トーマス・C・カンサ

トーマス・C・カンサ(Thomas C Kantha、1948年4月2日 - )は、南アフリカ共和国クワズール・ナタール州トンガート出身の詩人、英会話講師。

来歴・人物編集

ロンドンで日本人女性と結婚し1984年に来日。

偶然粗大ゴミの中から壊れた車椅子を見つけ、それを修理して母国の障害児たちに車椅子を贈る活動を続けている。 アパルトヘイト下で育った体験談を詩集として発表し、その売り上げが車椅子を送る輸送費として充てられている。 その功績が認められ、1999年にシチズン・オブ・ザ・イヤーを受賞。

全国の小中学校などで、アパルトヘイトの現状やボランティアについての講演活動を行っている。

NGO団体、ヒランガニ・ンゴタンド主宰。大阪市平野区在住。

なお、来日した頃より合気道の修行を重ね黒帯を取得。同門には俳優であるスティーヴン・セガールがいる。

著書編集

  • 「抑圧下の子よ、話してごらん」 
  • 「ドリーム・メイカー」 
  • 「友よ、君には何が見える?」
  • 「マイハンサムアフリカ」

ボランティア編集

STORY1 South African volunteer recalls relief experience by Thomas Kantha

I could not believe what was unfolding before my eyes! The utter destruction caused by the tsunami after the Great East Japan Earthquake was unbelievable. Seventeen years ago, I was caught up in of the ‘action’ when the Hanshin earthquake hit the Kobe area, and, due to my proximity I was able to respond almost immediately.

However, this time I wanted to reach the area as soon as possible and provide whatever assistance I could offer. I gathered my tent, sleeping bags and warm clothes and called nearly every transport department, however, there were no flights, rail or bus service available. I then called the city volunteer department and was surprised to hear that they had no idea what was happening!

A few days later, I was lucky to get a on a night bus to Sendai via Yamagata. In Sendai, I was directed to the volunteer center of the City Officer where I had to register and waited around for three hours for some direction. Later, another volunteeer recognized me from the Kobe disaster and advised me to head to Ishinomaki where I would be better used. I then headed to the Ishinomaki bus terminal. By now, the bus trip from my home to Ishinomaki took over twenty hours.

I was lucky to get on the bus and head to Ishinomaki, which is a two hour bus ride but under the circumstance now took over fours hours. The aftermath of the tsunami and earthquake was unfolding minute by minute. When I reached Ishinomaki I was greeted with scenes of utter devastation that was worse than what was depicted on TV. Reality had struck home! I had to walk nearly four kilometers with my luggage to the volunteer center, which was based at Senshu Varsity. However, on the way, a group of volunteers from a different part of the country gave me a lift to the volunteers center at Senshu University.

By now, it was quite late, and the staff at the Centre told me to come back in the morning. There were hundreds of young volunteers camping outside in the bone-bitting cold at it was the middle of winter. Luckily, four volunteers invited me into their team. They had only been there for a day, but had already planned and mapped out a course of action better than the volunteer center – these were true professionals.

They introduced me to a therapist who was attending to those who were traumatized. After my first evening of travelling for nearly twenty hours, for the first time I felt at home. The therapist spoke to me and asked me to join his team. He gave me a crash course on how to speak and handle myself. He told me that we would only work for about five hours, from seven in the morning to about noon, and after that we must leave the refugee camps as it can be very stressful. After lunch, we headed to the center of the disaster area and with every step I felt a change in me.

We went into homes that were flooded to the ceiling and in some cases to the second floor. Our work was to get into the muck and shovel it out. The smell was nothing that I had ever experienced before. It even oozes out of you when you are sleeping. We were warmly received by the people as we were the first volunteers to start mopping up house by house. We retrieved corpses from nearly every home I visited. We usually held a minute of silent prayer before we cleaned a house or shop. More than 6 000 people lost their lives in this area!

My appreciation goes out to the self-defense force, the fire fighters and policemen. It was good to see all the rescue teams from around the world, some of whom I later came to know personally. The volunteers came from far and wide. They were young, very young, old and very old but they all gathered to share their time and energy and experience.

I was a cook, a builder, a therapist and many more things. The most moving compliment was when a man from South America asked me if I was a Shaman. I asked him why thought that and he responded that he noticed how the old people and children welcomed me when I visit them with the therapist. The children climb all over me as if I was Santa and using my shaving kit, I gave the men a shave. I also found gas burners and made sure that they had some warm food or hot water.

