disaster area, international orgs, journal, non-profits, ofunato, volunteer

Back in ofunato, 2nd time with all hands

today I arrived in Ofunato around noon, after an overnight bus to Sendai, and another 4 hour bus from there. it was a long trip, but it felt very comfortable and usual to walk to the all hands base in the Sakari neighborhood.
in the last 2 months since I left here, of course lots has changed. within all hands there are many new faces as well as old friends (meaning from before–but this kind of place and this kind of work makes people feel like old friends quickly), and of course many close friends from my last visit aren’t here now.
all hands project tohoku has also changed, morphed into a smaller operation since last month, and is transitioning into the end of the project, at least in its current form.
a couple days before I arrived, they combined into 1 residential site, the fukushi no sato welfare center that I stayed in last time (it’s the more posh of the 2 former sites, with proper ofuro and toilets, and for me it was more peaceful than the other site, which was more gritty and rustic, with bunk beds). there might be an integration process of these 2 residential communities of volunteers 😉 but I’m happy about it!
since I arrived during the middle of the day, I didn’t got out for a full days work. instead, after eating my bento (provided by AH) I helped with a project cleaning up the upstairs of the base, which was the former area where volunteers slept. the carpenters are coming tomorrow, and part of the agreement from the beginning is that AH would fix it up. over the months, people had abandoned a lot of stuff. it reminded me of sorting through the free box at college, except I needed to be more proactive about getting rid of stuff.
there’s an incredible amount of logistics in organizing this kind of volunteer organization, and it sometimes seems like it has a life of its own. I think some volunteers seem a bit tired and burned out; even though all hands has a great policy of making people go on leave, I think after months and months it wears people out. it is a smaller group now, which is maybe smoother, and it seems like there is no shortage of bilingual people, which is good.
I already feel the relaxing part of being here; the ability to just focus on what needs doing right in front of your eyes, with your hands. you might think this sounds strange, but this vacation is just what I need after the last few busy weeks/months.
tomorrow I will join the photo rescue project. tonight I’m sleeping in my sleeping bag in a large room including snorers (during my volunteer experience this year, I’ve realized that there are always snorers, in every group). but I have earplugs, so no problem. good night!

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About liz

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

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