Even if I'm already in Korea, in the country where I really feel at home and belong to, I can't stop thinking about Japan. But not Japan generally, just about a place I learned to love and a bunch of people I started to respect, admire and love.
Fair is fair and now that I know that my blog is being read also in Iwanuma, where a piece of my heart remained, I must admit a thing of which I'm ashamed. I never liked Japanese people. I liked Japan, of course, it's such a beautiful country that is breathtaking, but I never liked the people. On Tokunoshima yes, they are way different, but on the main islands I found them so.. weird. But that was no problem when I decided to go to do volunteering. I didn't care. A person in need needs help, it doesn't matter I like him or not. As I said many times, I do not pray, I just do.
I can never be grateful enough to Saito san, the young man who literally picked Ramon and me on the Sendai station, without knowing us or our purpose. We just painfully copied the kanji for Iwanuma and tried to find the train to there, when this smiling guy approached us and asked where are we going. And he helped us to buy the tickets and showed us the way and said don't worry to miss the station, I go there to, I live in Iwanuma. And how amazed he was when he heard that we are looking for the Iwanuma Volunteer Center, his smile became even broader when he explained that he is working there and he called his mother so she picked us at the station and drove us first to the Center and then to the park where volunteers are camping. And we met the next morning and for the rest of my life I will never stop to be grateful to him. I know that folks from Iwanuma were and are grateful to Ramon and me because we were long term volunteers and we did lots of hard work, but I'm even more grateful to them and the volunteers from all over Japan, because they helped my change my mind and gave me a chance to make a new opinion about Japanese people. There I met a man that I respect way more than my father. Sorry dad, but it's true. And I suspect that the same goes for my son. And if it's true that even he respects Tanaka san more than he respects me - well, than I'm even more proud of my son!
I have loads of heartwarming memories of Iwanuma, but the highlight was one day when in the afternoon I was going back from the Volunteer Center, I was alone, I don't know where the rest of the crew was, I was limping, drained of almost all energy, the street was absolutely empty, only blooming trees and me, I just wanted to quit everything that same moment when I met an old lady going the opposite way. By my outfit she instantly recognized me as a volunteer and she greeted me with a warm "Otsukare sama deshta". Instantly I straightened up, forgot the pain in my leg, smiled and loudly and proudly replied "Otsukare sama deshta!" And I kept going on with that smile, working and drinking, working and drinking, day by day and I never felt better in my life.
And there I found Jinen san, with his poor English but a heart bigger than Japan itself. Jinen san, I'm sorry I was drunk all the time so I really don't remember you procalimed me your second father and Ramon your brother. Only when you cried at our farewell Ramon told me about it. But even if I was drunk I loved you and I still love you like my son.
And there I met Hiroto san, so full of energy and will, so nice and ready to help.
And there I met Okano san, so strong and so gentle.
And there I met Oohashi san, so funny but so serious.
And there I met Takeno san, who shared his loneliness with everyone feeling lonely.
And there I met Imai san, Takahashi san, Niwa san, Kazuki san, Yamaguchi san and so many of you that I just don't remeber your names, of some just nicknames like Green Man, The Firefighter, Chainsaw Man, Shitty Glasses, Manga Man, Zero Alcohol, Dynosaur, The Snack, Photographer, Little Neighbour. And of so many of you I remember just the faces but it doesn't stop me from loving you all. I know you all remember Baka Otosan from Sveronia, but I was one and you were plenty.
This morning when I was boarding the ferry in Hakata a man started a conversation with me because of all the crazy stickers I had on my jacket. And when I showed him my back that says "Iwanuma Volunteer 4/21 - 5/15" he bowed and thanked me for helping Japan. He was a Korean.
I bow to Iwanuma Volunteers.
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