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The Diary: June 7

June 24, 2011

These are a few more pix of the wrecked neighbourhood around our base camp.

Neighbourhood scene 1

Neighbourhood Scene 2

Neigbourhood Scene 3

Neigbourhood Scene 4

June 7, Tuesday

Today dawns hot and sunny. After morning exercise we are given the assignment: to clean sludge from the gutters along one block where some houses are still standing. Because of the nature of the job, we dress in full waterproof gear, which is excruciating in the 30-degree heat.

First we assess the situation. The sludge is lying under 10-15 cm of black water. It is impossible to bag it without first mixing it with dry soil. We locate an empty lot around the corner from which we cart soil and dump it on the street in caldera shapes. We then scoop out the liquid sludge from the gutter, mix it into the dry soil, and shovel it into bags. The planning of all this takes a lot of time, and with frequent breaks for rest and drinks, our progress is slow. After lunch, our rhythm established, we pick up the pace and complete more of the gutters than we had been assigned. It is, however, a rather Sisyphean task, as the gutters all around are still blocked with sand and sludge, and the toxic black water has no place to run out.

In mid-afternoon Ted (“Big Boss”) comes to us. He has been talking to Suzuki-san, an old man who lives just across the street. His garden is full of small debris, dry sludge, and broken glass and he is working valiantly to clean it by himself. His grown children won’t help him because they want him to abandon the house. It is wrecked inside but still sound and he wants to keep it and live out his remaining days there with his wife. Ted asks us to help him as much as we can, because he looks so sad and needs to know that someone cares. We send three people over at first, and then as we wind up the gutter work, more of the team joins the effort. We fill up many bags with debris from his garden, and it looks much better when we leave.

It has been such an exhausting, hot sweaty day, we are desperate for a bath or shower, and hatch a plan to go and rent a room at the local love hotel “Kiss” just to be able to use the shower. To our great joy, it turns out not to be necessary, as Peaceboat has arranged a surprise visit to the local onsen (hotspring)!

At 5:30 we load onto the bus and head over to the onsen. The hot showers and shampoo, the scalding hot baths–so taken for granted in our everyday lives–are like a dream that is over too soon. Everyone is so pleasantly drowsy and relaxed afterwards it is impossible to stay awake for very long after returning.

Break time in the cool shade of what was a tiny park

Suzuki-san's front garden, after the cleanup

Ready to go home after a hard, hot day's work

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