At night, our tent became a counseling center for the young volunteers with whom we shared our food and drinks. I was fortunate to have a free pass to the warehouse so I was able to take the tools and other things that were necessary when we went to clean the city and other devastated area. My first seven days were so rewarding mentally and psychologically that I made four trips to the disaster areas. Each trip brought me closer to the people and I became part of the city and surrounding areas.

I was able to coordinate programs through the business union. I just called them and told them how long I would be there and they made sure that all their members were notified. When I was there, the union leader would bring me a map and the names of people that needed assistance. I went from door-to-door and evaluated what was to be done and coordinated which volunteers would come and work with me.

Each home was used as a learning place. I made it my obligation to sit and have coffee with the volunteers and homeowners and get them to tell us about their personal experience during and after the tsunami. These coffee sessions brought the volunteers and families closer together. Their stories are not written anywhere, which is why it was important that we have an oral history lesson. It marked the first time that volunteers and experienced volunteers were exposed to a personal relationship. I encouraged the volunteers to write a thank you card to the people that were kind enough to let us into their homes and to share their experiences.

I feel that I have changed and this experience has helped me revalue my own life. The people were magical. There was no grabbing of things nor any looting. It was always, “You first, please!” Even when food was distributed, it was organised in a disciplined manner. I was highly impressed by the way people were able to team up and keep their spirits up. There was no running water, no gas and no electricity, but the human spirit was there in abundance.

I was prepared for a chaotic situation but, to my surprise, no shops were looted and people shared what little they had. There was no fussing and waiting for handouts. People of all ages were engaged in helping each other. Everyone helped those that were weaker. I witnessed this without fail everyday. When I first came in by bus, the roads were severely damaged however, seven days later these roads were as good as new - kilometer after kilometer. This is a lesson other countries should learn. The local government, the private sector and the unions worked hand-in-hand to get things done. Please do not get the impression that all was 100% and in some instances some thing were too slow for my liking. But I have to give them the benefit of the doubt under the circumstanes. The strong work ethic of all the people may be one of the reasons why so much progress was made in such a short time.

Being a foreigner and being from South Africa was not a barrier. Ishinomaki was a home away from home. People took care of me and I was warmly welcomed into their homes. They shared what little they had with me and I felt my presence was appreciated. I went there with a positive attitude. Getting up in that freezing cold each morning, from your sleeping bag took some getting used to. There was no hot water nor showers. After five to six hours a day deep in the muck and with a rancid smell, a warm shower would have been most welcomed but under the circumstances, a luxury. But for me just being there assisting and experiencing history in the making was food for my soul. The letters and cards that I received and continue to receive, are the invaluable treasures from my new friends and family.




Golden Week in Japan is similar to the Easter break in other parts of the world. For those lucky people fortunate enough this means having a week to unwind. For me, it was different. My wife knew it was time for me to pack and get back to the tsunami area. It is important to acknowledge the unfailing support of my dutiful wife. All my (7) trips into the disaster areas would have been impossible if it had not been for my wife, (Tokiko).

March eleventh of 2011 saw me, like the world's millions, watching the disaster unfolding in absolute shock. Talking about a nuclear meltdown is something we do not take with a pinch of salt. Without stopping to know the safety issues and the dangers of the nuclear fallout I instinctively got ready to leave. Having someone by my side, understanding my drive to get to the disaster area and do what I can, is the most important factor on my many visits.

The Americans declared an eighty kilometer radius and the Japanese government a thirty kilometre radius as as a no go area. That did not in any way change my planned schedule to get there as soon as possible. Back home my wife and daughter waited anxiously to hear from me. It may sound crazy but one does get so overcome by the enormity of this great disaster that one has no time to even think about fretting families. In the face of the disaster we soon forget about the people who might be worrying about us. You just do whatever you can and are able to do because there is no time to stop and think. Back in my tent it was freezing. I wanted desperately to call to say I was safe but there was no way to recharge my cellphone so ! ; every call had to be calculated in case of emergencies. Nevertheless too many calls home was a luxury we couldn’t have in the very beginning. ( as volunteers) My wife is the one who supports me mentally, spiritually and financially. This has been a turning point in my life in many ways . To have someone who is willing to support me is what sustains me through my volunteer work, despite the huge risks.

