Sada, another one of those great guys that I met through my volunteer work, happened to be in the seat in front of me on the bus to Ishinomaki. Yes, he is bare foot in the snow. He said he's in his third year living the bare-foot-life, and has traveled through the outbacks of New Zealand and the peaks of Yakushima without ever wearing a single sock. His first reaction upon stepping off the bus, was: "Ooh, that's cold."
The "Saving Memories Project," is one of the longest on going projects that we have. Collecting personal belongings that were found in the rubble and mud, we then clean and categorize them, so that survivors can come looking for anything that might possibly have belonged to someone they knew.
The biggest effort within the project is the preservation of photographs. Thousands upon thousands of photographs have been brought here, and volunteers have spent months hand cleaning each picture. They then gets scanned so that the images can eventually be made into an archived database for people to easily browse through, in search for a lost memory.
Kazumori and Ken have devoted every moment of their time in Ishinomaki as the leaders of this project, each having worked for at least 3 months for a combined total of 7 months now. The work is tedious, time consuming, and emotionally strenuous. Just imagine going through piles of photographs, thinking, in the back of your mind, that these people looking so happy in front of the camera, might not be with us anymore. Still, they both say that the work is gratifying, especially after witnessing the great joy people express when finding a photograph of a simple lost moment from their life before the Tsunami.
I went to visit a family that I became good friends with, while cooking at the Ookaido shelter. They now live in one of the many temporary houses within Ishinomaki. The Mother shared with me some "behind the scenes" stories from life in the shelter, and we laughed about things that happened behind those cardboard walls. I played Nintendo with the kids and drank beer and sake with the Father. It was wonderful and strange to be doing such simple everyday things with them, when the circumstances that brought us together were so extreme and out of the ordinary.