In our World Vision jackets (as if we didn’t stick out enough!)

After spending a few days with Samaritan’s Purse last week, we took a four-day trip to Sendai (where I used to live from 2001-2003). We enjoyed meeting up with old friends and former English students of mine. We stayed with a dear friend, Cal Cummings, who was full of stories about the earthquake and tsunami. The most horrifying story we heard was about a woman he knows who had to look over about 1,000 bodies before she could identify the body of her relative. I cannot imagine the trauma people like this are enduring. I also worry about all these men who are responsible for digging up bodies day after day. We are hearing word that they are received little if any counseling, they are expected to not show emotion, and I can only imagine there will be many committing suicide in the near future.

Anyway, we had a nice visit in Sendai and I was so happy to see so many dear friends again.

with my former Japanese teacher Junko and her mother-in-law Ai

former English students at Megumi Church

We are helping World Vision establish various “Child Friendly Spaces” for kids who lost everything in the tsunami. We helped set one up today and were so impressed with the selection of high-quality toys from all over the world. We worked hard to turn a classroom into a beautiful, attractive place for kids to play.

Japan Self-Defense Force workers

On the way to the school, we drove through one of the worst disaster areas in Japan called Minami-sanrikucho. I had been there before but Matthias had not. I had driven through part of this area, but today we drove even further along the coast and it was horrible, just unbelievable, endless wreckage. When we arrived at the middle school, the whole place was filled with Japan Self-Defense force workers, trucks, and tons of volunteers and staff members. A giant crane hung over the front of the yard as kids were in the middle of gym class. Many men were busy constructing temporary housing for survivors of the tsunami.

Driving through Minami-sanrikucho

On a personal note, I have to confess that at times I am really, really having a hard time with the formality of Japanese culture. Frankly, it grates on my nerves every single day. It is highly reflected in one’s use of honorific Japanese which as a foreigner, I want to avoid as much as possible and enjoy casual conversation. Honestly, the casual conversation situations are always loads of fun bu in formal situations with a high level of Japanese I tend to cringe inside and bear with it. When you use this formal Japanese, your voice gets very high-pitched which I really dislike as well.

I will attempt to explain this formal Japanese that drives me nuts. With friends you would say, “Please hold my purse for a sec.” In formal Japanese it would be something like, “If you wouldn’t mind and it wouldn’t trouble you to do so would you do me the great honor of holding my purse…if you don’t mind? If it’s not too much trouble? Oh, I am so very sorry. Please accept my deepest apologies for asking you to hold my purse.” Or, “Would you do me the great honor of passing me a pair of chopsticks? Oh, I would be ever so grateful to you. Oh, thank you so very, very much.”

In addition, for the smallest of things you always say “thank you so very much” or “excuse me” or “I am so sorry.”  You must constantly, endlessly apologize for the tiniest of things and bow all the time. I can’t say I am unhappy or extremely frustrated but just very aware of how bad my attitude can get and my own irritation. I am learning to bear it, but all of this formality makes me appreciate how little I have had to use formal Japanese.

Anyway, I have to wake up around 5:50am so I am off to bed. That’s all for today.