On May 28th my Golden Week Holiday began and my bags were packed to catch the late night highway bus. My wife got home a bit early from work to pack some sandwiches and fruits for my trip. It was these ordinary, everyday acts of love and support that encouraged and kept me motivated. The trip was the usual twelve hour trip from Osaka city to Sendai City. I waited for an hour to catch the bus into Ishinomaki City. It is a ninety minute trip by bus. What a reception I received when I got to the base! I felt like I had never lef! t the place. The volunteer center where I had to sign in had been relocated. Some of the staff remembered me from my last trips and welcomed me as though I was a like a long lost celebrated friend and I was introduced to the new staff members. I did my rounds, saw the people that I met on my previous trips and got my work schedule set. We talked about the human misery in disasters but, behind the scenes lay man's best friends - the pets and farm animals. Like the people I had come to know, they resembled shadows that I occasionally bumped into. I joined the volunteers that went into the devastated areas to rescue animals and take them back to the shelters. On my first rescue assignment I had seen an array of carcasses of animals. floating ! in the rivers. It was such a tragic sight and I became emotionally dra ined. On my next trip I found it mildly easier to cope andhelped (support) an awareness project about the plight of pets in general. I made time to visit one of the shelters for animals which housed predominantly cats. I was told that the shelter held a family of eighty cats which need to be fed and cleaned daily. Some needed medical care. Some of these feline creatures just ignored me as I passed by .Some came all over me. I was touched not only by the cats but by the dedication of one Ms. Abe who was the mother to all the cats. I asked her how she could do this day in and day out She replied: " The same way you came over a thousand kilometers to share your know-how with people that meant nothing to you". I was curious and asked her what might that be. She told me that it comes down to one's humanity and love for all life forms. I spent a few hours with cats and soon had to get back to some other unfinished work. On my way to my next destination I designed a cat tower . I went to a friend in the community who is a carpenter. He told me to call him the next day and that he would have a mini cat tower ready for me to collect. We invited Ms. Abe to adjudicate on the construction of the cat tower and modify it if it was necessary. Well, suffice to say it is built and installed, and there are a few more orders for the cat towers!

While I was visiting the cats and doing my other volunteer work I dropped in for a cup of tea at Matsumura’s Sports Shop. Mr. Matsumura has this new project. It is a greenery project. He has the support of one of the world’s best natural garden designers (Ishihara.Garden designer).I watched his DVD in the shop and I signed on to join this project. For many years I have been mountain cleaning in Japan. I am fond of the outdoors and nature in general. My wife and I have many varieties of herbs, flowers and other plants on our balcony. I have been collecting plants for this new greenery project. I have to be careful of the plants I choose to send up to that area because the winters are very harsh. I guess I will now have to learn about the climate and the type of plants that will flourish in them.

This journey into the tsunami and earthquake devasted zones of Japan has been a life changing experience for me. I intend to do many more things and hopefully they will bring joy and comfort to many affected people. On a personal level, I hope my involvement reaffirms my belief in the undaunting spirit of the human race. I will be going back there, soon


