Hey! I`m Hope from the USA studying at a University in Portland, Oregon.
The day I arrived at Kesennuma I was taken to the humble home I would stay in.
After dropping off my suitcase and meeting the rest of the volunteers, everyone piled into the van.
Our volunteer leader Naru announced that we would be driving to see the dammage from the Tsunami in Kesennuma.
At first I didn`t notice anything. All the architecture looked normal, but only after a while did I reallize that the buildings were starting to appear
shorter and shorter with missing pieces of stone and cracks and sometimes completely tilted about to fall over and the closer we got to the beach,
the remains of buildings were completely level to the ground.
The stone outlines in the soil were all that remained of victim`s homes. I was seeing only the floor of where victims used to walk. It felt so eerie
and the only sound for miles was of the construction crew working on repairing the town. I could tell which part of the house was the bathroom,
the kitchen, the family room etc etc. My biggest shock yet was when we all stopped to view the giant ship that had killed many on its distructive
journey to its final resting place maybe more than a mile from the ocean. Underneath the ship we saw a crushed vehicle. Even worse was to
imagine there might still be someone who was in that car who couldn`t escape in time. We saw many building remains and the silence was
something I have never experienced before. We saw an old train station so unrecognizable, it looked like only a railroad track with a staircase
and 4 chairs. That was all that remained. Seeing the old pictures of how Kesennuma looked only maybe eight months ago showed that
construction crews and volunteer groups had come a long way with repairing the town despite its already gimm appearance which put things
into perspective. My shock resulted mainly from my lack of first hand experience with natural distasters. You see them on tv, you hear about it in
the news, but to be there in person was completely surreal and helped me to realize the importance of volunteering for this cause. After
discussing with the rest of the volunteer group and listening to Naru, I found my goals as a volunteer to be a little more clear. When I made
contact with the victims for the first time in a classroom setting where both studying and play were an option, I was rather surprised. Most of the
highschool students who attended seemed as if the disaster never happened because they were so open and friendly to a foreigner despite going
through a disaster and probably not being ready for culture shock. Many seemed interested to talk to me and there was even some laughing.
There were some however, who remained very quiet and kept to themselves, which is very understandable. On a more recent occasion, we visited
the Goemongahara temporary shelter. It`s a baseball field that has been converted into homes for the survivors. I was able to participate in
helping younger children to study and also introduced them to some simple english. Many seemed eager to learn. I can`t imagine what each of
those children must have experienced or if they lost family members or friends, but my goal was to keep the mood upbeat and happy. After math
and english, we played outside with jumprope and a game of soccer. The children were very open and social which was another surprise to me
given the gravity of the situation. On another note, I also got the oportunity to meet the owner of a reputable hotel. Eiichi Kato greeted our group
warmly and introduced himself to me. I was shocked to discover he had gone to college at the same state where I am from. Oregon. His wife also
greeted us with great hospitality. Mr. Kato gave me a small packet of paper to read and told me it was from an interview about his experience
during the Tsunami. After leaving the hotel, I reallized that his hotel was used as an emergency shelter for hundreds of people during the
distaster and that they had played a key role in aiding the Kesennuma victims. The story also told of a devastating challenge to overcome death,
chaos, and loss. Reading his description of seeing the Tsunami wave approaching was more real to me than anything I had ever heard or seen on
the news in America. After reading his entire experience, I felt a great respect for him and his wife for doing so much for Kesennuma. They lent
blankets and even their best rooms reserved for guests and were resourceful with their limited resources. I was really impressed. I hope to
contibute something of such value to the Tsunami victims and make it a memorable experience. I also hope to spread Mr. Kato`s story to others
in America so they can understand the truth about the Tsunami and its full impact on the Japanese people. Thank you for your outreach to