Monday, April 25, 2011

Counting down

I can hardly keep my head on straight let alone focus. I have 3 days of normality before returning to chaos. Three days of business as usual before unadulterated mayhem. It is mind blowing to know that in this same country only a couple of hours up the road pandemonium reigns supreme.At the very same time I was sunning myself on an Okinawan seawall just T-shirt clad and flip-flopped last weekend, someone in an Iwate school gym/shelter was willing their coat to close a little better and their new shoes to be half a size bigger.

I'm sitting here at home with one of my fourleggeders on the kitchen chair beside me,  another on the recliner (no-less), another actually using a pet bed(!) and the newest addition is honing her mouse catching skills upstairs lest that be a problem for us in the future.My blessings are counted and they are all within my reach.Overseas family by phone and furbs by just crinkling a treat bag. Yes, I know the correct later half of that sentence should read " ...and furbs by calling their name." but they don't do names anymore they have informed me, they do names ONLY if followed by treats. They have us well trained, and we are only too happy to tickle exposed bellies, throw slimy half chewed toys or (even though it took a while) give up the recliner:-)

Tonight I spoke with the lady who gave the group her three cats to mind. She was upbeat even though she is still living in a school gym 6 weeks after losing everything.I admire her resilience, she has been told they will start moving people into temporary quarters "soon" and that the latest they will be housed will be by July. In my head I raised my voice and said "WAIT.......Did you say JULY?  I can't even begin to imagine" however the words that I put to my voice were along the lines of "not long now". I sure hope her number comes up sooner rather than later.

She had been in touch with the shelter and they had told her the cats were doing well. I'm going to be at the shelter by the end of this week. I promised I would take photos of them and send them to her.She is missing them like crazy and is worried if they'll recognize her after so long.While the photos help, a cuddle or five would definitely go a lot further. Well, all you animal lovers out there know that yourselves! Go on,  give the furries in your life a snuggle right now, because you CAN:-)

I've the last of my donation pick ups tomorrow evening. I'll most definitely be overweight again. THANK YOU for making me so. This is one time it really doesn't matter.I only wish I had more hands oh and of course baggage allowance.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Ding Ding Ding!!! Round TWO

This is the last year in my current job and a fact that is not overtly advertised was uncovered ten days ago. I  found out that we are entitled to 5 days of volunteer leave per annum! Add that to my upcoming Golden Week holidays and I am free and clear to head north for 9 days to volunteer for the animals again.I'll be using two of those unique days and save the rest for a little further down the line. That way,  further into the academic year a banal one day mid-week national holiday combined with one personal day could mean 8 days of dedication to Tohoku. Sorry for the lapse into numbers there, but juggling the personal days, with national holidays, with "refresh" days, volunteer days, "mental" days and "special circumstance"days may seem like hair splitting to folks in a western work environment but it is power for the course at this National University. The skill and dexterity required to navigate officialdom and kanji-dense paperwork is a constant eye-opener, both in literal and metaphoric terms.

Bureaucratically signed off on, I am endorsed to hit the road........... as long as I wear a mask. I will, and I shall provide photographic evidence thereof. I'll use my personal weight allowance to get animal supplies north with me but it is only 23kg/ 50-ish lbs of checked in luggage as in only 5  or 6 bags of pet food. I use my  carry-on allowance for personal stuff, you know like a change of clothes or two.------side note!!!---- Here, (as in , "in Japan") you are allowed to have a "shopping bag" full of omiyage (souvenirs), in addition to your carry on bags when boarding. On my last trip to Tohoku the bewildered X-ray machine staff were scratching their heads at my outwardly touristy "I Love Okinawa" emblazoned bag filled to breaking point with pet pee pads.They dutifully scanned them and now they grace the floors of the wonderful Niigata shelter I had the privilege of volunteering for.