南アボランティアの救援活動記録 トーマス C. カンサ 私は自分の目の前に広がった景色が信じられなかった。東北大地震のあとの津波で全てが破壊されたのだ。地震は想像を絶するものだった。17年前、神戸地方を襲った阪神大震災の時、私は動揺して何かしなければという思いに駆られた。あの時は近かったのでほとんど即時に対応することができた。 しかし今回はできるだけ早く現地に着きたかった。そして自分ができることはどんな手助けでもしたかった。私はテント、寝袋、暖かい衣服をかき集めて全ての交通部門に連絡したが、空路も鉄道もバスも走っていなかった。それで市のボランティア部門に連絡したが彼らは何が起きているか想像もしていないことを知り驚いた。 2,3日後、幸運にも私は山形経由仙台行きのバスに乗る事ができた。仙台で、私は市のボランティアセンターに行って登録しなければならないと言われ、いくつか指示を受けるのに3時間ほど待たされた。その後、別のボランティアが私を神戸の時から知っており、もっと簡単に活動できるだろうからと石巻に行くようアドバイスをくれた。それで私は石巻のバスターミナルにむかった。私の家から石巻までのバス旅行は20時間以上かかった。 幸運にもバスをつかまえ、私は石巻に向かった。通常2時間のバス旅行だが、その状況下では4時間以上かかった。津波と地震の余波が分刻みで姿をあらわしていった。石巻に着いた時、テレビで描かれたものよりさらにひどく破壊された風景に迎えられた。現実が胸にグサっと刺さった。専修大学に本拠を置くボランティアセンターまで荷物をもって4キロも歩かねばならなかった。しかしその途中で、国内の様々な所から来たボランティアグループが専修大学のボランティアセンターまで車に乗せてくれた。 すでにかなり遅く、センターのスタッフは私に翌朝出なおすようにいった。真冬の骨身にしみる寒さの中でキャンプをする何百人もの若いボランティアがいた。幸いにも、4人のボランティアが私を自分たちのチームに入れてくれた。彼らは来て一日経つだけだったが、既にボランティアセンターよりも良い行動計画を立て、練っていた。これが本物のプロフェッショナルである。 彼らは心に傷を負った人たち付き添う心理療法士に私を紹介してくれた。ほぼ20時間も旅した後、私は初めてくつろいだ気分になった。心理療法士は私に話し掛け、チームに入るよう私に頼んだ。かれは自分をどのように扱い話すかについて速成講座を開いてくれた。かれは私に、朝7時から正午まで5時間働くだけだ、そしてそれは精神的に非常に疲れるのでその後すぐ避難所を立ち去るべきだ、と言った。昼食後、私たちは被災地のセンターに向かった。そして一歩歩くごとに私は自分の中に変化を感じた。 私たちは天井まであるいは2階まで水のついた家に行った。私たちの仕事は泥の中に入り込んでシャベルですくい出すことだった。これまで経験したことの無い悪臭だった。それは眠っている時にさえ体から立ちのぼる。私たちは各家をモップで拭く初めてのボランティアだったので住民からあたたかく迎えられた。訪問したほとんど全ての家から遺体を取り出した。そういう時はいつも屋内を掃除する前に数分間黙祷した。6000人以上の人々がこの地域で命を落としたのだった。 私は自衛隊、消防、警察の人々に感謝した。世界中から来た救援チームを見るのはよかった。その内何人かはのちに個人的に知り合いになった。ボランティアたちは遠くからいろんな分野から来た。彼らは若い人、非常に若い人、年配の人やすごいお年よりもいたが、みんな自分の時間とエネルギー、そして経験を持ち合って集まっていた。 私はコックであり大工、セラピスト、その他多くの者であった。一番心を動かされた言葉は、南アフリカから来た男が、もしや私がシャーマン(呪術師)ではないかと訪ねたことだ。私はなぜそう思うのかと尋ねると、彼は私がセラピストと一緒に訪問する時、老人も子供達もどんなに歓迎するかに気がついたからだといった。子供達はまるでサンタクロースのように私の体によじ登り、私は自分の髭剃りを使って男性のひげをそってやった。私はまたガスバナーを見つけ,彼らが食事やお湯を沸かせるようにした。

夜には我々のテントが食べ物や飲み物を分け合った若いボランティアたちの為のカウンセリングセンターとなった。幸運にも私はパスを持っていてこの町や他の被災地を清掃するのに必要な道具類を倉庫に自由に取りに行けた。最初の7日間は精神的にも心理的にもやりがいがあったので、被災地には4回行った。行くごとにそこの人たちと親密になり、私はこの町と周辺地区の一部となった。

私は商業組合を通じて活動を始める事ができた。私は組合に電話をし、自分がどれくらいそこにいられるか告げた。彼らは、全てのメンバーが通知を受けたことを確認した。そこにいた時、リーダーが地図と、助けが必要な人たちの名前をもってきた。私は家々を訪問し、何をしたかチェックし、どのボランティアが来て私と一緒に働くのか調整をした。

各家が学び場として使われた。私は座ってボランティアやその家の主人とコーヒーを飲み、彼らが津波の時、またその後の彼らの経験を私たちに話せるようにすることを自分の仕事にした。このコーヒーセッションはボランティアと家族を親密にさせた。彼らの話はどこにも書かれていない。それだからこそ私たちが口承の歴史教育を受ける事が重要なのだ。ボランティアと経験を積んだボランティアが個人的な関係をあきらかにする最初の機会となった。私はボランティアに、町の人々が親切に家に入れて経験を話してくれたことに対してお礼の手紙を書くよう薦めた。

