Please click one of the images to start the slide show. The photos were taken by Kaori Koizumi, Kurumi Tamura, Miwa Nishi, and me.
It came a long way since the initiation of assessment of people who remain in their own houses in and around Ishinomaki City.
Mr. Ito, the director of Team Ohkan, felt it necessary to go to listen to each household. As the emergency stage had been passed, he wanted to value the locals’ input in order to offer truly-needed assists. The government had no ear for that, and he recruited volunteer nurses, who could go out into the tsunami-stricken regions for him. I joined the project shortly after the initiation and had begun to lead the assessment team. Meanwhile, Mr. Ito formed an association with Dr. Muto and Mr. Narukawa, who desired to find elders who might not be able to receive necessary medical care because of the isolation.
The assessment would be meaningless unless adequate follow-ups were carried out. Little by little, other professions were integrated into our project, and Health and Living Revitalization Council was established. In order to promote the health of each household, we had to assist them individually and holistically, so that each could return to the pre-earthquake living as quickly as possible. The city and town officials finally begun to show interest in our project. It will be so ideal if governmental and private agencies work together for the same purpose. This seemingly unrealistic vision might become possible in Miyagi Prefecture.
Rolling the time back to October of last year, I shall show you my first accommodation, Nobiru Elementary School, in Higashi-matsushima City. Click one of the images below. The slide show with captions will start.
The school building was in a bad condition. When it rained, condensation formed on the interior walls ran down to the floor. Our budget was tight, and heaters were not turned on until mid-December. No one had the time to cook after work, and most of the meals were instant. These physical hardship could have been tolerable with a good leadership. Mrs. Iwamoto’s words came across my mind time and again. “If you want to lead people, volunteer to do the work that no one wants to do.” In my opinion, the director of Plus Neo simply lacked the attitude, and we the sub-leaders started to loose our dedication to him. When Higashi-matsushima City asked all the four organizations in Nobiru Primary School to move out of the building by December 10, I had no sympathy for the director.
There is a complicated network of relief organizations in Japan. We the assessment team belonged to Plus Neo, which offered us lodging. We worked for Team Ohkan and collaborated with many other agencies and nonprofit organizations under a project called “Ishinomaki Health and Living Revitalization Council.” In contrast to my deteriorating amity with the director of Plus Neo, I was able to develop a trustful relationship with the director of Team Ohkan and the project coordinators. They kindly had arranged a new accommodation for us. On Dec. 5, we moved into the support center in Ishinomaki City.
The center reminded me of the comfortable living that I had been used to in America. It has all the basic appliances, such as central heating, running hot water, a bathing room, and semiprivate rooms with beds. In order to provide us with the best working environment, they hired local women to cook and clean for us. I felt like a spoiled queen bee.
Happy New Dragon Year! Wish you for a speedy progress toward your dream like the way a dragon climbs up into the clouds.
When I headed for Miyagi Prefecture two and half months ago, I never expected that my mission in the tsunami-afflicted area would end with a phrase “See you again.” When the organizers of the project, which I had been involved in, asked me to return, I was indecisive. As I wrote in my previous blog, I was not happy with the fact that there was no private time. However, in the environment where all the people involved worked selflessly hard, we could not help developing respect for one another. I simply desired to continue to work with them. Collaboration is a Japanese virtue. This experience turned out to be an excellent occasion to learn the Japanese secret, which often leads to an accomplishment. When everyone works together for the same purpose, nothing is impossible. Even the restoration of the northeastern shoreline of Japan is not infeasible.
When I obtained an U.S. citizenship more than a decade ago, I automatically lost my Japanese citizenship. That meant that I needed to enter my home country as an American with a tourist visa. Its expiration date is approaching, and I have to go a Japanese embassy/consulate located outside of Japan in order to get a long-term visa. I am returning to South Dakota as scheduled. It will be nice to recuperate at my other home, while waiting for the visa to be processed.
I have been spending the new year holiday with my mother and stepfather in Akita. My sister and her children joined us two days ago, and we all came to a ski resort, so that the grandchildren could enjoy snowboarding. The stepfather is generously paying for the expenses. The gap between the poverty I witnessed in Miyagi and the luxury and wastes I am experiencing here is mind-boggling.
In the photo, my niece is "swimming" in the ski resort. Her mother is aiming a camera at her. What do you think of this? Is this a display of unnecessary luxury or of advanced technology?
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