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