私は自分が変わりこの経験が自分の人生を再評価する助けとなったと感じている。あの人たちは不思議だ。物をひったくりも略奪も全くなかった。いつも“お先にどうぞ”という言葉だった。食べ物が配給された時でさえ、礼儀正しくきちんとしていた。私は、グループを作って気持ちを前向きにしている人たちに胸を打たれた。 水道もガスも電気もなかった。しかし人間の心が溢れるほどあった。 私は混乱した状態を予想したが、驚いたことにどの店も略奪されず、人々はわずかに持てるものを分け合った。騒ぎも、施しを待つこともなかった。全ての年代の人々がお互いに助け合っていた。みんなが自分より弱い人を助けた。私は毎日決まってそれを目撃した。私が初めてバスできたとき、道路はひどく破壊されていたが、7日後にはこれらの道路はまるで1キロ、また1キロと新しい物のように良くなっていた。これは他の国が見習わなくてはならない。地方政府、私企業や組合は手に手をとって仕事を成し遂げていた。どうか全てが100%そうだったという印象をもたないでください。ある場合には遅すぎると思われるものもあった。しかしあのような状況下では疑わしい点を善意に解釈せねばならない。全ての人の強い労働倫理が、あのような短い期間に大きな進展をなさせた理由の一つであろう。


外国人であり南アフリカから来たということは障害ではなかった。石巻は第二のふるさとであった。みんなは私の世話をし、自分の家に温かく招きいれてくれた。かれらは本当に少ない物を私に分けてくれた。私は自分の存在が重宝されていると感じた。私は前向きの態度でそこへ行った。毎日凍るような寒さの中で寝袋から起きることになれてきた。温かい湯もシャワーもなかった。悪臭のする深い泥の中で数時間過ごしたあとは、暖かいシャワーが一番望まれるものだったが、この状況下では贅沢だった。 しかし私とって、手伝い、進行中の歴史を経験しながらただそこにいる事が魂の糧であった。新しい友達や家族から受け取った、また引き続き受け取っている手紙やハガキは価値のつけられない宝である。


日本のゴールデンウィークは海外でのイースター休暇と似ている。運が良くて幸せな人にとってこれはリラックスする1週間を過ごすことを意味する。私にとっては違っていた。妻は私がまた荷造りをして津波の地域に戻る時だということを知っていた。従順な妻の不断の支援に感謝することは重要である。私の7回にわたる被災地への旅は全て、妻(トキコ)がいなければ不可能であった。 2011年3月11日、世界の何百万人の人たちと同じように、圧倒的な衝撃を見せた災害を見ながら、私は自身を見た。 原子力メルトダウンについて言えば、一つまみの塩位の小さなこととは考えていない。 安全の問題と放射性物質の落下の危険性を知りながら、私は本能的に行く準備をした。このドライブが被災地に向かい、そこでできることをするためだと理解している誰かが傍にいることが、この訪問のもっとも重要な要素なのだ。

アメリカは半径80キロメートル、日本は30キロを侵入禁止区域とした。いずれにしてもそれは、そこへできるだけ早く着こうとする私の計画を変えるものとはならなかった。家では妻と娘が心配して私の電話を待っていた。この大災害のひどさを乗り切ろうとするあまり家族を苛立たせていることを考える暇すらも無いなんてまともではないと思えるだろう。災害に直面すると、私たちは自分を心配してくれる人たちのことも忘れるようになるのだ。あなたは自分のできることをするし、また立ち止まって考える時間がないからする事ができるのだ。自分のテントに戻ると、テントは凍っていた。私は必死になって自分は安全だということを伝えたかった。しかし電話を充電する方法がなかった。全ての電話は緊急の場合に備えねばならなかった。 それにも関わらず何度も家に電話したことは初期にはできなかった贅沢だ。私の妻は私を精神的にも霊的にも経済的にも私を支えてくれた人である。これは色々な意味で私のターニングポイントであった。自分をささえることを厭わない人を持つことは大きなリスクにも関わらずボランティアの仕事を持続させるものである。

