikuzentakata and pulled junk out of them. We also started work on the canals and ditches around the site.




I stuck with paddy work today because I was wearing my tabi workboots, which are not waterproof, and I hadn’t brought a change of boots to the HQ base at Sakari in the morning.


It was hard work, but my crew chief today was Brian, who encouraged hard work without making us feel like we couldn’t take breaks or rehydrate, etc. I drank a lot of liquids, but I must have sweated more than I thought, because there was no toilet out there, and I didn’t have to pee until we ended up back at the HQ, six hours (and about 2 litres) after we started.


Great lunch today, though. It was ebi fry, so I could eat it, and fellow crew member Xavier doesn’t like shrimp, so I got double portions for once, instead of half portions. Huzzah.


We got back to the HQ at about 16:45, and then waited a bit longer than usual for dinner. Then we waited an extra long time for the evening meeting to start because the staff wanted to get the 15 new arrivals today processed before we kicked off. Then the meeting went on forever. For. Ev. Er.


Finally, we got to sign up for crews. Despite a couple of interesting new ones, I picked the rice fields again for tomorrow. I nixed the idea of walking back to the FS centre (where the majority of us sleep) because it was likely too late to go to the grocery store anyway, which is what I wanted to do.


Looking forward to tomorrow’s crew; I plan to diving into the canals and clearing them. It will be nice to have a hard work crew for my last day. Then, afterwards I can come back, go to sleep, get up, and get away from all the organizational bullshit. I can then make plans to come up again, either on my own or with a smaller group of people.


I’ll try to post my other photos from the paddy tomorrow; I left my camera in the other room, so I can’t transfer them now. Well, I could, but I don’t want to go back to the sleeping room to get the camera. If I go back to the sleeping room, as I will in a few minutes, it will be to sleep.


Yes, so: time to hit the hay.