ASIA NOW ―アジアの現場から

Asians helping Tohoku 2012 #L2


4 volunteers from China, Vietnam and Thailand joined volunteer activities in Miyagi prefecture from August 27th to September 3rd. Three of them helped local people working in fishery at Ishinomaki city and one helped children leaning English at Tome city.

We are posting pictures on our facebook page.

◆LI from China◆

Q:What impression did you have on Tohoku after 1.5 year of disaster?
Our volunteer activities mainly took place in a small village in ishinomaki city, one of the areas hardest struck by tsunami. At a glance, I found this place charming in its own way. Not as glamorous and exciting as Tokyo, but tranquil and poetic with a lovely, meandering coastline dotted with bays and beaches, towering trees on the rolling hills, bright blooming sunflowers growing everywhere, wooden structures that preserved the traditional texture of Japan. And the local people in fishery I met were just as pure and kind as one could ever imagine. There was Mr. Abe, always smiling like an angel with two pleasant dimples on his cheeks; there was Mr. Kanno, cool and maybe a little bit reserved at the first sight, but considerate and caring while working with him. There was a 77-year-old grandpa who liked cracking jokes about being surrounded by beautiful women and became so proud whenever talking about his son lived in Sendai. And as for the ladies, they were so much like my own grandmothers--diligent, quiet, shy, and inclined to express their welcomes by preparing delicious seafood every single day. It almost made me feel as if the awful disaster had never happened. But on a closer look, I spotted that there were still bulldozers clearing up the debris on the road and destroyed automobiles were piled up all together near a large bridge where sometimes the air there permeated with foul smell of polluted water while being purified by the nearby filtration plant.; empty lots overgrown with weeds were nothing but a common sight everywhere which I at first foolishly believed it to be a feature of rural landscape, but actually proven to be a result of earthquake and tsunami as it erased lush neighborhood here and left nothing but empty space. And most importantly, I think the psychic trauma the locals had suffered need to be healed by time and lots of attention and care from both domestically and internationally for I would never forget one simple sentence one of the locals said while working with us: even now, this earthquake is like some kind of nightmare haunted in my dream from time to time.

Q: Please describe your experiences and tell us your reflection of them.
What I did everyday was not a physically demanding job. Basically, I just made holes in shells with a chipping hammer. And from the conversation I made with the local fisherman, I learned that those shells would later be chained to about 10 meters by an iron wire and planted with eggs of oysters on its surface. Those eggs, then would came into being new independent shells and finally become one of the most nutritious and widely liked gourmet of the locals--oysters after being put into the sea and let them grow on their own for two years. For what I've observed, it's one of the two major income sources of the local fisherman, the other one obviously to be the money earned by selling fish. But with last year's staggering tsunami, almost all the oysters previously cultivated were destroyed, which was a huge economical loss to the locals. So this patch of oysters was to some extent carrying hope of the locals for reconstruction and restoration.
However, our task was more than that. Actually, as we were reminded occasionally by one of the JEN staff--Mr. Torizuka, the other major task we need to fulfill is to communicate with the locals, which for me personally sometimes became an interesting process of reasoning and speculation towards the meaning of the words because of my poor Japanese and their sudden lapsing into local Tohoku dialects. From which, I learned another precious lessen: language would never be a barrier in a conversation between two honest souls; after all, what really matters is one's attitude.

Q: What did you learn from Tohoku and what would you like to suggest to your country people in case of natural disasters that might happen in your country?
Although there was a house used exclusively as accommodation for foreign student volunteers, the bathroom was unavailable, so we had to go to somewhere else by car to take a shower. And on our way there, there was a school I didn't even know name about but nevertheless impressed me all the same.
It was a burnt-out school standing in the middle of nowhere. Per Mr. Toritsuka, it had gone through dual strikes of the earthquake and later an awful fire. But when I laid my eyes on the building, I found that it had miraculously preserved the original structure and had no slightest sight of toppling over or deviation from its base despite of its shabby look. The quality of the building was just amazing, no wonder so many people took refuge after the disaster in those public buildings.
Inevitably, it reminded me of Sichuan earthquake in 2008 which has resulted in 70,000 fatalities and 20,000 missing.. Although it is hard to compare two earthquakes because of the different magnitudes and population density, .it still reveals something worthy to being reflected on. In that earthquake, many Chinese students died because of shoddy structure linked most likely to corruption of the school buildings. Those buildings made of steels and cement were supposed to endure much longer to give those children a chance to escape instead of collapsing in no time when the calamity occurred. It was so heartbrokenly sad to know so many innocent children died because of the safety problems of those school buildings, and what made it even sadder was that the government media-blocked those parents who tried to seek justice over crumbled schools. Given the complexity of lots of political events emerged in that period, it may had a point or two that the government did this as a temporary measure to avoid further chaos or even riot, though it's beyond my capability of comprehension .But now, when we are in the process of reconstruction, I hope that we could focus on the high-quality public buildings that the public itself can feel reassured about.

