clean up, community, journal, volunteer

5/6/11 journal day 3

today was the 3rd and last day of our golden week volunteer trip with nikkei youth and gakuvo. I was in fukukiura village, another fishing community. in the morning, we split up by gender-the boys went off in boats with the local fishermen, to collect the buoys that had been carried all over the place by the tsunami. later I saw pictures they took–the buoys really had gone everywhere, deep into the woods, far from the ocean. they would load up the buoys on the boats, and then the local guys would ferry the buoys back, where we girls helped unload them, and transfer them to little front loading trucks, which drove off to unload them somewhere.

the local term for the buoys is ‘taru’ which means barrel. my understanding from what I was told the day before is that probably the original buoys were made from giant wooden barrels, the kind used to make soy sauce and miso.

it was pleasant work, by the sea side, with a flurry of activity followed by a break while we waited for the next load. the local leader and fisherman said “we have to take advantage of these breaks, and take a deep breath and stretch.” I asked in there was some exercise they do, and we all did ‘radio taiso’ together, which are excercises that people have been doing along with a radio for years and years in japan.

somehow this lead to us hearing about an old commercial song for oyster stew, which we then developed into a choreographed routine and dance number. it was totally ridiculous and silly, but I’m pretty sure that the ojichans enjoyed seeing a bunch of girls dancing around and singing, and I know that it made them grin and laugh, which may be our biggest accomplishment of this trip.

fukukiura village has about 30 families, or 120 people. the tsunami survivors are living up the hill, in an evacuation center, which has a temp toilet, bath, washing machine, and coking facilities.

S san, who is the volunteer coordinator in the area told us that the people in this village are still in a better situation compared to others, because they have motivation and something to work towards–rebuilding their oyster industry. other folks, in the city, who lost family, homes, and work, just lie in the shelter all day and have no reason to go on.

in the afternoon we picked up more scallop shells.

at the end of the day, suddenly I felt so sad that we are leaving, like I want to pick up more shells, even just a few more. it’s a powerful feeling to volunteer in this situation, even if the actual work is just a small contribution.

About liz

from the u.s., recently moved from kobe to sendai, japan, researching community-based housing recovery after disaster.

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