Fish and Ishinomaki
It’s Sunday and the “Be One” group was having a prayer service. I’m glad Chuck Graftt was able to hook us up with this ministry group (“Be One” as in the Bible). They are a network of religious groups and people that just wanted to volunteer and do something to help. In such a short time, we have met many people that just showed up at the dojo or the ‘Be One’ house. Chad Huddleston, the head of this group here, has also been a great person to meet. I don’t know how Chad keeps it all going, with his family and the different volunteers coming in every week. Some come just for the weekend, from different parts of Japan, driving long distances and camp near the onsen. They do their work during the day and bathe at the onsen at night.
Today we were able to really survey what we’re dealing with. Since the prayer service was in the morning, Milton, Suganthan and I got to explore Ishinomaki. The walk in the area displayed the enormity of the destruction. The tsunami’s waterline was about 12’ here so all the homes’ first floors were destroyed. The people that are still living here live on the second floor and/or trying to rebuild the first (a few lucked out but nobody escaped damage). After a while, all the homes looked the same. All are damaged beyond repair, condemned or just cleared away and open lots remain. The “Be One” group are helping the people that have remained, have nowhere to go, probably lost their jobs (since where they worked is no longer there), maybe had not enough insurance and just surviving, waiting for the government to make a decision.
The tsunami brought in a lot of debris (cars thrown in all directions, boats, equipment, etc) and also the fishes, ika and other sea creatures onto, into and under the homes. There was a massive clean up as the fish started to rot and decompose. I saw the use of lime under the homes. One outcome of the decaying fish was an abundance of flies in the area. We can’t seem to get away from them during the day, not to mention the temp and high humidity (mushi atsui!). Did I tell you that our Ace shirts can now stand up by themselves!
You’re probably wondering where all the debris from the clean ups end up. During our walk we passed an area I’ll call “Monument Hill”, a mountain created from the cleanup debris and lost homes. It’s a massive grave of broken dreams, homes and businesses.
In the early afternoon we distributed our three truck/van load of merchandise in the Ishinomaki area (“I sin o maki” this is the English freeway sign the group makes fun of). With the help of the volunteers from Tennessee we gave away almost everything! It was a really gratifying experience.
Tomorrow we head to Minamisanriku, a supposedly more devastated area (hard to imagine too much worse than Ishinomaki) and hopefully the people can use what we are able to offer to them. Everything we brought seems to have found needed hands and homes. The only exception is PineSol (Do not drink, this is not apple juice! No worries though, we have some good interpreters that explained away). Another adventure begins shortly.