I lost my guesthouse room key a couple of weeks ago. I don`t know how. It takes a seriously high level of stupidity to lose something in a dwelling as small as our guesthouse, yet I managed it, and now because of my foolishness, I am going as a volunteer to north Japan.
Two weeks ago searching for the key downstairs, I bumped into Yuki, a Japanese girl in the guesthouse. She`s pretty, polite and might be single. For all these reasons. I have found her depressingly difficult to talk to.
Up until that day, we were on konnichiwa terms, no more than that. This time was different though; we had a meaningful conversation, starting with her legitimate question
“Why are you looking through the rubbish bin?”
Self-introductions and some banter soon followed. Before long I realised she`s actually very easy to talk to; speaking to her as a human being actually works much better than my previous tactic of treating her as an attractive but dangerous wild animal.
Yuki works for Peace Boat, a Japanese non-profit organisation involved in the earthquake recovery. Peace Boat is sending volunteers to the city of Ishinomaki to help deliver and process incoming relief supplies, and for work on dorokaki, the scraping out of mud washed in by the tsunami.
Apparently 36,000 homes in the city have been affected, this video taken by missionary volunteers gives a strong impression of the devastation.This Friday I will join dozens of other Peace Boat volunteers, Japanese and foreign, for an overnight bus ride north. We will stay in Ishinomaki for 8 nights; for all of this period, we need to be self-sufficient, bringing our own rucksack filled with food, protective clothing and sleeping bag.
Cheese-filled fish sausages and cabbage are suggested provisions; apparently, in a controversial theory, cabbage goes well in a sandwich. Chocolate and dried mango recommendations are more tempting, perhaps I could mix them with cabbage shreds.
The hundred or so volunteers have already been split into groups; I will be part of a 9 person international group, with Japanese and non-Japanese speakers. Young British, Irish and Americans are in my group, all friendly and enthusiastic, although surely none of them can be excited by the prospect of having to sleep next to an unwashed cabbage-breath Devonian for 8 nights.
I am doing all of this because of a pretty girl, a lost room key and a vague feeling that drinking charity pineapple beer is insufficient. It will be a memorable 8 days; in a good or bad way, I am not yet sure. At least after it, like Smashie and Nicey, the spoof radio DJs, I can tell people that I do a lot for charity, but I don`t like talking about it.