This is our team. Five people from the team are deaf. I’m off-screen because I’m the one to photograph.
March, 7th was a one-year anniversary of the powerful earthquake and subsequent tsunami that hit Japan in 2011. All of us took a day-off and rented a bus to go to the city of Isinomaki. We were going to live in a guest house and help.
Most of us saw each other for the first time. The guy in the middle wearing a grey jacket is a legend. He’s a Chinese born in the USA. His parents were deaf but he didn’t. He wanted to become an actor but then received a diploma in American Sign Language (ASL). He knew it since childhood but wanted to perfect his knowledge. Then he moved to Japan to open his own center called Deaf Japan. He speaks three languages (English, Chinese and Japan) and three sign languages. I met him in his center. He is a brillliant teacher. And my guru.
It was not easy for me to wake up at 6 a. m. after 16 hours of sitting on the bus. This guest house for women is also a kitchen for 40 people. A lady (she also volunteered) made us breakfast. It was cheap and tasteless bread, cornflakes and milk. I was very happy to receive a banana and a tangerine later in the day.
A well-expected line to the restroom.
The smiling lady is a 20-year old teacher of archery. She studies at a university in Kioto to become a nurse. On the right is my colleague, he lived in Australia.
Following the white truck.
I took photos on the way.
The huge wave washed off the entire city.
The coastline is surrounded with these black sacks. I sometimes see them in my nightmares.
This trash was part of cities or villages once…
These dumps are so tall!
We got off the bus near a building that looked like a school. This is where we were going to work.
This is Hi-San. He’s not deaf but he studied ASL and JSL (Japanese Sign Language) with Danny and finally opened his own school for deaf people across the street. I’m wearing a costume someone bought for the guest house.
This guy is deaf but super funny!
The girl on the right in a brown cap is Kaoru. She’s deaf and she likes to travel. She’s visited a bunch of countries.
We were told what we had to do. We were to remove sand and dirt from drainage discharges. Japanese people wear masks because they are probably allergic to something.
We received spades and got down to work.
Loading sacks with dirt onto the truck.
The boy wearing blue pants is not deaf but he studied ASL with Danny. Sign languages help develop your vocabulary so he speaks English really well! The girl on the left is from America, she is deaf. She can speak well.
The sacks were leaking.
Rebecka is a teacher from English Colorado. It’s her second trip to Isinomaki.
Following the white truck again.
There is someone’s boat in the middle of the field.
Here in Japan, they collect what’s left after destroyed homes to use their concrete for road construction. Very clever!
Buoys are scattered around. I don’t get surprised anymore when I see one hanging from the tree.
Walls are what’s remained from this home.
Those two people in the background are volunteers from the white truck.
We were instructed again. We were to remove trash from the seaside. They asked us to be careful because they wanted us to return home safe and sound. They didn’t want accidents.
This is where we were to work.
Those two guys in the background are American marines. They were not sent here to work. They volunteered too.
How’s that possible? The tsunami destroyed houses but left tableware intact!
Danny pushes a cart full of junk.
We fooled around from time to time not to go crazy.
Junk has to be sorted out – fuel, plastic, glass, concrete, metal…
When one of the restrooms became clogged, our team had to fix it.
I found this in a pile of junk…
This wooden squirrel beloned to someone…
We had rice balls for lunch and heated tea on that heater.
Suddenly, we heard some noise. It seemed like there was a train coming… But it was impossible!
I saw a wave which later disappeared.
Then we learnt about a 6-magnitude earthquake but kept on working.
We are on the second floor.
When we finished, we had to wash the carts.
They wished us a safe trip home and asked us to donate some money (about $1.2). Everybody did.
We had dinner and went to bed. We had 6 hours to sleep. We had a lot of work to do and the next day promised to be just as hard.
What are you waiting for? Make photos of your day and send them in!