Yesterday I was far too tired to write. But I’m forcing myself to tonight. I want to never forget these emotions I am having and to regularly reflect on these experiences I’ve had. Yesterday, we went to the home of an older man who had a plot of land next to his home that must have been a beautiful garden at one time. It was now overgrown with weeds and had some debris that had been washed into it. We spent the whole morning and afternoon clearing out the land: Weeding, raking, and hoeing the area. We probably filled up about 60 trashbags, not even exaggerating. The work that took us one day with 14 people, and would’ve taken the elderly man weeks or months probably.
When we came back to our temporary “home” where we were staying, Koichi brought over his students to interact with us. Koichi is when of the Japanese people who have been spending a lot of time with us. He is a “cram” teacher. Which means a private school teacher. Junior high students come to him between four to nine for private tutoring. A lot of pressure for perfectionism is placed on the youth of Japan, as well as a need to excel in their schooling. Many students go to an after school program which consists of private tutoring to help them get into a good junior high school, which will help them get into a good high school, which will then help them get into a good college. We had dinner with Koichi’s students and just sat and talked with them. It was pretty difficult for some of them to speak with us. Noah sat down with Julia and I and two fifteen-year-old girls to help us talk to them. Noah asked them in Japanese, “Would you like to practice your English?” And he told us that one of them replied in Japanese, “Why would I? English is my least favorite subject.” However, they eventually opened up a bit to us and answered our questions a bit after repeating ourselves multiple times. Some of the students believed they would never use English, and therefore didn’t want to practice. They thought they would never use English because in Ishinomaki, they never saw foreigners. Some of the people of the town had never seen an American before.
Today John, his wife Chaco, and Koishi were our guides. We went to the Ground Zero of where the tsunami hit. It was so surreal. In front of us was a sea wall that was there for protection from tsunamis, but it couldn’t even compare to the size of the waves. The waves were so large that they were over the trees in the distance. Right near the water was a school house that got completely destroyed by the tsunami. When we entered the school, it held an eery atmosphere. There was about a foot of sediment on the ground which had been washed in by the ocean, the cords and insulation inside the ceiling were completely exposed and hanging down, there was even some dead fish on the ground that had been swept in, but among that, children’s books still sat on a shelf, and drawings from children were still pinned on a board, and mathematics writings on a dry-erase board could still be interpreted. It is strange to think that not even an hour before the tsunami, the children were going through a normal day of schooling, unaware of the disaster ahead of them.