5月28日に私のゴールデンウィーク休暇は始まり, 深夜高速バスに飛び乗るために荷物を詰めた。私の妻は仕事から早めに帰り、旅のためにサンドウィッチと果物をつめてくれた。私を勇気づけ、やる気にさせるのはこういう普通の、日々の愛と支援の行動であった。大阪から仙台までは12時間の旅であった。石巻行きのバスに乗るために1時間待った。バスで90分の旅である。 キャンプ地に着いた時、私はどんな受け入れられ方をしただろう! まるでずっとそこにいたようだった。サインアップするボランティアセンターは場所が変わっていた。しかしスタッフの何人かは前回から私を覚えており、まるで私が長い間いなかった有名人のように私を歓迎し、新しいメンバーに紹介した。私は一回りして前に会った人たちに会い、仕事の予定を調整した。私たちは災害における人生の悲惨さについて語り合ったが、その後ろには人間の最高の友、ペットと家畜が横たわっていた。私が知り合った人達のように、彼らは私がたまに偶然出会う蔭に似ていた。私は被災地に動物を助けに行くボランティアに加わり、シェルターにつれていった。最初の救助活動で私は川に動物の死骸がずらりと並んで浮いているのを見た。あの悲惨な光景に私は感情的に押し流されるほどだった。しかい次の旅では落ち着きもう少し簡単にやっていけることがわかり、私はいわゆるペットの苦境についても気付くプロジェクトを支援した。主に猫を収容するシェルターを訪れる時間を作った。私はそのシェルターには毎日えさをやり掃除をしなければならない80匹の猫家族がいると告げられた。何匹かは治療も必要だった。


これら猫科の動物の何匹かは私が傍を通っても無視した。何匹かは私のほうに寄ってきた。私は猫だけでなく猫たちの母である阿部さんにも心を動かされた。阿部さんに毎日毎日どうやって世話ができるのか尋ねた。彼女は答えた。「あなたが自分の知っていることを伝えるために1000キロ以上も離れた所からきてくれるのと同じです。あなたにとってはなんでもないことでしょう」彼女は、結局はその人の人間性と全ての生き物に対する愛ということになる、と言った。私は2,3時間猫達とすごし、それからすぐまた他の仕事に戻らねばならなかった。次の場所に行くまでの途中で私は猫タワーを考案した。私は地域の大工である友だちのところへいった。彼は、私が取りにいけるようミニ猫タワーを作っておくから次の日に電話するよう私に言った。猫タワーの建設を決めてもらい、もし必要なら修正するために阿部さんを招待した。 さてそれは作られ設置され、猫タワーの注文が他にもあるといえば十分あろう。


猫達を訪れている間、私が手配した他のボランティアたちはお茶を飲むために松村さんのスポーツ用品店に立ち寄っていた。松村さんは新プロジェクトを考えていた。それは緑化プロジェクトであった。かれは世界的な自然庭園デザイナーの一人であった。私は店で彼のDVDを見てこのプロジェクトに参加すると署名した。何年も私は日本の山の清掃を続けてきた。私は大抵の自然やアウトドアがすきである。私の妻と私は何種類ものハーブや花、他の植物をベランダに植えている。私はこの緑化プロジェクトの為に植物を集めてきた。冬期は非常に厳しい寒さなので、この地域に送る植物は慎重に選ばなければならない。私は気候とそこに生え茂るであろう植物の種類について勉強しなければならないと思っている。

日本の津波と大地震の被災地への旅は人生の経験を塗り変えるものであった。もっと多くのことをしようと思っているし、それらが被災者に喜びと安らぎをもたらしてくれることを願っている。個人的には、復興に関与することで人間の精神はゆるぎないという自分の信念が再確認できることを願っている。またすぐあそこへ戻ります。


