The Days After Minami Sanriku Adventure Experience

Tsunmi Entry 4, 1 December 2012    Back Home.

Warm greetings from family.  Reflect on last 5 days in Japan after Minami Sanriku experiences and workshop.

*  Presentation at an Experiential Youth Center outside Tokyo, 80 attend, we give a slide show and talk about our Bamboo Resilience workshop and Sanriku visit. It is a reunion, with many friends who have participated in Project Adventure workshops attending, along with many young people. Andy, a vibrant PAJ trainer, speaks about his experience, then leads “Usu” (sorry about the previous “ursu” reference, which was a mispelling), which has become a new adventure activity: One person pretends to throw rice into a large bowl, the other pretends to hit it with a mallet…this activity gets passed around the room (it can be done for speed). Soon, everyone has played or is playing Usu, to great delight. The power of metaphor.
  • Meet with PAJ staff. Explore opportunities offered by Bamboo Resilience. Agree that we need to encourage our Minami Sanriku Facebook group by staying by their side with ideas, written materials and Adeventure game props. Reflect on the scope of work done over the years in Miyagi Prefecture over preceding years, that laid the groundwork for our recent success there. We set a tentative date of March 30-31, 2013, for our next Bamboo Experience. We will need: Translated Full Value work from Exploring Islands of Healing; Translated Bamboo Resilient Full Value; Game props for those who attended the training; Translated activity guide; solid planning with the Facebook group regarding Train the Trainer essentials and workshop flow. Stay tuned.
  • Presentation at Chiba University (a remarkable new institution specializing in experiential work along with standard college fare). Every person in the audience had a copy of the traditional version of the Full Value Contract, so we were able to Piggy Back on that the Bamboo Resilience additions. This provided a frameswork for discussion about the Bamboo work in Minami Sanriku. In addition, Chu Chu, our sponsoring professor, had requested words about the development of metaphor as it relates to Joseph Campbell’s thinking. Campbell’s statement, “Metaphors require a literal interpretation, and must be seen as a fact” receieved a warm reception. With a thorough disussion regarding the finding and use of Ursu as an example of metaphor development (we played the activity again), Chu Chu was more than satified.
  • Meet with Kat Namba, PAJ trainer, at Narita (Tokyo) airport. He wants a presentation at his university (Tamagawa) during my next visit. He also wants Nicole Richon Schoel to present on her work in domestic violence. We spoke of the possibility of producing a Japanese version of her play, “In Harm’s Way.” Tamagawa has a strong performing arts program that would lend itself to that work.
  • Upon return  home, a message from Yuki that the March 30-31 date has been confirmed. We have our work cut out for us.

Overall reflection on my 19 day journey in Oregon, Washington and Japan: The lessons from Bamboo Resilience regarding the healing power of community cross apply to a range of traumatic experiences such as natural disasters, war, domestic violence, bullying, diversity, poverty, alienation. Helping people build community is a central goal and outcome of Adventure. To that end, we must continue to communicate that message through experiences, training, strategies and resources.


Japan Tsunami 2 Entries 3-6, Nov. 21-24, 2012

Tsunami 2 Entry 3
Tuesday-Wednesday, 20- 21 November

Jim’s poem:
“Tokyo Tsunami”

First night, and day, after Delta flight from Seattle.
Tangled by traffic, getting here from Narita,
an unwilful passenger of Toshio’s, I watch his GPS
take us around and over and under and through
always coming up against STOP lights
crawl freeway traffic, trucks, Toyota and Seven-Eleven signs
this urban journey goes on and on
everything the same in their differences
the colors the endless ads on trucks
selling selling
aaaaaaah we do go by the emperor’s residence
remember running around it years ago
a touchstone, but it has high hedges and stone walls
no welcome..

Now, it is early morning
there is nothing like early morning anxiety
it wants to go on and on
like last night on the freeway.

Cold air from the open window above me where I sleep and now write this,
the open file glow of computer speaks to me. Relief.
When at last we arrived
Yumi put her arms around us,
Her food on the table,
Suzume’s smile, Haichi’s bald head and jokes.
Toshio’s knowing presence.

