In the morning we said our good byes to the kumu as Mele and her group had an early departure back to Tokyo. After we had breakfast, Mr. Yamada drove Derek, Kurt and I around the city of Rikuzentakata to get a closer view of the progress taking place. We stopped at a site that will eventually be the Memorial Park; a special place that will serve as a remembrance of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated this town. Prior to the tsunami, the beach was one of the most beautiful shorelines in all of Japan. The white sand beach was lined with trees along the entire bay. After the tsunami, there was only one tree remaining. The city folks tried to save this tree, but unfortunately, it died last year. In its place is a replica of how this tree looked after the tsunami. I know this park and tree will be visited by thousands of people in the future.
That morning was also the SPORTS ACTIVITY EVENT for the city. At one time it was an annual event, but this one was the first in five years, and also the first one since the earthquake/tsunami. Many different groups from around Rikuzentakata were there. Our housing unit had the largest and loudest contingent. We were also the only group that had a cheerleader. Derek led the group in cheering our team in every event. We fought hard and almost everyone attending participated in at least one event. Our record was perfect……coming in last in every event. Winning was not the objective though; having as many people participate was the goal, and we accomplished this. After the 2-3 hour event, the group returned to the housing and ate the leftovers (from the prior night’s party) for lunch. I think everyone was looking ahead to eating the leftovers and saved their energy for the lunch party. Either that, or many of them were too tired and hung over from the party.
The afternoon was spent doing something I now consider myself a pro at… building pink picnic tables for the complex. We constructed two more tables in addition to the ones the relief team built last year. The tables and chairs that we built last year also needed a new coat of paint, so we refreshed them too. As we worked on these tables, many of the people stopped by and thanked us for the support that we have given them. All had smiles on their faces, as we’re sure they were also remembering the party the previous night.
In the evening our original plan was to go to a public onsen for a nice bath, but this changed after a short discussion about dinner. We were here for them, so we decided to host another meal. Derek, Kurt and I prepared another ‘local’ style dinner for the leaders of the group. This was a much smaller and intimate gathering. Korean chicken, pasta, steak & onions (pupu style) and fresh apple salad were served. They thoroughly enjoyed each dish and complemented the chefs. In return, they served beer, wine and some other local brew. Needless to say, it was another night filled with laughter and singing.