I copied the "wish-list" from the JEARS page. If anyone wants to help out, I am more than willing to bring this stuff up with me or even ship it to one of the shelters in the JEARS coalition. They predict that the kitten formula and puppy formula is going to see a hike in demand as the Fukushima cats and dogs that have been let loose to fend for themselves since the evacuation advisories mix and match.This, paired with the fact that spaying and neutering is not as common in Japan as it is in the west when it comes to responsible pet ownership should see a population explosion within in the next few months.This formula is nutrient dense and can also be used to provide sustenance to the animals coming in from areas their owners had not expected to be gone for very long from.These guys are often in very very poor condition.

 fleece blankets        warm clothes for dogs-all sizes                dog toys   cat toys    scratching boxes or posts        washable dog/cat beds or pillows                             treats
 newspapers (for cages)
 rolls of plastic “potty” bags  (100Yen store)        pet sheets
 bath towels             washcloths                               paper towels
 laundry detergent    dish detergent          heavy duty trash bags                              antibacterial hand soap (volunteers)
 canned cat food   (Anything high quality as incoming kitties will need  al the nutrition they can get)  
 dry cat food    (Anything high quality as incoming kitties will need  al the nutrition they can get)                                 
(KMR) kitten milk formula  sturdy food and water bowls       katsuobushi             litter boxes
 litter box sand         cat shampoo/conditioner          nylon collars
 dog crates and kennels            cat carrier
 (Anything high quality as incoming doggies will need  al the nutrition they can get)  
 canned dog food   
 dry dog food         (Anything high quality as incoming doggies will need  al the nutrition they can get)  
sturdy food and water bowls   Puppy milk formula     Epiotic Ear Wash Liquid
nylon collars and leads (all sizes)            dog shampoo/conditioner
 sterile gauze            saline solution
 bandages for dogs and cats      antiseptic wipes for pets         cotton balls              Q-tips
Pedialite (Non-flavor, non-sugar re-hydration food for infants (good for dehydrated malnourished animals)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Maruko's story the you tube version:-)


There wasn't a rude name under the sun that my computer didn't get called while making this video. As mentioned before, I am technologically UNgifted and am of the generation where computer games were rectangles that went up or down on either side of a screen rebounding a square 'ball' back and forth. Today's cyberlife is foolproof, which is precisely the reason I can't get in;-)

So I said "watch this space" right? Well, sorry for not having given you that much to look at since I have been back. Work started and the nose got re-positioned to align with the grindstone again. In the in between parts I have been keeping my volunteer experiences very much to the fore. I managed to secure a donation of 500 packs of really awesome Indian curry to the very hard-working volunteers based out of Niigata. If you are in Japan I thoroughly recommend you try these 'excellent-for-camping-trips-bags-of-delicious-ness':-) They do mail order too.One tip, go with the milder ones first because they sure do pack some punch in the spicy stakes.

So what next? I am heading up North again for 9 days and will be volunteering with the same group. I will not be using paypal all......ever again if I can help it. As I said before, they froze the account and have not been forthcoming as to what happens next.I will keep donaters informed personally rather than publicly.It is a bit of a shame that a person genuinely wanting to be proactive has so much red tape between them and the good deed.This time I'm choosing the "simple" route, if anyone wants to send me on my way with a bag of dog food, a cat scratcher or a hamster wheel, I will be more than willing to take them on their behalf. Same goes for cash in brown paper envelopes. That will be used to whittle down the recently replenished pet food section at a branch of Costco in Tokyo. if you would like to ask me any questions.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Aaaand she's back.

My two feet are now back on the island I call home. It is great to be here and not there but also hard to slip back into my "normal" life. Add seven days of very little sleep to the cocktail of devastation, language barriers and confused animals and you have yourself a potent concoction of frazzled emotions. That is of course if emotions can be "frazzled". I know they can be 'mixed' but that just seemed too tame a word to use when trying to paint a vivid picture. So back to meetings, orientations, schedules and appointments............. hmmmmmm the box I am trying to put my northern experience into so I can file it away is not closing properly.

I haven't found anything yet that is more mentally satisfying than volunteering for a cause you wholeheartedly believe in. It is so important not to take the initial nay sayers to heart especially when you are travelling alone. On day two I got an anonymous email from a reader of a site that I had posted a "donations wanted" ad.That person chose to douse my good intentions in barrage of unfounded accusations.  My plan still very much in its infancy, faltered as I wondered whether or not I should proceed. It was at that crossroads I stopped to gather my thoughts. That person's assumptions were based on her/his experience of society not mine. Thankfully, my possibly naive opinion has us humans marked down as "at the core: good". As you have read I ignored the signpost that pointed to the town named Complacency.

