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Published: July 11th 2011
I’ve had weird, vivid dreams each night. Reminders of how much I miss everyone back home, I suppose.
Yesterday we went to an elementary school in northern Japan. The school was made of a big white building that didn’t look like American schools. We met the principal and his staff. They made cubicles in one of the classrooms as their new office, since the original one was on the first floor and destroyed by the tsunami. Fukiko and the principal talked a lot. Everyone was very nice. Half way through the discussion Fukiko told me the principal said the police came and he needed to leave, to distinguish a child's body they found. That felt strange to hear, to feel, to witness. It was even stranger that after he left, we ate lunch with the staff (cafeteria lunch- tiny portion of chicken, veggies soaked in mayo, and soup) and the principal came back and sat and ate with us. How can you eat after that?
I interviewed a clinical psychologist who was brought 500 miles south of Tokyo to this school as a councilor for the children, Yukari Arakawa. She said the children will be separated by those who
experienced the earthquake and those who experienced the tsunami. “They (students) may have problems later relating because of that (tsunami)".
Cards, posters and messages hung throughout the halls from American and Canada. One message came from Morris High School, San Diego, California. They sent paper folded cranes. Fukiko and I gathered over 200 cards and drawings from Humboldt County residents, students and churches. We met with a second grade class and distributed some of the drawings by Humboldt County elementary students. The Japanese second grade class was well disciplined. They obeyed the teacher's orders, sat quietly and were polite. They even performed two dances and song for Fukiko and I. They were respectful and excited to meet an American, myself. I walked up and down the rows in which they sat on the floor and shook their soft hands. They treated me as a celebrity, as gold, like I came from another planet. And they had questions, so many questions about America. "How tall is the Statue of Liberty?" "How big is America?" "What is it like?"
During the tsunami, 250 children were inside the school. The students, 240 of them, were forced to stay overnight with the
staff. "The most difficult part was the girls bathroom, because boys can go outside," the principal said. The principal, sitting with his arms crossed over his desk and grey hair neatly combed back from the residing top to the back of his head, described the day as a very cold, "snowy day". Their first floor became completely emerged with six feet of water by the tsunami.
Diesel spilled throughout the city, causing many fires. "The diesel is everywhere because so many fishing boats need it," the principal said. "It needed to be easily accessible."
Thirty sunflower seed packets were sent to the school from Nagasaki to plant in the soil because, “they cleanse the earth from radiation,” the principal said. The principal said that’s what they used for Hiroshima nucluer explosion.
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