Q:Your message to the people of the world.
For some historical or religious or political reasons, people in one country may have more or less some kind of antagonistic feelings against people of another country. But as far as I'm concerned, this is against the basic principle of humanism. I think one should be a person first, and a citizen afterward. Because as a person, we've been educated to be nice with each other and help those who are in need, but as a citizen, we have to stand by our nations. But as some say there is no permanent friend or permanent enemy only everlasting interest between two nations, so if our conscience and nature of loving others was kidnapped by the co-called patriotism, wouldn't it be pathetic for us because we thus lost our sense of justice.
So it really doesn't matter what nationality one has. I'm not a politician, so I don't make things complicated. But I do remember some words of Confucius from an ancient Chinese book< The book of Rites>: 人不独亲其亲,不独子其子,which means one should be friendly not only limited to his relatives, and love not only his own sons.
Wouldn't the world be a better place if we saw each other by one's nature and felt for each other in one's plights?

>>Message in Mother tongue (PDF)

◆ANH from Vietnam◆


Q: 東北ボランティアでの経験とその感想を聞かせてください。

Q: 東北ボランティアから何を学びましたか。また、自然災害について貴方の国の人々に何を伝えたいですか。


>>Message in Mother tongue (PDF)

◆BEAM from Thailand◆

Q:What impression did you have on Tohoku after 1.5 year of disaster?
The condition there was a lot better than I had expected. We went to a town called Ishinomaki which directly bared a great deal of damage when tsunami hit. On the ride to our working place, Mr. Torizuka (a staff from JEN) pointed to a sign hanging from a bridge about 3 meters above the street and said that that marked the highest level of the water that had killed a lot of people here. Along the way, we could see mountains of debris, cars piling up on one another, and destroyed parts of a fish market and schools being abandoned. Despite these, everyone in this town seemed to normally go on with their lives. Especially at our working place where mainly fishermen lived, everything looked so normal it was hard to actually say that tsunami had hit this area just one and a half year ago.

Q: Please describe your experiences and tell us your reflection of them.
I was assigned to fishery work for the whole week that I was there. On my second day I helped Mrs. Abe clean the ropes that was used as a place for seaweeds to grow on. The work was to remove tiny threads from every foot of the ropes. It was not hard but it would have been if it were carried out by only one person, even more so for a woman, because the ropes were quite heavy. Mrs. Abe was very kind to me despite my difficulty communicating with her, always slowly and politely speaking to me and even offering me some medicine when noticing that I had a cold. She also cooked us a very nice lunch using local ingredients such as fish and seaweeds and it was not until then that I learned about the horrible thing that had happened to her family. Her family used to own two houses located on the bank of a small bay. She was in one of the houses when the biggest earthquake that she had ever experienced hit. The tsunami alarm did not make a sound but everyone there expected tsunami to come soon and evacuated to the mountain. She said with a calm expression on her face that what she saw was black water devouring her two houses and completely destroying a nearby big concrete bridge, making a hand gesture of a stick snapped in half as she spoke. Her family lost one of the houses and had no choice but to move up to the mountain. For me, it was so hard to believe that this caring lady went through such a trauma just a year and a half ago. I felt sincerely grateful for her and everyone there, despite recent tragedies and losses in their lives, for having me and for letting me experience something so real.

Q: What did you learn from Tohoku and what would you like to suggest to your country people in case of natural disasters that might happen in your country?
What I have learned from this experience is that no matter what happens, life must go on. The stories of Mrs. Abe and others in Ishinomaki reminds me of how easily life can turn upside down at any instant. We do what we can to avoid bad things that might come our way but somehow if they do happen, the most important thing is to stay strong and keep going, just like Mrs. Abe did after such a horrible experience. As a Thai, I can relate to this incident a lot since in 2007 it was the first time that tsunami ever hit Thailand's southern part and lots of lives were lost. I believe that our government, with helps from public and private entities, have done their best to recover the situation and be prepared if another tsunami comes by setting up warning systems and evacuation drills. If something bad ever strikes again, I do believe that because of our past experience, there will be less damage and helps from everywhere will continue to pour to the people in need of them until they can get back on their feet again.

Q:Your message to the people of the world.
I was never the one who thinks about helping other people all the time because I never think I had ability or opportunity to do so. I joined this program just expecting to make new friends but the whole experience turned out to be much more rewarding. I did feel another kind of fulfillment that I had never felt before when I saw that our work, no matter how small it might seem, actually became useful for these fishermen who had lost so many things in their lives last year. This experience became even more meaningful for me since I got to share it with such kind and hardworking fellow students and staff in this program. I have come out of the other side of this experience appreciating life more and believing that helping others is no longer difficult like I used to think it was.

>>Message in Mother tongue (PDF)