Published: May 18th 2012May 17th 2012
Another update about my time in Japan. I've been doing a lot of '-structing', both 'con-' and 'de-'. That is to say that I've been breaking and building things of late. More breaking than building though. Destruction is much more fun! >:)
So that apartment we cleaned back in the Japan - Part 1 entry was actually the second floor. The first floor was very heavily damaged by the tsunami and we'd been asked to get rid of all the remaining floorboards, insulation and walls, leaving only the major support beams. It was a job for 3-5 people for almost a week. I worked on it each day and had a crowbar glued to my hand almost the entire time. It was a lot of fun and really satisfying when that beam you've been bashing and prying for the last 5 minutes finally comes down.
There's also more destruction to be had at a nearby hanko shop. A hanko is a personalized stamp that Japanese people use in place of signing documents. A hanko shop is a place where they make one for you. So, we were asked to remove floorboards, walls, insulation and the mud from underneath the
floor in what used to be the kitchen and what used to be the bathroom area. Three people working for four days. On the first day it became evident that there wasn't enough room for three people to work in the kitchen area so I moved myself over to the bathroom. Once there it was my job to remove the bath unit. Now, Japanese bathrooms are not quite the same as the ones back home. See this photo: http://www.artandtechnology.com.au/arch/sekisui.jpg That whole area is part of a semi-removeable unit that was once seperate pieces and (with some more use of a crowbar) does come apart. I say semi-removeable because it is possible to remove it but you wouldn't normally. Anyway, with help I was able to get everything out and even learned some plumbing skills along the way. When I say plumbing skills I mean using a wrench to unscrew and remove a few water pipes. So yes, 'plumbing skills'.
A litte bit of construction making some more step stools. They left me to my own devices this time and I was able to make the required five + one special one by the end of the day.
destruction!!! There are two houses that the volunteers here stay in. The first house has already had the floorboards and walls replaced after the tsunami but the second has not. As you may have already guessed I got to be a part of that too! More breaking walls and such and whatnot. And more use of my superior ability to use a wrench to remove some water pipes.
But life here at INJM isn't just work. We've all had the oppourtunities to have some fun and I've made good use of that time.
Important things first. Baseball! I went with one of the other volunteers to Sendai and watched a baseball game. I've never had to explain the rules of baseball to anyone before so until that moment, never realized how complicated a game it was. Now, I've had more experience playing baseball than watching. So when the night settled in and it became rather chilly it was then I remembered the huge blankets and coats my Mom used to layer herself in when watching my games. But, the awesomeness of Japan came to the rescue! The stadium provided blankets and handwarmers to everyone! The handwarmers ended up
not working but the blankets were a lifesaver. The game was Sendai against Osaka and the crowd was much more into it than any of the games I've seen back home, they even had different chants for each batter. We could only stay until the bottom of the sixth because the last bus back to Ishinomaki left at 10. Unfortunatley, minutes after we left, Sendai stole home from third and then batted in three more runs which allowed them to win the game. Timing fail.
Hanami Party! A Hanami Party is where you sit under the sakura (cherry) trees and drink sake (or juice or whatever) with your friends or co-workers. It was a nice little cultural break and everyone had a good time. Our fearless leader, Jamie, had much fun photobombing several of my pictures. So ignore the crazy man dressed in purple in the back.
Festival! The INJM volunteers took part in a festival which I can't remember the name of in Onagawa. It involved a ceremony in the shrine at the top of a hill, two performances by taiko drummers and then carrying two portable shines down 200 stairs and around the city. It would
have been a great place to take fun photos of everyone taking turns carrying the shrine except for the fact that it was raining so hard you couldn't see. Allow me to embellish the magnitude of the rain for a moment. We couldn't take photos because in the time it takes to get out your camera and click the button the rain might have damaged it. There was a volunteer who was here for the typhoon last year and said he hadn't seen it rain that hard since then. We were all wearing full rain gear (boots, pants, coat) and before an hour was up we all had water IN our boots and underneath our raingear we were all completely soaked. Complaining aside, I really have to give credit to the amazing people who walked around all day in the rain with a heavy shine and still managed to keep a smile. You guys are awesome. I'm really thankful that I could take part in a cultural ceremony. The experience was amazing and enlightening and not one I'll ever forget.
Taiko drummers on Children's Day! Children's Day is one of the days that makes up something called 'Golden Week'
in Japan. Golden Week is a cluster of national holidays that usually result in a week off for most people living here. It's kinda like the week between Christmas and New Year. Where most companies just give their employees the days off. So, on Children's Day there was a show being put on in the same park as where we had the hanami party. One of the performances were two taiko drummers. The little kid playing was very good!
And finally some more pictures of Ishinomaki. These are sites we pass almost everyday while working in the city.
There are more photos below