Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Hamu and Eggu

Posts will be a little bit higgledy piggeldy (don’t think I have ever seen that written downJ) but here goes one of the stories I partook in while revisiting the Rikuzentakata Ofunato areas.

            Before leaving Okinawa, I got in touch with everyone I had met up North through the last few trips. The people I’ve dropping lines to all year to see how things are evolving for them. One lady has been an amazing fountain of information. If it weren’t for her there would be no Tufty, Setsuo,
She helped to smooth out some of the wrinkles officialdom comes with. This trip was no different.

On our long distance phone call she mentioned that she had heard of an elderly woman in the temporary housing who had been admitted to hospital. She knew the lady had two cats and was contemplating rehoming them. She said she would get in touch and let me know if she needed any help. I called her when I arrived in Ofunato. I had a car, space and I was ready to rumble. I was hitting my gears, I was back in the groove. Then a reality check rained down on me. The owner of the two cats had lost her husband and son in the tsunami. She lived in the Kasetsu jyutaku alone with just her two four year old furries. She had had a very bad year. Depression slowly sidled its way into her life and along with it a myriad of other problems. Her relatives helped as much as they could. Their focus was naturally on her, not her kitties. The cats had spent some time alone at home before the word got out that they were there.
While a little perturbed, they bounced back well and once they found themselves in human company again, world order was restored. Except it was only a temporary solution. Hamu and Eggu had been given to a relative who had allergies who then in turn had to find someone who would take them in. Up steps my Ofunato friend and takes the two, four year old cuddlers to her rented accomodation. She let the family know that they had options with us. They said they would get back to me. That afternoon a text told me we could pick them up on our last day. That evening a text told me we couldn't.  Same again the next day. The heartbreaking decision that was being worked through for this family was just awful. Our last day saw us driving into Ofunato on a 'yes' but getting to the traffic lights before the pick up point on a 'no'. I decided to drop off one of our Japanese flyers so they could take their time in deciding. I met with my friend and she was profusely apologetic for something that was really quite out of her hands. 

She reported they didn't want the cats to be separated, as they had been together since birth and been literally velcroed to each other ever since. I have always heard it is a bad idea to split up a bonded pair of dogs so I presumed the same would go for cats. A quick call to Susan to hear what the JCN policy is on that point and a resounding 'no splitting' was heard loud and clear from the other end of the line. It is a bad idea all around, the cats will have a harder time adjusting to the loss of their 'bestie' which may manifest itself in behaviour problems from despondency on one end of the spectrum to agitation and acting out at the other end. 

These two puddings already had enough chopping and changing without subjecting them to it all over again. The owner was reassured that if these two are going anywhere then it would be together. She decided it would be the right thing to do by her furbs and relinquished them to JCN. We drove them to Inawashiro where they got their shots updated.They are holding their own in the quarantine room but are not happy about the limited up down space arrangements. They had a whole Kasetsu jyutaku before. I've been telling them 'not long now, not long now' but that excuse is wearing thin.They are ready to get out of their 4 storey condo and hopefully into a new home environment. Cats that know nothing but an indoor life like these handsome boys, get a tad stressed in shelters. It is kind of like being accustomed to 5 star hotels and then finding yourself in a dorm room in a youth hostel. All going well they will be out of the Qzone by the end of the week. I'll be sure they get an extra tickle and cuddle session or five to tame the turmoil. 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Flying visits

Possibly the only photo in this blog where you'll see me wearing a dress:-)
As I mentioned in the last update I flew home for a very brief visit. I had been invited to a reception in the Japanese Ambassador to Ireland's residence. He and his wife wanted to extend their gratitude to those Irish people who had contributed and are still contributing to Japan's recovery. It was a very pleasant evening and my mother and I met a lot of very interesting people. I was pretty nervous while lining up to greet the Ambassador but needn't have been. He and his lovely wife were very friendly and relaxed.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Today........March 11th 2012

Like this day last year, I'm in Ireland. Thankfully there was nothing as dramatic or horrifying on the TV news this time around. Today I attended a beautiful concert in aid of children suffering from PTSD in the Tohoku region.

My heart goes out to everyone connected to Tohoku and all the emotions that will resurface today. For those who lost loved ones and those who are still hoping to find closure for their personal journey. Today part of Higashi-Matsushima Shi was here in Dublin with me.

In May last year I visited a small coastal town that saw its world turned upside down in a heartbeat. I met comedian san,;postID=2881754181117456658 we had come back after our rounds of pet care and food drops and helped him and his friends clear debris. There was everything in the mountain we were working through. Hospital health records, sports trophies, single shoes, kids' toys (everywhere) and what caused the strongest stabs of sadness were the photos. The photos of happier times. Weddings, graduations, new babies every life milestone was in these mountains of debris.

The place we were clearing was about 3 miles inland. We were at the foot of a hill.The whole town arrived onto the Sanno's property as the natural topography stopped the laden wave in its path.They not only had their own destruction to deal with but everyone else's as well. The tractors, the garden sheds, the washing machines, the fridges, the villager's belongings were there piled up to the second floor level in what used to be the Sanno's garden. And this was MAY already 2 months later.

We worked, we lifted, we dug, we disentangled all afternoon . When it was time to drive back to Sendai Mrs. Sanno pulled Jackie and I aside. She wanted to give us a gift for all our hard work. This lady whose home was in tatters and spread half way up the hill behind her lot wanted to give us gifts.

She lifted the tissue ever so carefully to reveal three pieces of beautiful handmade jewelry. This was where I was sure that I had made a mistake. Oh, right........ it was to SHOW us what she had found not a present. Whew! at least I hadn't said anything. "Here you are" she said in perfect English. The first English I had heard her say all day. Pardon? I reconfirmed in Japanese.Yes, she wanted us to chose one each.
She had found them in the debris behind her house. She had made them by hand. That afternoon when we were pulling cables from the debris she had found her bedroom contents strewn between the bamboo trees behind her home. She had carefully spent the afternoon rinsing the mud off from between the beads, stones, wires and clasps of her creations.She had painstakingly cleaned every last trace of mud from them and presented them to us as a gift of gratitude.

We had been in this position before, all attempts at refusal are brushed off. You can try as we did to gently say no, but it is futile. You'll leave with what you are being proffered.TIme and time again I heard, "this is the Japanese way" as a guest in anybody's home I have never left empty handed, whether it be with left overs or fruit from the garden, if you have brought a gift with you, you can expect to leave with something too.

So today Sanno san was very strongly with me in spirit in the Peppercannister church in Dublin, Ireland. As I, with some of my family and some of her country's people here, remembered the departed and wished those left behind some ease in their pain.