Yesterday I attended the orientation session for my trip with Peaceboat to Ishinomaki. In the run up to the series of bank holidays that occurs at the start of May called Golden Week, Peaceboat were overrun with volunteers and were turning people away; since then, numbers have fallen away dramatically and they are struggling to find people: now is the time to go.
The satellite image has been updated by Google to show the way it looks now, but drag the little man to street view and you can still see what used to be there.
I have been asked more than once lately whether things are getting back to normal, because it hasn’t been in the news lately. The answer to that is very simply no. Not even remotely. The truth is that it hasn’t been in the news lately because nothing has changed and an unchanged situation doesn’t sell copy. There are still towns that were totally obliterated and where the clean-up hasn’t even started; there are still thousands living in evacuation centres with just a small amount of rice and bread to eat; there are still busses on top of apartment blocks and ships in what were once bedrooms. Festering mud encapsulates rotting animal carcasses in peoples homes and livelihoods and lives are still destroyed. The official death toll still lies at around 15000 dead, 9000 missing.
Right now, the things most concerning me about this trip are how well I will be able to sleep, the smell, whether I will cope with the hard physical labour, how much gear I have to carry and how I will cope with not washing for 8 days.
I am fairly certain that, once I get there, those will seem trivial and irrelevant concerns.