None of this is easy.
But we have each other.
Somehow, we need to make that
enough, as we set off to the north
Miyagi, Sendai, MinamiSanriku, Ishinomaki
where the sea made its unthinkable
Jim Schoel, Nov. 21 2012

We travel today: Bullet train to Sendai, Myagi Prefecture, rent a car, travel countryside, make way to Minami Sanriku. Visit a Shinto shrine where 120 students were housed, high up on a hill. Drive around the town comparing this year to last: piles more organized, temporaries on the flat land, a shopping center, boats tied in harbor, life happening alongside the steady grind of the clean up. Stay in a shorefront hotel a distance from the harbor center, somewhat like Eastern point view into Gloucester Harbor, with spectacular view, untouched by Tsunami. Harbor full of orderly lined floats for fish traps and oyster lines. Skiffs and ocean going fish boats ply waters. From that distance one cannot see the devastation, looks its normal productive beauty.

Tsunami 2 Entry 4
Thursday, 22 November
We drive the twisted road back down to the village, this time get out of cars and walk around the portable houses, stores, gas stations, offices, trucks everywhere along with front end loaders mixed with piles of crushed concrete, some orderly, some not, get back to the place where last year I discovered the temple decorative piece that is now in my dining room. The pile of trash is smaller, but still daunting. Trucks are in line waiting to be filled by the digging grapple hooks, loading while separating, piles of wood here, metal there, acres of crushed cars and trucks all in a lot over beyond. I go searching for wood treasure, determined to find: some item that is meaningful, representative of the ongoing trauma. Coming around the corner of the pile I see a blue stone carving, 8′ high, standing on a marble pedestal, next to a 30′ pile, the loader doing its work from above. It has four “fingers’ going around the base “stomach”. Reject the idea of moving it and I keep on looking Just beyond, out in the open, a bowl carved down into a log butt end, it is full of water, I tip to empty, study it, try to pick it up it is too heavy and it is in goo mud. Rush to find Toshio, who is over with our 10 strong Project Adventure staff at a makeshift shrine, ask-tell him to “get a car, we need to move something, quick.” He is reluctant, I get him with the zinger: where’s the Adventure???? and off we go in Ima’s 4X4, tell the reluctant guard who is redfaced alcohol tipsy that we are archeologists and have just made an amazing find (none of this is a lie)…..soon he is our friend, we carry it out of the mud hole shoes covered, our guard helping us with old plastic and string to cover our find, wedge it in the back of the vehicle, he even helps us wash our hands in a basin he has and off we go. “What is it?I ask. “An Usu, used for making rice paste, very common.” No one is very impressed.

All of us drive up to the elementary school we visited last year. Porables fill the side yard people come and go into their dwellings, kids play on the ball field, end of day busses, backpacks, smiles, pictures. Green tea in the principal’s office, he is less manicy this year, listens and receives our offers of Adventure resources, we speak of this years Bamboo Resilient Adventure experience at the local youth center which will be atteded by several of his teachers.

Getting dark, with a raw wind, we go to our Youth Center site that will be home for the next two days, Toshio and I hose off the Usu, wrap it in a cloth, lug it into the building where it is placed next to a portable kerosene heater in the center of the dining hall. Placed on the top of it a short curved solid wood piece that had attracted me.There it sat for the night. We meet over food plan the morning activities, head to bed.

Tsunami 2 Entry 5
Friday, 23 November
First day of workshop. 16 people, teachers, social workers.
Went to bed last night exhausted, felt like I am getting sick. Sleep 6 hours. Wake anxious….feel as If I am not serving needs, projecting self on to others. Anger. Words on the PA…..they sound knowledgeable, calm….but of course I do not understand. Third Earthquake tremor.

Place the Usu in middle of room, welcome participants, tell them that we have responded to Abe-Papa’s entreaty last year, “don’t forget us.” Ask them what item in middle of room is, everyone knows, we talk about how it is used for ceremonies, Andy a Project Adventure Japan trainer shows the toss grain gesture of one person in rhythm with pounding by another person, how it goes on and on, it feels joyful Some one said later that the pounded rice paste was often given as an offering to God.

We stick with our plan of PAJ staff doing most of the activity leading. It is beautiful, the work they do: Tetsu, Suzume, Andy, and Yuki doing a lot of the cognitive stuff….. full value definitions, GRABBSS assessments. We have fun. We are serious. We solve things. We form goal partners who help each other with GRABBSS (especially designed to assess for trauma difficulties). In the evening we make bamboo bracelets. The bending and tying of slender bambo brings home the resiliency, the power of the concept of “bounce back” and “doesn’ break”.

