There was no better a way to start a trip than to rock up to the Fab Backpackers and have a Barbie,watch the footy
and get a half hours sleep. The crew assembled as the Hawks escaped the bullet and made Andy Lav a very
sad boy. The crew included John, Mel, Dan, his father (Alan), Andy P, Hiroe,Annmaree, Andy Lav and
Appsy. After dinner everyone slowly drifted off to sleep ready for the big day.
The crew woke up early 2-3 ish and we were off on the road north. On the way we met up with Shep, Nick
and Lisaand by four o’clock we had a full crew and the convoy well on the way. The cars were quiet except
poor Andy P.with somebody in his ear the whole time.
was an eye opener, but we thought being five floors up at least we would be safe from another tsunami!
As we gathered there were people from all countries and walks of life – all very friendly and of course the
one thing in common – very eager to help. The meeting was led by Christineand Rika who assembled the
groups with great skill and were probably the most fashionable NGO leaders in Ishinomaki or even
in the whole of Tohoko! The Goanna group was broken into those who were scared of spiders and those
who were not! The spider people were to tackle Mr. Kimura’s garden who needed it cleared of sediment
and mud, and the others headed to the Tafukuin Temple to re-floor the tea room in time for a local
meeting on Monday.
The garden crew team leader Gi, otherwise known as the Orange French Bloke, led us to our job and – My God!!! Visions of the movie Arachnophobia went through our minds. The garden was a mixture of debris, train sets, black stuff and of course, BIG @#$% spiders. Thank goodness for Annmaree, the true ‘Spiderwoman’, who was more than happy to have them dropping from their webs, while she merrily ‘disposed’ of them…. The Goannas attacked the garden with a savage endeavor and soon the spiders were gone, the rubbish was gone and the place was looking a real treat. The next crew will be able to get the house in order with no fear of these eight legged wonders. John the eternal fisherman managed to snare himself one and he would have made Rex proud with his kiss and release!
Saturday Fixing Another House – Annmaree
On Saturday afternoon, Appsy, Andy Lav and Annmaree worked at a house next to an Ishinomaki Elementary School, where hundreds of Ishinomaki residents continue to live five months after the tsunami destroyed or damaged their homes. The car park of the school was completely full. Students of the school now commute by bus to a nearby school as they cannot use their classrooms.
There were many volunteers at the 2-storey house, where the first floor was being pulled up. Appsy leapt to work using a crow-bar and teamed up with two other volunteers using crow-bars. As the wood was still damp, it often broke up and crumbled, making the work slow and laborious. Andy Lav was put to work using an electric cutter, cutting up the floor. Annmaree helped carry the bits of wood, insulation foam and heavy bags of black mud that had been dumped on the floors by the tsunami, carrying them to the area in front of the house where a huge garbage pile continued to grow. We continued to rip up the floor for a couple of hours.
The family looked on as the volunteers worked, helping as much as they could, as the group pulled up all the flooring. At the end of the work day at 4pm, we packed up the Nadia tools and said our good-byes to the family. The tools were wheeled back to Nadia headquarters in a wheelbarrow, where they were washed, before being put away to use another day.
A team of five Goannas, (Nick, Lisa, Shep, Allan A and Dan A) and their Nadia leader Guy (pronounced Gii) headed to the local temple to prepare and re-lay a wooden floor that was ruined by the Tsunami. The water level reached the roof of the 250 y.o. structure however it was strong enough to stay standing, even with cars trucks and other debris slamming into it as the wave hit.
The morning was spent removing nails and the remaining boards to ready the two rooms for the new floor boards. During the afternoon session the pace really picked up and like all great footy sides ran the job out well with the final piece of flooring laid by 6pm, much to the joy of the **** family, the head monk and the whole Goanna team in attendance.
On the Sunday, The Temple group was run by Guy from Nadia, and Lisa our Goanna Team Leader, translator and newfound film star. In the group were Andy P, Hiroe & Appsy. The job was to rip down the walls that had been damaged by the water and to replace the tatami mats that had floated out during the tsunami. While working we found out that the temple had an average of three funerals a day since the earthquake and so this particular room would be used for a cup of tea after a funeral.
