When I stepped off the overnight bus in Ofunato, Iwate Japan I had no idea how many dreams I never knew I had would come true, and how many times my heart would be saddened. I walked lost and tired to my new home for the month, when a happy face named Chloe walked out of a portaloo (port a potty) said hello and took me into the world of organized chaos.
There are two place to stay FS or Sakari base. Each has it pros and cons, can you guess which one I stayed at?
FS: 20-30 people sleeping on tatami mats or an air mattress if they we lucky enough to bring one in an air conditioned room, communal showers, 10pm curfew with lights out, and having to make the 7:45am then 8:15 bus for work, and western toilets readily available
Sakari Base: 50-60 people sleeping on bunks beds with cardboard to make it a little more comfy and hopefully an old volunteer left you some bedding, no AC only fans, bucket showers, squat port-a-lous out front unless you want to walk 5-10 minutes to a western toilets, no curfew just 10:30pm quiet hours, and only having to make the 8:15 bus to work.
I was placed in Sakari base where I happily stayed for my month duration. I either had the top bunk or stole Rob's 4 inch blow up mattress when he was on the satellite project in Kessunuma. Staying here let me stay up most nights longer than I needed too being with all the other social animals.
So what does day at All Hands look like?
For me it means waking up around 7:20am so I can wash my face in ice cold water, brush my teeth, say good morning to everyone except Wynne (you don't talk to her until she starts dancing), checking the schedule at the train station (using the western toilets), grabbing a pb&j and jumping on either the apple or banana bus for a day of work.
Depending on the job we usually take a 15 minute qique (break)
at 10:30, an hour lunch/nap when the bento boxes arrive, another qique at 2:30, clean up tools at 3:45pm, and be picked up by a green bus and hopefully back to base by 4:30pm.
From 4:30 till 5:30, I either took a bucket shower or hung out until dinner was served. Two local ladies see what food has been donated add it to our daily budgeted amount (about $5 per person) and whip up something tasty even if I don't always know what it is.
Then Chris T./Chris #1 (there have been 12 guys named Chris since the start and by the way I'm Terri #2) starts the meeting by asking all new or returning volunteers to introduce themselves, where they are from, how long they a staying, and how they heard about All Hands. The joke is if you are not staying longer than a month people won't try to remember your name, I was lucky to meet the deadline. Next all the team leaders talk about how the work for the day went and any good stories or antidotes. I have to say Alan team leading Foam Party was my favorite since he usually sang a portion of his speech. Once that was done we reviewed meeting notes, jobs for the next day, and who wanted to do dishes so they could have 1st sign ups on the job board. Then my most nights my eyes became teary as those leaving before the next meeting said goodbye.
After the meeting we hung out, learned to put on yukatas, drank in the garden, watched movies, went to Lawsons, walked and said goodbye to someone on the night bus and had a great time with each other.
This schedule went on for 6 days until we had our one Tuesday a week off. So Monday's became our Fridays, which meant karaoke and Tuesday meant cheeseburgers for lunch since we had to fend for ourselves. My favorite being when a group of us made homemade burgers and chips on a camp stove. Followed by a new favorite treat called "seagull eggs," which is a doughy bread with bean paste inside which is so much better than it sounds.
Well that is a summarized day of my life with All Hands in Japan.
Location:Ofunato Iwate Japan