It’s addictive really. Something changes inside of you after volunteering in Ishinomaki. Or maybe nothing changes. Maybe something wakes up. It would be superficial to call it by any range of emotion it covers. Instead I will refer to it as belonging. For the first time in three years of living in Japan, I belonged, I’m needed, I fit. Even those born or raised here seem to leave Ishinomaki with that same sense of belonging. Where does that come from?
Touching that cyclical rythmn of life, for just a moment, inevitably leaves you unbearably thirsty, extravagantly wiser, and horribly exhausted.
Four more days we spent there. Our team shoveled, shoveled, and shoveled. The stories are never ending. A woman related her house’s survival due to a tree transplanted by her late father. A burly sea urchin fisherman gave us a CD of his son’s band’s tribute to Ishinomaki. And an elderly resident thanked me for being the object of her laughter after terribly dancing the so-ren setsu (a traditional fisherman dance) [I'll post pictures once I have permission].
We worked side by side teams of Japanese people from throughout Japan. We worked side by side residents helping neighbor’s rebuild. We worked side by side those who’s homes disappeared along with the water. Every connection we made will last a lifetime, I can feel it.
Not to mention, every night we ate and slept with many other volunteers. We had a miniature society of kind hearted slightly crazy people all placed in one room. During the day, I belonged to a cleaning crew. During the night, I suddenly belonged to a giant slumber party. I have so many memories from such a short period of time. We did yoga, played card games, shared food (of which I had very little… Everyone remembers my noodles for that is basically all I had)… We even have inside jokes (CMMだよです). There are no words in my limited English and Japanese vernacular. Needless to say, I’m ecstatic to have met such wonderful people.
Is that why I’m begging to go back?
It’s deeper than that.
Yes, everything I’ve tried so desperately to relay in the past few posts bleed with the attempt at portraying the beauty of Ishinomaki coupled with the beauty of volunteering… It’s not my reason for wishing to go back. I also think it isn’t the reason anyone goes back. It may be wonderful to help, and enjoying the process adds a lot, but that’s just the surface.
If you think about it, If you delve into the desire to return, If you pause for a moment and look around, it’s everywhere. The tsunami, water, buried homes and countless lives, but the world goes on. The gardeners tend to their gardens. The fisherman take up new posts. A society licks its wounds. Like a phoenix, a city rebuilds.
This cycle, this key moment where creation replaces devastation, destruction, and dilapidation, is key. Touching that natural cycle of creation, being a part of the order of things, and having a chance at placing yourself in the crux of recreation. That’s where it comes from.
That is why I’m going back.