Saturday 24 September 2011

Another day in Ishinomaki

Headed off to Ishinomaki again with a team of 12 in a mini bus. Drove overnight and got little sleep on the bus. When we arrived in the early morning the sun was shining brilliantly and there was a strange beauty about the landscape. We always kill time before breakfast at the harbour area. Stretch our legs there, take some photographs. The burnt out elementary school and the steel structured house are unchanged after all this time, but there are new power lines up and new steel poles to hold the wires. Whereas everything was grey before, grass is beginning to take over. Covering all the foundations.
We worked with Samaritan's Purse. They are a large Christian organization from the US, who have a base 30 minutes outside Ishinomaki. They are all living in two large tents. (Some of them for long periods of time). Their purpose is to help families who want to fix up their houses to live in. Mostly this involves pulling out all the interior walls and plaster panels, and then Samaritan's Purse provides insulating sheets, wall panels and floor panels. This enables people to move back into their homes. These people recieve very little assistance from the government, so they really need this help desperately. It is a great project. We were assigned to a house and spent the day ripping up the plywood and hacking out the plaster. It is messy and hard work, but compared with all that mud busting and garbage sorting, it is a clean job and not quite so back breaking.
We were the first team in, and day one is about getting the walls off. Then they will do ceilings, and floors. After this the carpenters will come and put in the new panels. The couple can then decide what kind of all paper or flooring they want to have.
People slipped through the cracks somehow. They signed up 6 months ago for temporary housing, but they never heard anything from the city. No volunteers came to their area. The husband was a fisherman. Usually away ten months of the year, and then home for two. His boat was lost. He lived upstairs with no food or water for 4 days until the water went down. The house must have been hit by heavy objects, perhaps cars, because some of the outer siding has holes in it. The husband has patched them with plastic sheeting. He also replaced the broken downstairs windows with plastic sheeting and they have been living in their house. The nieghbours' houses are all due for demolition. Some have not come back at all. If they find work somewhere, they just have to leave everything and go. This couple have managed to get a little vegetable garden going. They also have water, gas and electricity, and have bought a small truck, so their life is better than some.
 The burnt out elementary school.
 Still standing with my steel frame.
 Everyone was taking pictures of the fire extinguishers.
 New poles, new wires.
 A fixed up house, new walls, floors and windows.
 The next door one will be pulled down.
 Team number 18.
 This house was just left, as is. Their belongings everywhere.
 Tearing out the wall panels.
 There are some holes in the outer wall, too.
 Taking out the plastering.
 All these panels must be removed.

 Everything ripped out at the end of our day.
 Owner and Tomu.
 Garbage pile gleaming in the evening sunlight.
 Fabulous sunset.
I do not know why he did it, but when we arrived I was looking at the two swords on the shelf, because they were just about the only things in the house. The husband said, "Do you want them?" And he just put them in my arms. They are not real, they are for display, but still, they are not toys. They are very impressive looking. I now have a momento, swords that came through the storm.


  1. Thank you for what you are doing and for keeping us up to date.

  2. Thank you for continuing to read. I think most people are probably tired of hearing about Tohoku and it is old news. The trouble is, nothing is gone away for the people who live there. There is such high unemployment and so many people with no homes, jobs, means of income. The grass may be beginning to hide all the foundations, but the hurts and the trials are very real and continuing.