STORY2 The days are fast slipping by and soon it will be three years since the great Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. I have been in and out of the affected areas fifteen times so far 2013/10/ 5-8th. Visible changes and restoration are taking place but the deep scars remain to remind us about the devastation. Bridges and ports are built and roads link to some development and progress. But, the invisible human scars of heart-breaking loss will remain. Children born after the devastation will hear about the devastation.Those who have lived through and experienced the devastation still speak as if it happened just yesterday. They have grow to understand that nothing will ever be the same again. A lady told me that if there had been no tsunami I would not have become a part of their lives for I may have not have come to their part of the world. Even if I did come I would have been just another tourist passing through. Somehow the people who I meet on my first or second trip are those who are very close-knit . A trip to the tsunami area is never complete if I do not say hello to these families. Some do complain in a friendly way saying my visits are not as frequent as it used to be. I did the same during the Hanshin earthquake in Kobe. I was there frequently but as time passed people I met were moving forward and it was time I stepped back and became an observer and now seventeen years has since passed. The bridges and ports are built. The roads are linked but, the human loss cannot be replaced . We sowed flower seeds in Spring. Mainly sunflowers. When I got there in the summer it was a joy to see some of the sunflower plants, over three meters tall, just swinging in the warm summer breeze welcoming the locals, volunteers and tourists. People of all ages admired and got pleasure from the sunflowers. These are the little signs of hope. When someone passes you when you are watering the plants and stop to greet and admire the flowers with small chit chats. Strangers offering you cold drinks and mineral water from the vending machines warning you about sunstroke and the importance of consuming lots of liquid. Yes , Summer was extremely hot in Japan this year. Maybe it is the effect of the climate change. As volunteers or repeaters, as the volunteer center calls those who make multi trips into the tsunami area to volunteer, I have met many musicians that come over to entertain the people in the temporary shelters. There are so many different types of volunteering to be done. Children who have lost someone in the tsunami need care and the volunteers take care of these children's need. The elderly just want a cup of tea and a chat . They have a story to tell and I have learnt much from them . Their experience in that part of the country helps me with my work. It is very easy to forget why we are there. We sometimes get too enthusiastic and get carried away in what we are doing . It is very important for me to revalue my volunteering and try as hard as possible to accommodate their needs. My tea and lunch breaks are very important times for me to communicate with the local people and go back to understanding what it was like before the tsunami. I know full v well that I can't turn the tide but I think it is important to know where they came from so we work to give them as familiar an environment as possible.

My October 2013 trip was a bit different. I was invited by an outside group to accompany them and to coordinate their volunteer projects. They were trying to build a bridge between their home town of Marukame in Shikoku to Ishinomaki. They had a long forgotten historical link. It was a 150 years old tombstone of a shipwright. The shipwright was born in Marukame and died in Ishinomaki.We spend the first day collecting all the information and data from the education board and some of the local people.

The second day we drove about thirty minutes across a mountain to a temple facing a small port. A Buddhist priest from the temple welcomed us to his temple and took us where the tombstone stood. A Buddhists sermon was on “help”. Six of us including the priest  spent the next few hours cleaning the tombstone and the surrounding area. We had lunch with the priest and spend an educational two hours together. After lunch we headed to the beach to clean until it got a bit dark. I still had my personal work to do so they dropped me off.  I spent much time in a green project. I got back and watered the plants for about an hour. I enjoy doing some work by myself. I enjoy spending hours alone cleaning the beach etc. I need the silence to focus and to feel the spirits around. The wind sounds like a whisper. Standing alone surrounded by very old tombstones I try to journey back all those years ago to their world. It is so important  to keep their resting place clean for they have set this path for us. I have touched so many old nameless headstones and wondered what kind of person was put to rest here. This devastation has opened my mind and soul. I think it is a luxurious experience with deep sadness and pain. I am sure I would never be able to fathom this sadness and pain but it has help channel my energy to an awareness I would have never known if I did not step up when the tsunami hit.I picked up a pebble from the foot of a name less headstone and brought it home. I have a small collection of stones from here and there. 

At night I visit the public bath house and soak my long day away .The winter can be very harsh up in the Tohoku area . The plants have to be covered . But this year it is still very warm to cover the plants or take some of them indoors. I also tried to encourage some of the people to plant winter radish and onion in deep flower pots. I planted two different kinds of radish and they should be harvested by late December. It was very encouraging to get a call five days after I sowed the radish seeds to tell me they are sprouting. They sound very excited for they have something to wait for. I do use the word volunteer but I can't really tell someone what volunteering means in this context. I grew up in Tongaat and we had Beggars Day on Thursdays and now I would not use the word but the reality is that my house in Tongaat was where the old , the handicapped and poor dropped in for mealie-meal sour porridge. Now some one told me it is called corn porridge. That was a natural thing to do. The irony is that my mother cooked that porridge everyday for us but on Thursdays it was just a bigger pot. So growing up in that sharing environment I feel a bit uneasy when I tell some one I am volunteering. Bear in mind we were poor because there were ten children and two adults to feed. I just enjoy being in the tsunami area . It reminds me of Old Tongaat when the whole town was just one big family. We were there at funerals, weddings , parties etc. helping without an invitation. The call is still very strong so I will be heading back to the tsunami area in a few months’ time to harvest the radish .

外部リンク編集

  • [1] 南アフリカの子どもたちへ
  • [2] シチズン・オブ・ザ・イヤー