On the evening of Palm Sunday we returned to Sendai. I was to stay the night at the apartments where the other volunteers live. Along with the apartments, the church also owns an old convent that is being used as the volunteer men’s house. There, all the volunteers come together to share meals and enjoy one another's company. That night everyone was gathering for a dinner of okonomiyaki (my favorite meal). I loved sitting around the table with this group. It felt like a huge family gathering. Everyone was teasing and forcing each other to over eat. I didn’t want it to end.
On Monday morning JP, Ian, and I went to Iwaki city. Along the way I learned tons about the politics, religion, food, and culture of the Philippines. In return I did my best to give them answers to their questions about the states. Once we arrived in Iwaki we met with three Filipino women Maria, Agnes, and Christina. These women lived anywhere from 7 to 20 kilometers from the nuclear reactor in Fukushima. Now they are living in temporary housing in Iwaki. The purpose of our trip was to see if they would like to take part in an English teachers training.
I was able to talk with Agnes a lot about her experiences from March 11, 2011 until now. She was in the factory when the 9.0 magnitude earthquake happened. Afterwards she and her husband went to pick up their daughter from school. On the way they heard that the tsunami was coming so they were forced to seek shelter. It took three hours before they reached their daughter. Once they picked her up they got word that the reactor had exploded and they were forced to evacuate. They stayed in two different places over the next four months before they were placed in Iwaki. They were not able to go back to their house and gather their belongings until three months after the disaster. Now Agnes and her family live in the small temporary housing and have nothing to do but worry. She worries about a job, worries about the safety of her child, and worries about the future. Many organizations provide activities at the temporary housing but that is only a brief relief from the emotional stress they are going through.
After scheduling a weekend for the English Teachers training at the temporary housing, we visited with Juliet Ando. She is another Filipino living in Iwaki. About five years ago she set up a restaurant for Filipino seamen. It is open once a month when they come into port. Due to legalities when they port in Iwaki they are only allowed to go a certain distance into the city. So Juliet opened this restaurant where they can eat homemade Filipino food and give them a place to hangout. We visited her so that the Filipino women that are interested in the teachers training could contact her. She was kind enough to make us delicious Filipino food.
|Daito, Hattori, and Ian|
Once our bellies were full, we left for the Iwaki Project’s base. We were greeted by two very friendly volunteers Daito San from Kobe and Hattori Kiyoshi Kyoto. We talked for a long time about our lives and all that we saw in Iwaki. They then showed us to our rooms and we called it a night. The next day, we had Morning Prayer bright and early. Daito made us a wonderful breakfast and we continued our conversations from the night before. Once we said our goodbyes we met up again with Juliet. We showed took her to the church and the temporary housing so that she would know how to give the directions to the trainings.
|My traveling companions JP and Ian.|
After lunch we returned to Sendai. There was a horrible storm coming into town so everyone was in a panic. Luckily my bus back to Nagoya was not delayed. That trip was an eye-opening experience. The entire time I have been in Japan I have heard all about the project and what the victims are still going through. Yeah I will never know completely what was like that March day, nor all that they have gone through since then. Finally getting to witness it myself gave me a true understanding. It also made me realize the realities of the disaster at a more personal level. I was no longer hearing stories of people far away. I was hearing stories of people I met. I felt the emotions they went through as they shared their stories.