Posted by Kachun Anders Chan Sept 11th, 2011
This is Kachun, a volunteer from HK. I joined the RQ center volunteer group.But because I grew up in Boston, I sometimes introduce myself as I am an American.
I was in Miyagi in July. And Ayano-san from NTA asked me, if I was interested, I could submit an article to RQ center.I wrote my article in English, and my Japanese friend helped to translate it in to Japanese.
Also in the article, you can see the postcard I made.
By the way, the charity book that I participated was published in HK last month. Japan Consul General Mr. Sumimaru also participated in our book and gave us a speech at the press conference.It was a minor success as we sold more than 4000 books in 2 weeks in HK.However, this book is not sold in Japan yet.
I have also learned a lot from this experience. And in fact, I am a part-time English teacher in a high school in Japan. And I had a couple volunteer experience sharing with my students.
Thanks everyone from the RQ center.
I had heard of the bad smells and hygiene problems in the disaster area.
I finally made my way there in July and saw foods which had been sitting outside for the past 4 months, covered with flies and various kinds of bugs, although the smells in some parts of Delhi were even worse when I was there before. (Don’t get me wrong, I love India.)
The volunteer group that I joined arrived in a fishermen’s village near Ishinomaki, Miyagi.
The disaster area was the same as the one I saw on the news.
I didn’t know this place, and I had no personal connections with this village. I didn’t know what it had looked before the tsunami. This was the way it looked now, and it might always have been like this.
Some houses were collapsed, some sunken in the ocean, showing only their triangular roofs.
Beneath the sea surface, a broken and twisted paved road with dashed white lines was showing the way to another world. In many places, it was difficult to tell the borderline between land and ocean.
Before we arrived at the fishermen’s village, we passed by an area where the clearing was almost done. In front of my eyes was just a wide open area. It was only after I looked more carefully that I could see the endless number of building foundations still there on the ground, spread out across the field to reach the base of mountains in the distance.
Pictures and videos of the disaster area had constantly saddened me since the disaster happened. but as soon as I was physically there,
seeing it with my own eyes, that sad feeling was gone. The tears that this scene used to put in my eyes had stopped as well.
I only thought, “It’s finally time to do something for this village.”
I took out the charity postcard that my friends and I have been using to raise money in Tokyo, and stuck it onto my helmet. I thought of the support I had received from them and friends around the world, and I thought of the many stories that happened during that chaotic period
We spent 2 days in this fishermen’s village, cleaning up houses and warehouses.
I didn’t know much about fishermen’s lives. Besides fishing nets and hooks, there were many other tools of their trade that I had no idea what they were.
There were piles of paper trash and bags of powder inside the warehouses. They were still soaked with sea water and weighted like big bags of rice.
We had to use heavy-duty hammers to break up tables and doors so that they could be moved easily.
While we were cleaning one of the houses, I didn’t know for how long, a skinny old lady arrived. She checked into the things that were nicely organized and placed in the front yard, then proceeded to the main house. She sat on the wooden platform/corridor that went like a belt around the house: A place that I, a newcomer, hadn’t noticed from there, you could see the front yard and the ocean ahead of you.
Her dress and the way she sat fit the house at her back perfectly.
I could never know exactly how she had felt while watching volunteers moving things out from the warehouse, breaking things apart, and tossing them onto the back of a truck.
It’s just my own imagination that there’s where she used to sit while looking at the ocean and fixing fishing nets, watching her husband and family members coming back from fishing, sharing laughter or fighting with them, watching her grandchildren playing the front yard, exchanging gossip with her neighbors.
I kept on thinking what her life must have been like before the tsunami.
During the two days that we were at this fishermen’s village, we continuously found victims’ personal belongings – books, magazines, decorations, clothes, shoes, dishes, chopsticks, spoons, cassette tapes, video tapes, records, laptop computers, etc. etc.
Our hands were unfolding victims’ lives from the debris, unfolding their history.
At one site that I was cleaning at, I found a trophy for a kindergarten child dated “Heisei 18th year” (5 years ago), a couple of children picture books, and toys.
Holding the trophy in my hand, wiping off the sea mud and sand, I thought of images that I really didn’t want to think of.
The only thing I could do was to wish the kid the best of luck, even though I have never met him or her.
At times, I could see other volunteers staring at something they found, and pausing for several seconds.
Everyone’s faces were covered with helmets, goggles, masks. But their feelings were clear through body reactions.
Rocks and stones from broken walls, sea water soaked blankets, futons, and tatamis, they all needed a few people together to move.
In my own hands were personal belongings of numerous victims.
My body and my mind slowly adjusted to the heaviness in this area, the weights from the things that the tsunami had swamped.
Even for the newest items, sea water, mud and sand made them look old.
Standing in the middle of the debris, I didn’t know how I should feel about it.
And when I had time, I could only think of jokes to share with the people around me, or to talk about all these strange looking bugs that the air was filled with.
It may seem strange, but breaking walls and doors, tossing things up to the top of trash mountains, all helped me to get rid of the stress from my everyday life.
My mind used to tangle up every time I thought of this disaster.
Throughout this trip, I found myself organizing my tangled mind like separating debris into woods, metals, rocks, plastics, burnable, and unburnable items.
I thought of my body as a great divider and it helped to reset my mind.