Monday, January 23, 2012

Flower on the Pebbles

January 13, 2012.  Tono-->Otsuchi.

Second day working at CRASH Japan Tono base.
On our way to Otsuchi, a tsunami-devastated area, to distribute blankets to residents of temporary housings, we passed by a deserted land of an originally what supposed to be a residential area,  a man on the side of the road caught my eyes.
He was sitting squarely on the edges of what was the foundation of a house.  A solemn silence was frosted on his slightly frowning eyebrows.  His eyes was staring deeply beyond the space in front of him, as if this is only his shell with a world of memory living within.  Not far away from him, a small bouquet of flower was lying against a short wall of rubble.
As our van passed by him, our eyes met.  I am not sure in what dimension we were looking at each other at, but I was almost certain that we saw each other.
I bowed deeply to him, and to whom he is grieving and mourning for.

Loss and grief, are pebbles that you can find on the frozen ground of Tohoku.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

May a Flower Blossom for You Everyday

Lovely bouquet from Yoshino coffee shop owner @Ofunato.
I told her that it was abit scary to stay in the japanese style old apartment all by myself, and she gave me this cute bunch when I was about to leave.
"It may make the room abit brighter," she said.
Indeed, it is warmer!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

An Imperfect Offering

After 5 hours of travelling, here I am, back to the city of Ofunato.  Only this time there are no ditches to be dug nor walls to be knocked down.  I walked on the street where our base used to be.  It seemed awfully quiet and empty.  The Yoda figure in the t-shirt shop’s window is no longer holding the All Hands poster.  The big blue handprint sign of All Hands Volunteer is now buried under a layer of white paint.  No hands, only the same hue of blue and white is only trace that the busy traffic of volunteers had once constantly flooded in and out of the shop’s gate.  I took one last look of the empty street, and turned into the small street toward Mr Asano’s house, who has kindly offered me an empty apartment to stay at during my time here.
        In between pints of beer and exchange of updates, Yu-san told me after the project was finished and the volunteers left, he felt such a huge, indescribable emptiness grew within that at times, he would wander to the places where the volunteers had worked at.  Sometimes, he walked along the ditches that we had cleared; Sometimes, he sat in the Midori Park by himself. Yu’s eyes were misty as he told me, and added, “Sometimes, my eyes would become teary when I looked at the messages you guys have signed on the benches.”
        My eyes became teary too, as I listened to Yu.  All of us who have been here are inevitably bonded to the people of this land more or less in some ways.  We are not of the same blood line, nor do we have the same color of eyes or skin, nor speak in the same tongue.  But only because we allowed ourselves to be here at a time of great need, consciously or unconsciously, an imperfect offering we have made ourselves to be. To the people in need, to the hearts in distraught, even though we, ourselves, are as broken as we are in our own life.      

Blood Sucker in Shibuya

In between appointments, I had 1.5 hour wandering around by myself in Shibuya, one of the busiest districts in Tokyo.  As I was swimming through the sea of people, a red cross caught my eyes. It was the blood donation center of Red Cross Japan. For some reasons I thought to myself, “I have nothing to do now anyways, why don’t I go give blood?”
        Yup, just like that.
So a few moments later, I found myself filling out a form, given a locker, and in a roomful of snacks, free drinks and manga/magazines. Hagandez ice cream, donuts, cookies, sweets, and all you can drink free drinks ranging from sport drinks, coffee, carbonated drinks and hot soups.  I guess if they want to pump something out from you, they have to pump something in first and afterward XD  The corn soup and seafood flavor miso soup were yummy! 
The doctor who went through the questionnaire with me saw that I have filled Ofunato as my address, so he asked what I am doing about there. I told him I am a volunteer in the Northeast.  He told me he came from that area too, and his grandmother was lost in the tsunami too.  A strange connection arose from inside, and we smiled at each other.  An unimaginable disaster of deep waters and trembles has destroyed countless lives. But somehow, in some inexplicable ways, lives from different worlds and all walks of life are intertwined through this web of debris, loss and death.  Whether willingly or unwillingly, Tohoku, is the place that has linked us all together.  However the circumstance we met, as Ann Sally sings, “I am glad that you came inside my life.” 

Friday, January 6, 2012

My First...

Before I hitted the Asakusa house, I had the honor to have my first Osechi Ryori (御節料理) and first kotatsu (被爐)  in Yokohama.  Mrs Miyahara just has retired from her work this year.  She is an absolutely amazing cook!  She made the delicious Osechi set within 2 hours, I will definitely vote her for Japan top chef! ;D Osechi is a traditional Japanese new year food, usually eaten on the new year’s day.  While Mrs Miyahara was busy in the kitchen, I slipped into the kotatsu that I have wanted to try since a long time ago.  It is a short table with a heater on the underside. Covered with a thick blanket, people in the Japanese drama eat mandarin and shriveled up into a baked potato that doesn’t want to get out of the oven.  With that extremely comfortable picture in my mind, I submerged myself into the blanket world and waiting to get shriveled up.  So I waited. Waited.  And waited.  My arms and legs were still as cold as ever. (FYI, my Canadian friends, I really missed central heating!!)  I thought to myself sadly, is THIS it?  Is this as warm as kotatsu will get??
While I was mourning my warm picture of kotatsu, Mrs Miyahara came out from the kitchen, took a look at me still in full winter coat and scarf, took a look at the kotatsu switch, then exclaimed, “The kotatsu wasn’t turned on!  Why didn’t you say anything?” 
I blinked, blushed, and shriveled into a mushroom and replied in a small voice, “It was my first time in a kotatsu…”

Nonetheless, I love being a baked mushroom! ^o^ 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Happy New Year!

It was a chilly new year in Tokyo.  Wind was blowing hard, but it was warm inside my friend's common house. I have come back to Japan after my grandpa's funeral in Hong Kong, my friend Chiyo has kindly offered me a place to stay along with all her amazing housemates in Asakusa.  They truly made me feel like at home!   For the short few days I have stayed, Chiyo has managed to forgot that I was merely a guest and turned to me to ask for direction and things along that line around her area, only to find me blinking blank at her XD  On the new year's eve, Paul, our friend from volunteering at Mother Teresa's place in Kolkata popped by to visit.  We ate vegetable hot pot, steamed egg with shiki (me!), yakisoba (fried noodles) and drank together.  Topics ranged from education, music, faith, dating, dreams etc spurred over the food and beer with lots of laughter.  Then Chiyo and I retreated from the crowd, spent a quiet time of praying and singing as we crossed over from 2011 to 2012.
Thank you Chiyo, Kei, Kent, Yuko and Yoshi for making my new year!