During our week off from Peace Boat work in Ishinomaki, Wesley and I organized a short trip to Kesennuma in the north-east part of Miyagi. I lived there for two years from August 2008 to 2010 and it was a surreal experience going back to the streets I use to walk on a daily occasion and seeing the mass destruction that had taken place since I`ve been away. The stories from the individuals there were amazing and I can`t imagine having to go through that myself.
Our friend Jessica offered to drive us around to see the town and visit my former schools, but first we made out way to the Board of Education where we were greeted by a pretty decently sized group of Kesennuma citizens. I was shocked to see so many people that I did not know gathering to welcome me back to my home of two years! When meeting eyes and waving to this group resulted in strange glances among the mass our little group decided to ask why they were waiting. We found out that the Emperor`s second son(the Prince Harry of Japan) was making his way to Kesennuma to visit. It dashed my happy feelings for a short while….but I was back on cloud nine again when I met up with my former supervisor, Itou-sensei, and his assistant, Shizuka! She gave me a hard time about many things, but agreed to join the planned dinner later that evening.
Catching up with my former cohort, including the new members, at dinner was great. I shared my experiences in shorts bursts with my successor and it was nice to finally meet the person who had taken over in my place. We fed on delicious yakiniku and made sure we picked a platter with some cow tongue! Yummy! I even got to sit next to Shizuka! While we were all at dinner, my former neighbor and hair stylist, Takako, showed up and put loads of happiness in the air. Her shop was destroyed in the tsunami and now she goes to her customers with a tackle box full of supplies. I was very proud of her to be so positive and herself after something so horrible had happened to her. She and her husband, David, have been very lucky to receive the aid they did after such a devastating turn of events.
After dinner everyone said their goodbyes and Takako offered to give me a haircut at Jessica`s apartment. I jumped on the offer like Mario on a Goomba and had my ears lowered by my number one favorite beautician! It was a great treat and was on my list of things to do on this trip!
On the last day of the Kesennuma trip I got to visit former teachers and say hello to a few students, but everyone at school was very busy and didn`t have a lot of time to talk. I have mixed feelings about it, but without giving anyone warning of my visit and having limited time in the city, there wasn`t much I could do. My former coworker showed me a picture of his daughter born two days before the tsunami and thankfully everyone remembered my name. The short visits were sweet and to the point. We were pressed for time though, so a trip to the island where I taught was too difficult to manage.
With my to-do list mostly crossed off, Wesley and I were seen off by Jessica and Takako and boarded our train back to Rifu to end our Kesennuma trip. The vast fields of rice in Miyagi are still a wonderful sight, even with the ominous clouds covering the entire sky and the train to Kesennuma still takes a large chunk of the day.