I had big plans this summer. I was going to finish up the majority of my schoolwork by the end of March and spend April hunting for some kind of awesome internship either at a literary journal in the States or at a translation company in Japan. It was going to be amazing; haughty laughter would have flowed like wine. Ha ha HA!
My summer plans suffered. I sent off one (bad) application for an internship and wasn’t accepted. Fortunately I happened to see Joseph Tame’s tweet about All Hands Volunteers and Project Tohoku. I submitted an application and sort of forgot about it. While waiting I enrolled for a summer course and started contacting translation companies about summer freelance possibilities – I was going to have some time on my hands.
I was at a crawfish boil on April 30 when I got the rejection email from All Hands. Oh well, I thought, it was a reach, and I didn’t really have any way to support myself once in Japan. The plane ticket probably would have been expensive as well. I woke up early the next morning to an acceptance email – a spot had opened up! I checked out plane tickets, sent out more emails to translation companies, contacted my old roommates, assuaged my parents’ fears of nuclear disaster, and within a week booked a ticket.
Everything worked out: a room was open in my old apartment, I’ve arranged some freelance translation work, plane tickets weren’t too exorbitant (and they bumped me up to first class for free!), and my folks actually came around on the idea of volunteering – people did come from all around the world to help New Orleans during Katrina after all.
I arrived in Tokyo earlier today. I’ll spend a few days here getting ready and celebrating my former roommate’s wedding and then head up to Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture to help on Project Tohoku on May 23. I’ll be there from May 24 – June 4, helping to clear rubble from houses, businesses, and public spaces. I’m excited to be able to help out, even if it’s for less than two weeks. I originally applied assuming that I would immediately return to New Orleans and enroll in the summer course on June 6, but I’ve decided to stay in Tokyo for the rest of the summer and do freelance work. I should be able to break even in terms of finances; hopefully I’ll come out ahead in the karma department.
If you’re interested in helping out, consider donating to the All Hands Japan Tsunami Relief Fund. Project Tohoku is scheduled to last until July, and unfortunately they aren’t taking any more volunteers, but you can sign up to receive information about future projects. It sounds like All Hands’ MO is to start grunt work relief projects as soon as possible, build connections with the locals, and then later establish more recovery-based projects, so they may need help in the future.