Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Trip to Eastern Japan part 1

These pictures of the people in temporary
encouraging everyone to stay strong.
We just finished Spring break so school is back in session. But for a week during the break I traveled around Eastern Japan, visiting various programs of the Let’s Walk Together Project. This Anglican project supports victims of last year's tsunami and earthquake get back on their feet. Within the project, they have several different programs.

After taking a ten hour bus ride the night before, I arrived in Sendai (where the headquarters for the project are) on Thursday morning. The next day we got up very early to go to Ofunato. On this trip to Eastern Japan I helped mainly with the program that minister to foreigners who have been in Japan along time. They have had workshops where they teach the language needed to become care takers. And recently they started a training seminar to become English teachers. After the natural disaster many people lost their jobs. Many of these were foreigners who originally moved to Japan in search of work. Similar to the US, many migrant workers are looked down upon by the society. Therefor this project is not only helping them recover financially but they are also trying to improve the society’s view of them.

In Ofunato the project hosted one of these English Teacher Trainings for 11 Filipino and 1 Chilean woman. All of these women were affected in one way or another by the natural disasters. Ian, a study abroad student from the Philippines, and I were “in charge” of watching the children while their mothers were in the workshop. Ian speaks more Japanese than me but neither of us are fluent by any means. Of course the children speak only Japanese. While we thought that we were the ones the leaders of the group, in reality the kids were the ones calling the shots. They told us what we were going to do. They would start walking out to a park and we were obliged to follow. At the same time it was a blast interacting with these kiddos. Even though there was a HUGE language barrier we somehow were able to communicate. I taught them some American games and they put a Japanese twist to them. We had giant games of hide and seek. We went on walks and they showed us great views of the mountains. It was wonderful.

The next morning, I spoke with Hortencia, the Chilean in the program. She told me about how she was still in shock from the disasters of last year. While she wanted to talk about it with someone it was difficult. Most of her friends lived far away. Also talking about emotions and seeking counseling is not very normal in Japan. She wants so badly to feel normal again but it is difficult to move on. It has been more than a year since the incident but it might as well have happened yesterday. You can see the disaster not only by all of the empty plots of land where buildings used to be but also on the faces of those there. Driving in the area I could hardly believe I was still in Japan. It was a completely different place. Some buildings look as if you touch them they would crumble to the ground.

I would like to ask you to pray for Japan. As I said it has been over a year since last year’s tragedy but it still is affecting many people’s lives. During this trip I went to four different cities in six days. I met many people and heard many stories. So please stay tuned, I have so much more to share. I promise to have more pictures on the next post.

God's Peace,

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