I had the absolute pleasure of volunteering not only with people from all over Japan, but people from all over the world. I'm Irish Kate from Okinawa and the Maruko story below unfolded while working together with British Karl from Hokkaido, American Susan from Shiga and American Ron from, well, America. The volunteers are coming in on a rotation basis as everyone puts in the time they can under the umbrella. Some were there for 10 days, others 3 and mighty mighty Susan and Isabella from the start.There is still a lot of work to be done and a lot of support to be given. I'm not going to sit back and check this off my list yet. Watch this space!

Some of the Rikuzentakata volunteer group with donated road trip snacks. (Ron P's photo)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Notification of change of address

This little white haired boy looks the image of the dog that advertises cellphones on Japanese TV. He had as much personality but was not of stocky model type build;-) You know the way that goes!

He was the very first "meeter and greeter" at the Junior high school evacuation center for me and he gladly showed me around his cardboard box. (pictured on top). His caretaker was a densely clad young man in his mid thirties. I met him at 6.30am before people were 'supposed' to be up and when the temperatures were  still attempting to freeze the words leaving the mouths of speakers by clouding them in wisps of vapour. He was just checking that Ryu had made it through the overnight low temperatures and was feeding him his meagre  breakfast. He was the very first owner on the pet scene (by a long shot) that day. The volunteers approached enthusiastically looking for some good to do but Ryu's guardian refused help on all levels, even to change out his dog's cardboard box for a proper kennel. Hmmmmm, head scratching and  doushiyoh doushiyoh?  (What to do? what to do?) Our naive expectations of  everyone who (clearly) needed help (by our standards), actually wanting help was a bubble bursting experience. Putting my basic communicative Japanese to the test I talked to the guardian about Ryu's uncanny likeness to the cell phone dog. Yes, he admitted, Ryu got that a lot. but he didn't let it go to his ego:-) Ahhhhh good, a dog with a sound head on his shoulders. Gradually I came to the conclusion that Ryu actually shared his quirky personality with his person.
In most coastal towns where the tsunami hit there were warning sirens that went off, alerting citizens to the imminent danger. This man had heard them too. He told me he grabbed Ryu put him in the car and then went to get his parents. As politely as possible I asked were his parents ok. Once I received an affirmative answer I nudged him on the elbow and said "So you got Ryu first, are your parents still talking to you? " He almost bust a gut laughing, then sheepishly said they hadn't realised yet and made the gesture of "shhhhhhh" It was our secret. Swear you won't tell him I told you?:-)

Later in the day I saw Ryu had moved house to a newer more densely padded soft sided carrier case. I'm glad the owner accepted help. That is what we were there for and will continue to be as long as there are animals in need.What we as enthusiastic volunteers have to take from this experience is not "Yes, yes yes, we were right all along" but rather a lesson in communication. Build bonds, become another PERSON to the recipient not just a "swoop- in-giver". Even though he refused help outright at the start, eventually he accepted a bag of food and a new kennel for Ryu-chan. We are thrilled at the outcome, we only hope we tread softly enough over his pride that he is too.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Bad news from Paypal & a dog that made me laugh

So it seems that Paypal have labelled me a "Scam". The full fourlegged bellies in Niigata and Iwate can attest that I am not. If you were thinking of donating please do so at this link they are the group I am volunteering with.I will work out the issues that paypal have with my account but for the moment either donate above or hold onto the green.Thank you to all those who have donated thus far. Fortunately I had a lull in my donations and it seems the account was frozen after I had emptied it for the Costco trip.

Speaking of full bellies in northern Japan, how about this for a picture? The group got word of two dogs inside the exclusion zone that needed to be picked up. While nearing the area, the van driver spotted an old dog meandering in the street ahead. He was dizzy with hunger and as weak as they come. She had only brought travel crates for the two she knew she was going to pick up and the rest of the space was taken up by supplies.Obviously she wasn't going to "walk on by" so the old fella got loaded into the van where he literally thought he had died and gone to heaven. Having most likely not had a morsel to eat in the last two weeks and his gait verifying his compromised state, suddenly he was surrounded by a gift from the Gods a truck load of food. He lost control, not just a bit, but with every last sinew of muscle in his skinny body he launched himself at the supplies. Very little escaped his rapture! A complete and utter mess was created, soft food pouches were pierced and leaked everywhere several bags of dog food were ripped open and kibble littered the floor.I couldn't help chuckling to myself when organising the clean up, I mean can you imagine? talk about winning the lottery:-)