Saturday. 4:30 Am. Morning of last day of workshop.. As I write, another earthquake tremor. Lasts for 15 seconds. Terror to my toes, and an understanding, while the floor and walls shake, windows flex. I am living here. This is not a game. All of this could be over in an instant. Meanwhile, I am planning activities for the day, while the earth shakes. But I do have a list, and a plan. That is good. That is what I am here fore. To talk, feel, strategize, connect, give skills and resources. I do not run an ambulance, or build a sea wall…. I build understanding, connection, survival skills that bring us together. There is an existential experience where we travel to a location seeking something….we have come distances, we are trying to do what we can. We are “showing up”. We are digging down into grief and trauma without tearing anyone apart. One participant did speak of losing an aunt and uncle and with tears she told us of her determination to do something positive (she has come to Ishinomaki from Tokyo).

We finish with two groups creating “ships” on pieces of poster paper. Each ship had language describing next steps: commitments to working together, sharing resources, use of face book, where to store the now precious Ursu bowl, how to share the Adventure Activity props that will be coming. The commitments were the heartfelt experiences for all of us. The primary healing factor of community rang all through our discussions. One participant who at the beginning declared, “I lost no family members. I am doing ok”, opened himself enough to declare that “we need to give the Bamboo Resiliency experience to city workers who are struggling with the clean up and infastructure issues. He is the participant who volunteered to store the Ursu at his home.

We finish, circled around our Ursu, shoulder to shoulder, locked together so that we can lean in, and hang there with each other for awhile in a meditative silence. Just like last year. We will do it again, sooner than later (March?). We will stay connected.

Preparing for Minami Sanriku Bamboo Resilience Workshop

2012 Japan Clamshack

Enplaned Seattle to Tokyo. Regarding Project Adventure, Japan’s efforts dealing with the Tsunami aftermath:
Yuki Abe (PAJ office manager and profound thinker) and I have been working on “Bamboo Resilience GRABBSS assessment and Full Value behaviors.” We had a break through this week, finishing a new iteration of both. Yuki has is enthusiastic about it, and has already done the translation. There has been much research and negotiation to get this done.
We will use it in our workshop this week at the Minami Sanriku Youth Center, Nov. 23-24.
Here are the essential definitions:

Bamboo Resilient GRABBSS Assessment and Full Value Behaviors

Green Bamboo bends but does not break
Resilience in psychology refers to an individual’s tendency to cope with stress and adversity
GRABBSS is Project Adventure’s Assessment tool
Full Value Contract Is Project Adventure’s tool for building a healthy community

I will be spending good time with Toshio, Project Adventure’s director, first in Tokyo, then traveling to Sanriku. We will get there two days early for the workshop so that we can learn from what is currently happening there. There will be university seminars and work with PAJ after our time at Sanriku.

Here’s an example of how work and connection in one part of the Adventure world can inform work in another part.
Last week I was visiting Veteran’s Hospitals: White City (Medford) Oregon and Tacoma Vets, Lakewood Washington. Psychologist Carol Hayne, ret., from White City has developed a model called “Mindful Action Groups”. Quoting Carol, “It is ’emotive-experiential’ rather than ‘cognitive-behavioral’. It is based on learning what an emotion means when you have it and identifying the ‘feel’ of an emotion through experience. Simply stated, it means that emotions drive behavior rather than thoughts, that the structure and impact of emotions can be learned in a classroom, but require experiential learning in order to take hold. The aspects of Adventure Based Counseling, which utilize negotiation, conflict, goal setting, interpersonal relationships, trust, risk, fun and values have provided a unique series of experiences for participants to “bring home” essential lessons about their emotional lives. One participant said, “I didn’t get the classroom stuff at all, but when I got out on the challenge course and began to experience real feelings it all began to make sense. MAGs has allowed me to take charge of my emotional life.”
The Veteran participants have all experienced military trauma. As we develop our work in Japan, we are also dealing with trauma. Can the work at White City Oregon have an impact on work in Minami Sanriku and Ishikomati, Japan, villages devestated by the March 2011 Tsunami? Well, if the opportunity presents itself, I will introduce the MAGs concept of the “Abyss”, Ms. Hayne’s metaphor for a place where people get stuck and lost.

We have worked hard to get to this point. Now it is time to produce, “on the ground”. Thanks for your fundraising, Tham Yew Cheong, Project Adventure’s Asia Representative and director. More later. Jim

Bamboo GRABBSS and Mindful Action

Yuki wants to construct a bamboo assessment…… a great idea. She is also in contact with “Post Traumatic Growth”, a Japanese tool for promoting resiliency. More later on this.

Today I visit a Veteran’s Hospital near Medford, Oregon…..they have a model that has great potential for use in other settings… is called “Mindful Action Groups”, teaching a kind of mindfulness that aids in trauma work and connects to Adventure activities.