Pat, TJ and I are gearing up for the big shift change in a few days, but our last week on the job has been the most memorable yet. While our week began at the Miyagi Fish Plant (the single grossest day of our lives, seen here) we were asked to run an after-school program for two afternoons this week at two different primary schools. We got to play with about 40 kids between the ages of 6 and 15 over the course of two afternoons.
This was a completely different experience than anything else we had done up to this point. For starters it was in a clean and cute schoolhouse environment, not a devastated disaster zone. These kids were all uniformly adorable and totally transfixed by the strange and enormous people from as far away place. We taught them classic American kids games like Duck, Duck, Goose and Red Light, Green Light and then we taught them silly dances like the Hokey Pokey and the Macarena. A highlight from this was during a game of Musical Chairs, two girls bumped into each other trying to sit down, but instead of both scrambling to get in, they blushed and bowed humbly and kept offering it to each other. The Japanese translators we brought with us burst into laughter, saying that this was “typically Japanese”.
I played a few improv games with them, just like the ones I teach at the Improv Theatre Camp I work for (Epic Adventurez), but the clear fan favorite was a silly circle game called Zip, Zap, Woosh. By playing games that required no speaking, or only nonsense words, we circumvented to language barrier with the kids and ended up having an amazingly enriching and rewarding experience.
After the kids had left we sat and drank coffee in the classroom, just chatting and hanging out. By the time we got outside to the car the kids had swarmed it and someone had gotten out their own paint pens and started tagging it up!
Tomorrow Patrick and I will go in for our last shift at the Kesennuma Volunteer Center and then head back to Tokyo for a few days on Monday. As much as we did and as hard as we worked, its important to make clear that the greatest impacts we had were personal. While we literally moved tons (literally tons & tons) of tsunami sludge, shrapnel, debris and dead fish and helped to clean out thousands of square feet of property, it will be the memories of our work and play that these people will cherish. I know that years from now, when I look back on this experience, while I will appreciate the hard labor and unity that comes from digging in the dirt, it will be days like today that I will keep close to my heart forever.