You stepped on a what?!

I gawked with obvious miscalculations. “Yeah, it was  knife. You should buy a steel insole” Immediately, I penned a memo.  20 minutes earlier the orientation meeting for Peace Boat volunteers ended with directions to split into our small groups.

“I shall pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”
Mahatma Gandhi

Today, I had the pleasure of attending a very informative meeting regarding the volunteer activities I will be participating in from May 20th until May 28th. As far as what I will be doing, I don’t know just yet. It’ll range from shoveling sludge to cooking food for displaced fellows.

Where will you be going?

Sitting to the left of my team leader, I glanced at the other four members. Together, the six of us represented four different countries from varying walks of life. How each one of us came to be sitting around ‘Volunteer Insurance’ forms boggles the mind. As with any volunteering, all participating burst with enigmatic, slightly eccentric, and wonderfully explosive personalities. I’ve known them for roughly two hours, however I couldn’t help laughing at our immediate friendships. Cutting myself from the daydream, I looked to my right. One of ‘Team Awesome’ (Yes… Yes… It’s official, and it’s awesome) was attempting to find Ishinomaki on a map.

To save all of you the trouble, here’s a link from Google Maps. That’s where I will be attempting to avoid getting stabbed in the foot.

What role do you play?

Earlier in the evening, I sat near the back right side of an gymnasium. About 200 people piled into the makeshift hall to be briefed on the current situation in Ishinomaki City. More than 90% of those present were Japanese and thus the presentation was in Japanese. For the foreigners, three interpreters strategically placed themselves among the ranks and whispered into our ears like ambassadors visiting the UN. The presentation, itself, was… well… a presentation. Being my forte, I found myself amazed at the presenter’s ability to present confidently and with concise precision. If he were a student of mine, he’d receive an A. Fading back into the room, I noted many small items I need to buy in the next few days.

After the first ninety minutes of orientation and pre-departure information, the foreigners gathered their things to move out of the main hall to discuss how our teams would be split. The coordinator presented our three team leaders, each of which heavily qualified translators. To determine which team we would be placed into, we were asked a series of questions. The first of which, “Who is fluent in Japanese?” My instinctual ‘kind of’ hand wave rose into the air. A man to my right asked for clarification on the meaning of ‘fluent’. The coordinator said, “If you understood the entirety of the presentation you just heard, that’s fluent enough.” I thought back. During the presentation I had listened to the Japanese and English filtering into my ears. As with my regular study behavior, I translated the Japanese in my head and checked it against the English being fed into my mind. I’m not fluent (just ask ANY of my friends) in Japanese, but I understood the presentation with ease.

I rose my hand.

I was the only person to raise my hand. Two other people had already spoken about their fluency, so the three of us were split among the three team leaders. Alongside those leaders, the other members were decided through other dividing factors. Those factors included Manual Transmission drivers, gender, and preference.

As nervous as the new responsibility that gesture has bestowed on me, I’m more worried that my team members might think I’m much cockier than I really am.

SO, What can WE do for the people of the affected area?

As I mentioned, our team consists of four different countries. Our team leader relayed a very important message to us that I’ll try to paraphrase from memory here. “We have international teams alongside our Japanese teams for a reason. The local people will see you, and what you represent is the world. Everything you do for them will multiply”

From that, I gather that many options exist for people wishing to help. As I learn more, I will relay any ways we can all help. Because the travesty, although local in nature, represents so much.

The out-pour of international support will, by itself, multiply.

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