One of the important works that we do is to clean ditches (sewage system, canals... whatever you like to call it!). The tsunami has brought loads of mud and all kinds of debris into the canals along the road side clogging the water sewage system, thus floods the area when it rains. What we do is to lift all the concrete cover of canals, pull out the weeds that blossoms in the tsunami mud, then dig out the mud/earth shovel by shovel. After we dug out the soil, we must sort out the concrete and debris from the soil, putting them into different bags for disposal. Just a fun side note, there was a fish factory in one of the area before. Many fishes were washed to everywhere, including ditches. After so many months, the fishes decomposed into the mud, wherever they had landed. The mud becomes kinda sticky, gluey aka asphelt-like (I am sure it is full of collagen and protein!), emitting a distinctive obnoxious smell. YYYyuummmmmmmmmMMm.
In the usual japanese cleaning standard, we use a brush to clean the ditch after digging the mud out. A straw-made broom is used to clean whatever is left behind before the final touch of a lighter broom to rid the dust off the sidewalk. To be honest, my room has less treatment than the ditch!!
As we dig thru the ditch meter by meter, lots of different debris are recovered: a watch, calender, penguin-glass paper holder, red wine bottle, fragments of fine china... I feel I am picking up broken pieces of people's lives. In the midst of all the debris, we found a collection of train miniatures. We carefully put them aside as we found them one by one. over the span of that morning, we found a total of 4. We were all abit quiet and heavy. Perhaps they were once a favorite toy of a little boy. At the end, we couldn't manage to throw them away. Heather brought them back to the base in a small towel, and gave me 2 of them after washing them.
I carry them around in my bag during my break in Osaka and Kyoto, as a reminder of why I am here in this far far land. At times, I tell their story to my new friends. My new friends would look at these little trains with a tint of overwhelming sadness in their eyes.
I feel this has become a part of my mission. It is not to sell tragic tearful stories, but to tell the stories and lives of the earthquake area to others, so people of the Northeast will not be forgotten as they try to live their best in the midst of loss and grief.
Forget them not.
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