This was all intact before the "Inspections officer" got to it:-)

Fortunately very little went to waste, in total about half a bag of dog food. We used the opened bags and pouches with the animals already at the shelter and where feasible we taped up bags and sent them out again.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Tears and their lessons

Thank you to those powers that be that found me in front of a computer to write this. The phone's battery was not coping well with my long-winded stories.Not to mention that one finger typing does get a little brain frazzling:-)

On a euphoric high from our successful trip to the city pound for Maruko, I turned into the grounds of the evacuation center to rendez vous with a lady who was giving us three cats to mind until she got a place of her own.I saw a lady roughly shaking another. The older of the two was shorter and looking up to the lady who was bawling her eyes out, all the while encouraging her to be strong. Crash! I landed back down into reality.I didn't know what this young woman's story was but it was enough to make her weep in public. I put my head down and tried to pass their sadness unnoticed so as to not disturb them. I diverted my eyes and they landed on a car covered in dog stickers.

We are trying to help here on several levels, at the evacuation centers, at the pounds and individual to individual. If while out we heard dogs barking we would stop and see if the owner had enough food for the animal. If we saw indications that people were pet owners (like pet stickers on cars for example)  we would also ask if they needed anything. We visited an old folks home that had been turned into an evacuation center and while setting up a lady had walked by with her dog. We asked her with bags of food in our arms if she had enough food. Her instant well of tears told us no.She had been feeding her dog scraps for the last two weeks and hadn't been able to get any dog food at all.We loaded her up with as much as she could carry all the while tears streaming down her face.

At the same center we were getting ready to leave and a young girl who had been standing off to the side watching us unload our supplies of dog and cat food plucked up the courage to approach us. She fiddled with her hair nervously and asked if we had any rabbit food. I knew we didn't at that moment but that I would check when we got back to the main center we were based out of. She looked deflated and resigned to the idea. Everyone thinks of dogs and cats at these times because they are the most popular companion animals.I felt that we had let her down by our focus on the obvious. When we returned and were reloading the vans from our main vehicle a volunteer found a bag of rabbit food. It was brought back up that same afternoon. While I wasn't there to see it, all accounts were of a very grateful teary eyed teen.

I didn't know what to do with my own tears. They were always there, just out of everyone's view. No one really needed an emotional volunteer who had the luxury of walking away from it all at the end of the day to be a catalyst for more visits into their own grief. Not because I felt the need to be a "strong person" but because it kind of seemed likemy tears were selfish given what these people had been through. They had more rights to tears than I ever had here.I watched events unfold before me where my breath got caught so tightly between my mouth and lungs that the rim of the tear resevoir overflowed just a bit.Only once could I not get those floodgates closed properly.

We ran to the truck to get a few bags of dog food for the sticker covered car people. They had just started the engines and were preparing to leave. I got there and saw it was the older of the 2 ladies I had noticed on my way in.I asked if she needed dog food, she said she had been sorted out and was fine but that the 3 cat lady was waiting for us. We crossed the car park and there was the middle aged lady who had been getting a right shaking from the person we had just offered dog food to. She was calm, straightfaced and totally composed. She introduced us to her three adopted cats. Mi-chan 7 months old, Shu-chan 4 years old and Fu-chan 4 years old and paralysed since birth. They had been living in the back of her tiny box car for almost three weeks. They were amazingly friendly with all the volunteers and were deep in conversation with each other while their owner was telling us about their needs and health conditions.

Fu, Mi (tilted head) and Shu
These three were being temporarily being handed over to the Animal Friends shelter in Niigata. Their owner had no home to call her own anymore. She would sit in her car in the parking lot of the evacuation center and hang out with her cats for a few hours each day making sure they got the maximum doses of loving, cuddles and food she could fit in.They were also her little corner of sanity, her escape from the physical and bureaucratic mayhem that was being lived through outside the 2 doors of her car. Handing them over, even for a short while, seemed unfathomable. I admired her strength, she didn't know that I had seen her before she was introduced to us. I caught a glimpse into what she was feeling yet here she was being calm cool and collected. Time came to say goodbye and she sobbed softly as she told each kitty to be good and that she would be coming for them as soon as she could. Again I found myself hiding my face in the presence of this woman. If she saw my tears what would happen to her heavily dented floodgates? Too late, she looked up to say "Yoroshiku onegai shimasu" (Please take care (of them)) and saw my rivers. She smiled through her tears and said thank you. We hugged silently.

