Out from behind my desk I’ve got more exercise in the last few days than in my 42 previous days in Japan.
With a great team of seven other volunteers I’ve spent the past four days working in the field, tearing down drywall, shovelling landslides and chopping up trees with a hatchet. I worked in the Shaman’s house each morning helping Ryo’s team remove water damaged drywall and ferry possessions from an outbuilding to a storage room. The outbuilding was picked up by the tsunami and smashed in through the back wall of the house and will later be winched back into its original location.
At 10.45 each day I headed off up hill and down dale on a shopping run around Yamada. First stop was the supermarket to pick up fresh fruit and veggies to stop the volunteers getting scurvy in their isolation. Next to the town’s best noodle shop to pick up bento boxes for lunch and finally to the convenience store for stuffed rice balls to supplement the somewhat meagre pot noodle dinner. Then I was off again, puffing and sweating my way across town to deliver the food.
I spent the afternoons working with Brett and a small team at the shrine. We managed to clear the pathway and entrance to the shrine site and ran – yes, ran – wheelbarrows full of debris a hundred feet to the car park to be collected by the city later. The location is magical; a white sand beach, clear, clean water save for the few chunks of debris still bobbing in the waves, a fairytale island within swimming distance – although the weather and the water and still a little chilly for anyone to brave a trip across!
Perhaps most importantly for our continued work in the area was the impression we made on the groups of volunteers who came to the beach each day from the local volunteer center. Over a hundred people across the four days saw us working carefully and with respect, having been trusted with the work by a local elder. This can only help our standing in the community and hopefully lead to a good relationship with the volunteer center and plenty more work in Yamada in the coming weeks.
Its not just small items that were rearranged by the March 11 tsunami. This truck was picked up and set down on a warehouse roof like it was nothing more than a toy.