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Sunday, 24 April 2011

Bringing smiles- part one.

A small act that brings a smile is all we can do sometimes and yet it is a lot and it is important. Since the earthquake and tsunami the percentage of people here in Sendai who have lost a member of their family or a relative has risen drastically. The fact that their death came in such an unexpected, dramatic and surreal way to people close to us  makes its impact more shocking and hard to deal with emotionally. With an illness, we do have time to adjust to the fact of premature death slowly - with an unexpected death there are so many regrets and words left time to say goodbyes.

As a result of this and the continued strain of a semi normal lifestyle (still some food and utility restrictions) a new problem has arisen. Anxiety /depression and suicide rates are rising. People feel unsettled, they have lost their trust in nature, life and/or God. Although there seems to be a tremendous surge of neighborhood compassion, volunteer work and team effort (Ganbare (Fight! Sendai) is pasted on signboards everywhere), there is also a feeling of instabilty and insecurity mounting. Continued aftershocks contribute to edginess and fear while the horror of Fukushima and the scale of national problems arising out of that continue to be unresolved. Fukushima was a large farming part of Tohoku, providing Sendai with many of its vegetables, fruits and meats. Most of it has been written off as non usuable now, given radioactive particles found in soil within 40kms of the nuclear plant. This is not a temporary situation either, this soil will not be free of contamination for decades.And it is not just Fukushima. The coastal areas of Sendai that were hit by the tsunami were also prime farming areas for rice. And fish. These areas are now no-go zones due to the biological contamination, they say it will be decades before rice can be grown in these areas again. We are talking about massive areas of farming land.

With these restrictions in place it is no wonder that food is rationed somewhat, that stores are closing early and shelves are bare by mid afternoon. Slowly we will have to rely on more imported food -this is inevitable.

As well as this, people are faced with debts. Loans from homes that were washed away or damaged and not insured. Many have lost their homes and are waiting desperately in shelters to be relocated. Others have no work or delayed work meaning they have lost a month or more in salary and so on. The scale of problems one arising from another is very stressful.