"What can I do?" is probably the most common thought in Japan right now as everyone watches all aspects of this national tragedy develop.
The nuclear situation - with Tokyo drinking water and babies....the evacuation centers lacking basics still 2 weeks into all of this...the aftershocks daily...the death toll heading ever closer to 20,000 plus.
We all wonder: What can I do? Particularly here in Hokkaido, where normal life is almost untouched by it all. Hell, this week a friend took me to the 22nd floor spa in a luxury hotel for an afternoon soak and chat with ice cream and chocolate cake. Life goes on in a very strange way....
I'm trying to stop myself spinning out of control with the desire to HELP someone/somewhere and to try and focus my efforts. Yujiro is being the kind, but realistic voice. He is a good person: left to himself he'd watch TV, drink beer and surf porn on the Internet. But he always supports my flights of charitable fancy, helping with translations, making helpful phonecalls....and of course keeping the homefires cooking while I am out battling life.
We both donated items to a local NGO that was driving a small truck to Iwate on Monday. Donated sugar, cooking sake, coffee and kids rubber boots.
A friend and fellow blogger (Vicky of Hyotenka blog) has had the great idea of a sponsored walk - Walkathon from Eniwa to Sendai on April 17th. Walkers getting sponsored to do laps on a big inside sports track, all money to go to the Japanese Red Cross. Vicky is busy out in Eniwa holding life and business together (her husband is a Self Defence Forces member in Tohoku now), so yesterday I did the promotions rounds in Sapporo for the event - International Plaza, Community Center, Hokkaido Newspaper, Mainichi Newspaper etc
Japan doesn't have sponsored events for charities and charity work is usually done by a recognised group, so selling the idea and story took a little pushing.
Trying with this one.
I've been trying to help the Couch Surfing website, of which I am a member host, make itself usable to non-English speakers and first time visitors. Japan hosts (and amazingly even people in other countries!) have formed a sub group on Couch Surfing - over ONE THOUSAND offers of accomodation, ranging from futons on the living room floor to apartments and unused houses. But the bastards who created Couch Surfers in the US are refusing to answer any of our emails and phone calls about making a special "Japan Crises Housing" box on the top page of the website.
I'm disgusted with their non-reaction.
I've drafted a press release for the Japanese media about these offers. But until the website is evacuee-friendly there is no point in promoting it.
So. Beginning to look for other ways to help.
A citizen's group in Sapporo is looking for host families for evacuees. A Facebook friend told me about it. We just called. They are faxing us details. Maybe we could help someone.
I have this nice little apartment for my English lessons. I use it about 15 hours a week. It is near downtown Sapporo. It has futons, heat, mirowave, shower, internet and lots of English textbooks and maps of England....but it could be a home to someone. I worry though that the organising group won't let someone stay in a place I am already renting...if I was the owner of this apartment it would be better.
It's a big step to let a stranger use your home or property...but these are strange times and stepping outside the usual formats of life is sometimes necessary.
Here is the info for any of YOU kind people who think you can help in Sapporo.
“Kodomotach o hibaku kara mamoru kai” (a group to protect children from radiation).Looking for people who can host a parent(s) and children under the age of 15 for about three months. Contact: 011-272-5000 (10:00 a.m. -5:00 p.m.).
And so, and so.
Our life goes on....Popo-chan, our usually little fat and noisy, cat has been sick this week. Two visits to the vet. This morning's news not good. His kidneys are not working very well. Poor little bugger is only 1 year old. We nursed our old cat with failing kidneys for over 2 years, neither of us think we can go through that agony again.
Amid big national events our focus too is on this little fur ball and his health.
And Okaasan? Having a good week, I guess.
Yujiro is home cooking for us all, so she gets chat at lunchtime and dinner. But she is definatley quieter than before the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear. She eats and responds if we talk directly to her, and brightens up for a few jokes. But I sense she's lost her mental agility quite a chunk.
Yujiro/I have taken her out shopping etc much more to get her away from the TV. She actually went to hula dance class. But still. Much quieter and less responsive. She sits and waits for food, sits and eats, makes tea for herself. Back to the Tv.
One lighter note in all this: Okaasan and making a disaster donation.
Yujiro took her shopping to UNIQLO for yet another T-shirt. I suggested that if he saw a donation place he should encourage Okaasan to make a donation, because then she might feel she too is DOING SOMETHING to help those poor people that she sits and watches on Tv all day...it might lessen her stress if she felt she had helped in some way.
That was my thinking anyway.
In UNIQLO they saw a donation box.
"Ahh, the president of this shop has made a huge donation, so that's why there is a box."
"Has he? What did he donate to?"
"The Tohoku earthquake!"
"Do you want to make a donation?"
"Me? How much should I donate? 10 yen? 100 yen?"
"Err..maybe a little more? 1,000 yen maybe?"
"ONE THOUSAND yen????????!! No way, too much!!!"
So there you have it. So much for thinking Okaasan would need an emotional outlet into giving!!!!!
Okaasan is actually a very kind, caring person - when she isn't giving us hassles about domestic stuff such as food and stolen magazines. So I am not at all suggesting that she doesn't care about evacuees.
But her grasp on what happened on March 11 and the aftermath is not so strong, and her sense of money values seem to be in the 1950s!
It gave us a good giggle later anyway. The woman who happily bought a flimsy little scarf for 20,000 yen recently....not so sure about donating more than 10 yen or 100 yen to the victims of ...what was that bad event recently????