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Welcome to Michael's blog. Michael Andrew, (aka Michael The Maven) is a freelance producer, photography instructor, tech innovator, and when needed, disaster aid specialist. Disclaimer: Michael is a participant in Bhphoto & Amazon affiliate programs that provides an advertising commission if you purchase through links on this website.


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03.29.11         michael's insights  

From Nate Farnsworth


The following entry is written by Nate Farnsworth, Michael's volunteer translator from Utah.


"Today was just one of those days that will jog my memory forever. It was my first time being able to make it out to the small fishing village Babanakayama. Mike literally found a village that had fallen through the cracks and had been forgotten by the main distribution centers and Japanese self defense forces. Anyone that has ever sat alone or been ignored might be able to somewhat grasp the situation of being lonely, however; The people in this town were much more than just lonely, they were freezing, exhausted, homeless, hungry, terrified, and overcome by a feeling of defeat. It's one thing to survive a catastrophe, but it's also crazy to survive and to be left
with nothing.

Babanakayama is not only an awesome name but it literally has some of the most beautiful coast line that you could ever imagine. Standing together high above the town and being taken back by the sheer devastation, a 60 year old man told me his story of the quake and tsunami. When the quake hit he was eating lunch on his tatami mat, and he said that the magnitude was so fierce that his soup and bowl were rocked off the table, his cabinet doors flung open and nearly everything inside was thrown out. He said the main support beams in his house were moving like waves, and he could hear the crashing of glass in the background, books covered the floor and little statues were falling off his dresser, he knew that this was a big one. After a minute he thought that the quake was just about over, but the chaos continued for another four and a half minutes! From a young age he was taught that if there is a big quake, head for high ground, so that is exactly what he did, he lived hundreds of yards from the coast line, but he decided to head inland in his small work truck. Taking nothing with him but the clothes he had on his body and his truck he made it to a very high place that looked over the town. Within three minutes of getting to his spot, he literally watched his whole town get blindsided by a tsunami wave. Everything that he had ever worked for was instantly gone. His house is nothing but a concrete slab, his field can no longer harvest rice because of salt water damage, his life literally changed in the blink of an eye. He escaped with his life, but his life will never be the same.

This story fueled my heart and soul, and it made me think deeply about how fragile life really is. I have heard several stories like this, and some that are much more tragic, but I can't help but feel the need to reevaluate my priorities in life.

Today is where the hammer hit the nail, and it seems as if a new phase of disaster recovery was underway. More than 200 people are in need of a immediate shelter in Babanakayama, so today we worked on building a huge permanent tent that will be able to sleep up-to eighty people.
The frame, walls, roof and doors have all been put up, and it will be strong enough to handle high winds and the ever changing weather
conditions. I spent most of my efforts today building a six inch deep drainage system around the outer walls of the tent to keep the water from coming in. Anyone who personally knows me, knows that I'm not fond of shoveling through rocks and clay all day, but I found it so
much easier to be digging when I knew that this was going to be used for these people who had lost their homes. Tomorrow a floor will be
put in, and they will hopefully be able to find some peace in their new living quarters. While working on the tent, our work was stopped
because the people of the town prepared us a feast. I truly was taken back emotionally by the generosity of these people, they were literally feeding us like kings, yet they have nothing; their charity touched me greatly.

Mike went GPS tagging up and down the coastline today, and was able to find a refugee camp in need of supplies. It is because of his patience
and desire to keep going that groups like Babanakayama are found. Teamwork is key in disaster recovery.

The Meysen team that has taken us around is truly filled with the most humble and hard working people that I have ever met, I honestly
feel at home with them.

I need to wash my feet, I'm looking forward to tomorrow!"

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