A volunteer takes Mi and Fu to the van for the journey "home"
As it turned out, our departure was delayed by the late return of one of our other vehicles. I met the lady again about an hour later. Both of us composed and talking as if nothing happened. She asked about our volunteering, the group and the volunteers themselves. She told us a bit about her story and my awe of what these people are going through just sky rocketed.When it truly came the time to say farewell she confided that her belief that she was doing the right thing was bolstered when she saw me cry. To her it said we actually truly cared for the animals we were taking in. She and Maruko's rescuer had got to talking and they ushered a young girl back into the center. She came out with boxes of juice and rusks for our journey back. We refused them. How could we take something from people who had nothing else? They insisted, we insisted, they insisted again. 'We have nothing, true, but if we have something to give, let us' this is Japanese tradition. We picked our jaws off the ground for what this lesson in humanity taught us. They don't want to just be recipients they need to feel that they are a part of their own journey to self sufficiency. While handouts do make these early days run a little bit easier, ultimately they see that sitting and waiting for those handouts does not make them proactive in the whole recovery process.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A former Fukushima resident

Maruko's journey (Part 2)

We had been told she was a large dog, but by the time we got there she had put on about 40lbs, grown a foot taller and been renamed Cujo because of the rumour mills and hearsay surrounding the case. The "Aggressive" label tends to bizarrely increase the animal's dimensions. Add to that the tendency that Japanese "large" whether it is T-shirt size or dog size tends to be quite a bit smaller than the western large size. We were convinced she was going to be far bigger than our largest crate. So out the back with us, and there in the dog catcher's truck was Maruko. A skinny scruffy slip of dog, who was beside herself with fear. She would sound off if anybody came within 5 feet of her cage. Junior was standing smugly off to the side arms folded on a belly he shouldn't have had for his age. This was not an unacheivable task it was just going to take some time. More time than usual and more time than city workers had to spare given the current situation the citizens found themselves in. It took 40 minutes to build up Maruko's trust in us so we could put on a slipleash and slowly let her out of the cage.She made a beeline for the grass and made two lengthy deposits. A bit of a short trot around the periphery and then to try and get her into the crate in our car. We decked it out special. It was laden with enticing treats and pink oversized fleece blanket. I mean what lady doesn't like a bit of pampering? The back of the jeep was too high for her to manage but the treats were calling her name. We couldn't yet hoosh her up as she seemed tender in her belly and hip area. We built a "stairway" out of dog food boxes  and she ably clambered up them to claim her prize.

On our 8 hour journey  to the shelter we stopped twice to let her out to stretch her legs and make organic contributions to the surrounding countryside. Now I may get a little too graphic for sensitive souls here so I apologise in advance. She must have pooped about 5lbs in the space of 9 hours. She hadn't been walked at all in the pound and some dogs just will not, however desperate, poop where they sleep.No wonder she was tender she had been in the pound for 5 days, that is a lot of build up. Each time we took her out she was more relaxed and less edgy.

We arrived at the shelter in Niigata and they had a room prepared for her she was in great spirits and was fine with being approached by strangers, unlike a few short hours ago. We walked her around her new surroundings and then led her to her private room. The couple who were helping the vet have promised to come for her when they get all their own ducks in a row. We visited her the next day when we were loading trucks to go out again. She greeted us with a big toothy grin and a tail wagging so hard it became blurry!

One happy happy lady:-)

Saturday, April 2, 2011

One human + One fourleggeder = Two Heroes (Part 1)

Today our group of volunteers had several tasks to attend to. We split up to get things accomplished more efficiently. Since people have a tendency to understand my broken Japanese just at the right time I was sent down to city hall with three other volunteers to meet a vet and a couple who had taken on the case of a remarkable soul, Maruko. We were ushered into a second floor city hall office. The door was opened and raised voices hit our ears. First off, let me preface this with Japanese people rarely, rarely RARELY argue or complain "loudly" in public. This situation looked like it was rapidly heading in the wrong direction. The three foreign faced volunteers walked in and the vet politely excused himself from the heated discussion, turned to introduce himself in perfectly enunciated English, greeted us individually with a deep bow and explained very calmly what was happening.

