nedelja, 08. maj 2011

Iwanuma Volunteers!

Day Seven
So far, so good.
In the last post I wrote that you may pray if you feel so. Now I have the opposite request. Please, please stop praying. So far you've earned us five earthquakes in the last seven days. Even we're all (it's a great bunch this "we") brave volunteers that start laughing when the ground shakes, we laugh too loud and too long. To hide how nervous we are. And when we work near the coastline we listen to the waves all the time. Because we heard stories from people who were chased by the tsunami and survived. And we heard stories about people who did not. So many stories. I could tell you stories about legendary men like Tanaka san, the oyabun. Or funny stories about Ohashi san I-Am-A-Bitch or Okano san, The Octopus. I could tell you stories about grateful people or about the life in the volunteer camp in the town park. Or the incredible story how we managed to get the Japanese insurance to start working. I could tell more. And maybe one day I will. On the other hand, all these stories are stories of wonders and miracles that you'll probably never believe.
The work is not hard and not so depressive as I feared. And there's nothing better for the moral than a smiling eight years old girl coming to our camp with her parents and shouting "Please come and take my onigiri!" When we pass by, all covered with mud, local people stand up and bow deeply. Old women bowing on their knees. I don't really like that but all in all I feel good doing good.

Day Thirteen
Update: seven earthquakes so far. The last was pretty bad, we had our free dinner at Coco Ichibanya when the earth started shaking. And we started laughing. And the earth didn't stop shaking after 10 or 20 seconds so we stopped laughing and ran out when the waitress ordered everyone to do so. Once out we had another good laugh when I pointed out that we were pretty lucky that the earthquake didn't happen one hour earlier because at the time we were enjoying in hot water in an onsen. Running out naked would have been a bit embarassing.
No luck with internet. Not that Iwanuma was hit so hard, actually we saw only a few cracks in the roads, it was the eastern suburbs, on the coast line where we mostly work, that were destroyed by the tsunami. Plenty of wireless everywhere, but all secured. This is not Korea, I know. Today another day off, we tried to find some netto kaffue, but no luck.
Instead of the above mentioned amazing stories I will write about our daily routine, that in these days is affected by the Golden Week and hordes of volunteers (and too many wannabe volunteers). Wake up between 6 and 7 (AM, of course), wait in queue for the toilet, grab free coffee and hardboiled eggs that are given to us by a mythological being. Nobody is awake when they appear on the table in the camp so we decided it must be some sort of god or demon. Before 8 we go to the Volunteer Center, some 200 metres away and we wait in the queue for the doors to open. Then we wait in the queue to sign up for volunteer work and we make a queue waiting for assignments. Teams from six up to fifteen members are made, we have a short briefing and other volunteers drive us in cars, vans or microbuses to the assigned house. And once there sometimes I want to cry. Not that the scenery is that bad but I want to cry out of despair when I see what work we're given. One day we were cleaning flowers in a garden. Yes, we were removing mud from leaves with hands to not damage the plants. And the neighbour's house was half destroyed but no, we have to clean the fucking garden. So we did it. It was our assignment and even if everybody agreed with me that it's a stupid work and a complete waste of our energy and time, nobody complained. We do what we are told. Me too. These are crazy times. At the Volunteer Center I can see young students briefing old men and they listen very carefully. Everyone wants to be part of it and this is why the work is done so slowly. We had a granny in our team for a few days. She was in the way all the time so you couldn't use your shovel safely (for her), she was in the way of my wheelbarrow and she was trying to fill it with mud - with bare hands. And all the Japnese guys admired her because she was so busy all the time. Pretending to do something. Moving all the time. I was looking the effects of her work - none. Zero. Nada. Even worse - she was slowing me down. In another team they had a limping cripple. As I said, everyone wants to be part of it and everyone is given the chance to be.
We work two hours in the morning shift, go back to the Center, have a quick lunch with instant ramen or just grab some snacks and again in the queue (no, we actually eat in the queue) for the afternoon assignement, another two hours. All in all we spend about four hours in the Center, waiting, and four hours working.
But four days ago the Golden Week started. In the morning something around 400 people were waiting in front of the Center and there was work for only 150. The oyabun suggested us (there's no need for him to order, he always suggests) to leave the queue and give a chance to people that came volunteering for just one day. Our team, The Hardcock Team, a bunch of crazy guys and gals, was not happy with that - but the oyabun said so. And then there was the happy news: he just called somebody and we had work. So now we don't even go to the Center in the morning, no queues and more work done. Usually we do from five to six hours shifts, all the time in the same house, even for few days in row. And we do a complete job. When we leave you can really see the difference before and after. And then we start drinking. We're a bunch of alcoholics, perverts, maniacs and nuts - and the hardest working team. Last night also the oyabun was so drunk that first he fell from his seat in front of the tent and next he overturned the table. But it was a special occasion, we - The Hardcock Team - were invited to a sushi dinner (with LOTS of beer and sake). Because we cleaned the polytunnels of a rich farmer so he could afford it. Others can't so they give us coffee. Others don't have even that and give us just gratitude. We're fine with that. Really. But the most amazing are the people from Iwanuma that were in no way affected by the earthquake or the tsunami. It's them who come in the camp with gifts for volunteers. Food. Toilet paper. And BEERS! SAKE! SHOCHU! UMESHU! WHISKY! VODKA! Ah, the hard life of volunteers. We get free tickets for the onsen twice a week. We can eat for 1000 yen daily in the Coco Ichibanya, the curry house (unfortunately is much far away from the camp so we go there rarely). And the respect we get - priceless. Especially for us, gaijins. Ramon and I became sort of legend here. Not only because of the drinking, mostly because of our hard work. And because we're among the long term volunteers. There are plenty of other gaijins, but only for a day or two. Yesterday I forgot for a moment where I am and started with the story how two years ago in Nagasaki I was forbidden to enter in a bar because I'm a gaijin. The lady I was talking with almost fell on her knees asking forgivnes. We must be very very careful what we say. One day The Octopus asked Ramon if he prefers meat or fish. Next day we had pork steaks for dinner, his present.
I know it will sound like a lame excuse, but we - the long term volunteers - really need a lot of alcohol. It helps us forget the day and helps us not to think about the next day. When you find a picture in the mud you can't help yourslef but to think if the persons from it are still alive. Same when you fill the wheelbarrow with toys or school books. So we drink. Laugh. Make jokes. Talk shimoneta. And the next day we go on. Ramon and I slowly became the seventh in rank of seniority - just six of them have a longer volunteer status. And slowly we are making friends. I mean real friends. Like Hiroto san, the flower artist. Takeno san, The Cock aka Hentai Emperor. Okano san, The French aka The Octopus. Jinen san, The Wizard, the goofiest man in Japan. Ohashi san, the pachinkoholic erojiji. Imai san, who left yestarday and was the careing mother for everyone. People from all over Japan. One day I'm gonna visit them all.


Day... whatever, I have lost the count
Finally found internet!


Wastelands


Wastelands



Thank You, Sveronia!



Hard Cock Team



Hard Ccok Team during break


Hard Cock Team


Sushi dinner



Please take my onigiri!




Chainsaw Man


Crazy Team


The Myth


The Octopus


Imai san


The legend, The Oyabun


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