Today we revisited Minamisanriku to finish off the the places we missed on our list. There were six drop off sites, but that doesn’t count the few where we just stopped and asked if they needed any help. Two sites were shelters. These centers are supporting less and less people as they are scheduled to close about 8/15. People are starting to settle into some housing arrangements, moving to Gov. housing, moving back to rebuilt homes (very few instances of this happening) or just moving away from that area.
During our visits we met a gas station attendant named Takahashi-san. We had stopped in the back of the station since Chad had to make some phone calls. We ended up asking him if he needed anything that we had (we left a 6’ladder, trash can, buckets, shovels, etc.). He told us that while support came in the beginning, it has been few and far between. So he was very appreciative for the supplies and help we offered. There are several instances where we drove by people working and gave them a hand.
While we were delivering supplies to Minamisanriku, a group of ‘Be One’ volunteers took supplies to a gov. built housing facility in Onigawa (close to Ishinomaki). There were 156 families so we left supplies only for items that we had at least 156 left. The community leader asked for parity since people get upset when they are left out. Even with the best intentions, each family has gone through so much so some sensitivity needs to be practiced. We added some of the bigger pieces (tarps, brooms, wheel barrow, ladders, etc) for their community center and that way everyone could share from their center, a tactic we used at other centers. The ‘Be One’ group purchased at least 156 mosquito coils to satisfy all needs. They said the Onigawa camp also used it for the flies (I never found out if it really worked). The volunteer group leader (Beth) said that the people were very grateful and they had a good visit.
The new group of volunteers came in today. They looked eager and wanted to help wherever they could. One group was going to take children to an excursion in Sendai for the fireworks festival and stay the night. Most of the kids (17) that came Monday will be heading back on Friday, so it will probably be quiet for this weekend. It also will be the Obon celebrations this weekend and many people go back to their home villages. This will be the first Obon festival after the tragedy so I’m sure it will be filled with much anticipation.
For the last four nights we have been bathing at onsens since the dojo has no shower facilities for all of the volunteers. As Milton put it, everyone waits in this naked line to scrub off and then soak in the hot springs. I’m afraid I’ve been cooked enough times and am pruned out for the time being. A plain shower would be good. We usually follow that with a meal before heading back to the dojo around 9pm or so. Lights out is at 11pm and no one wants to argue with a karate Sensei.
Tomorrow we head back to Tokyo. We need to leave by 6:15a in the morning to the Ishinomaki bus termina where we will catch the Shinkansen back to Tokyo. The “ganbatte” spirit and determination of the people we’ve met has been an inspiration. It will never be the same in this area and the recovery time will be long but the will of the people are unbelievable. I just wish something more could be done.