Maruko, a 14 year old medium sized terrier mix, had been trapped in the rubble of a house for 11 days with no food or water. She was miraculously pulled out alive, bruised, bewildered and in a bad mood. She was taken to the local pound where she let her displeasure at having had to wait so long to be found known. She mouthed and snapped at the over worked handlers who tried to get close. This meant
 she earned the label "agressive". By the time the town hall had located her owners in an evacuation center the city officials were feeding her but not walking her for fear of being really bitten.

Ku chan tied up under the shelter of the school's bike shed.
Her owners, having lost everything in the innundation, couldn't deal with a potentially aggressive dog in such a confined living space as the evacuation center. Dogs are not allowed inside and are chained up in the icy parking lot for owners to drop by when they can. The dogs get a lot of visitors during the day both young and old, owner and stranger. Human and canine destressing themselves with their interaction. A snapping dog is a liability. Maruko's people relinquished her future to city hall, a place where she
had made no friends at all and no one was on her side.

Maruko when we first met her
After this careful explanation Dr.Takahashi reengaged the bureaucrat. The young man, was refusing to let the vet see, examine or assess the dog. Today was Maruko's last day and the scheduled gassing was in the afternoon. The wheels of officialdom had been set in motion and as far as this entry level official was concerned this juggernaut could not be stopped. His logic was not making any sense to the vet or the couple who were willing to take Maruko to their home when they had turned their own situation right way up. He was obstinately not budging, asserting the power of the position he was transferring from in 1 month's time. Dr. Takahashi raised his hand in the air and waved to everyone in the room all the while stating in a much louder voice than before who he was, his profession and that he was being treated very irrationally and unfairly by the redfaced junior official. Like I said, making a public scene here is as uncommon as blue moons, and yet here was an overstretched, sleep deprived  individual battling against the bureacratic red tape for one of his long term patients. The fracas was intolerable for the head man in the room and he leapt to his feet to rein in the situation. Junior, Senior and vet huddled and in hushed tones spent 20 minutes hashing out a solution. Maruko could leave and the paperwork would take an hour. Vet and the supporting couple bowed repeatedly at the room at large and thanked the stressed officials effusively. Normality was restored, the city staff accepted their gestures of thanks graciously and the road bump was smoothed out. Now to actually go down and get this "cranky old lady".

Friday, April 1, 2011

destruction, destruction and more destruction

An entire traditional roof in blocking the road
Where to start? The light of day I suppose. The car park was full when we woke from our cramped sleeping quarters at the back of the Hiace. We had driven in after 1am and had had a brief yet powerful indication of what was to come. Driving through the areas by night meant the scene was only as large as the headlights and their periphery. While it somewhat softened the visual impact, the darkness and silence added a sense of foreboding. The only sounds were our wheels on the dirt tracks as they manouvered around obstacles that had no place being on the road. Yet there they were.
 People who heard the evacuation warnings and fled to higher ground with what ever they could fling into the car. In some cases that was pets in some cases that was clothes in most cases it was just themselves and family members present. Seeing the resultant devastation they fled from was nothing like I had ever seen before, ever! One of the group members is an American fire fighter who volunteered for the destitute animals of Katrina and the 2010 earthquake in Chile. He said neither were anything like what he was witnessing on the ground here. Walls of debris piled up either side of the road as high as three storey buildings. Houses just didn't collapse they turned inside out and upside down in the blender the tsunami unleashed. Cars were enmeshed in roofs, boats on top of apartment buildings and whole neighbourhoods just razed and transported further inland. Every so often you would see a teddy bear or a manga or a photograph within the mud and know that there were lives lived here, and now there was rubble.

The car navigation system said go straight
It was so ................ there isn't one word that I could use. It hasn't been created yet and I hope it won't be.I can only use a string of the most awful awful adjectives to describe the scenes.On the other hand the adjectives to describe the survivors are all so positive. It is impossible for any one person who lived in the areas not to have lost someone close. The very poignant feature of the 'Missing person walls' at the shelters was the lack of photos.People just didn't have them anymore.Whole towns literally lost all their worldly possessions in less than 20 minutes. People who worked out of town  but lost their houses in town were still finding ways to commute to work from the evacuation centers.I saw a firefighter and his team sifting through debris  out near the port and then later on the same man shuffled through the gates of the makeshift accommodation  and said "Ta daima" (I'm home)in whispered tones.