The walls were easy to remove once we had learnt the technique but the clean up was never easy. Hiroe led the cleaning and reception duties for the temple. Guy and Andy P. did a great job preparing the floor for the tatami laying and by lunch the first part of the job was finished.
Just as we were heading off for lunch a crew from NHK, the National Japanese broadcaster arrived. They had come to interview Christine from Nadia but once they saw Lisa they had to interview her as well. Lisa answered their difficult Japanese questions with the skill of a Japanese Prime Minister, but she was a little embarrassed being in front of the camera so she found it hard to hide the ‘huzakushii blush’.
By mid afternoon we had most of the tatami in place with Guy cutting a couple of tatamis to finish the job. The final piece of the puzzle was a rather large and bloody heavy altar cabinet that had to be installed into its original position. Just as we were about to start, Shep – our in house Samson – turned up and with the help of Andy, Appsy and Guy it was installed in no time. The matron of the temple mentioned that most of the Japanese boys in the area had tried but to no avail. But they didn’t have Shep! After all the work, we all had a well deserved cup of tea and headed to the barber shop to help the rest of the Goannas.
On Sunday Andy Peyton, the Goannas President, presented to Nadia and OGA a cash donation of close to half a million yen. Andy was the driving force behind the appeal and worked tirelessly to get the money together. Without Andy this weekend would not have been successful. The money will be used in helping many families get their lives back on track.
John, Annmaree, Shep, Lavs, & Mel all hit the Suzuki household under the watchful eye of our “Guru Goanna leader” , Nick. The Mission – to build a new floor for Grandma who is still stuck in a hospital following the tragedy that hit five months ago. The Suzuki’s have been living in their son’s house since March 11th, and running their Barber Shop business out of the flood damaged ground floor of his modern, two story home.
Their own 100 year old traditional home in front of the property lays skew whiff, broken and uninhabitable, physically lifted and then dropped by the wave that consumed so much of the neighborhood around them.
High in spirits we madly measured, sawed, nailed and hammered away in the rain. While Annmaree kept us in tune with the Suzuki families stories of survival and triumph while we worked hard into the day. It was a big change from the mucking out, digging and bag filling we had done the day before and we all learnt so much about building things! Thanks Nick!!
We surprised the Suzuki’s with our results, not only by having the floor ready for tatami mats to be laid, but also having built temporary doors so that the house can now be closed up, and is clean enough for Grandma to come home from hospital.
The small gesture of a few hours, half a dozen mates and a couple of hundred bucks made the biggest impact on these beautiful people’s lives. Their gestures of kindness and thanks were heartfelt and real. When we came to the photographs, their tears of joy were moved us and I’m sure they won’t forget us in a hurry!! Or our red Goanna shirts. Shep. wants to go back for a hair cut, so it will be great to catch up with them again soon.
No write up would be complete without a few words about our Shep. A man with such endless energy, Shep was the man who documented most of the trip with his camera & was also the gopher on all of the jobs, whether it was picking up the hammer or saw, providing a bit of muscle and generally keeping spirits high. The video will be shown on Brownlow night in Australia. It will show the jobs football teams can do in the community. The Goannas are lucky to have him!
After the barber shop was finished and the congratulatory slaps on the back were shared, we all headed back to Nadia to prepare for the trip home. Tired but still not done most of us headed off for another onsen – if we hadn’t we would have had a smell in the car that would have woken the dead (to steal from Kenny the Movie) but there wasn’t the crowd as the night before and the cleaning time was short and dinner was down in no time. The crews headed home tired but with that funny feeling that something special had been accomplished.
The Goannas would like to thank NADIA for their efforts in helping the people of Ishinomaki, the drivers Andy, Shep and John. And of course our leader Andy P. for leading the money making for the tsunami cause. Without that money we could not have finished half the jobs we tackled.
Stay tuned for our next trip, and get on board! It truly was an amazing and inspiring experience for us that we hope to share again very soon.