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The work goes on!
"Woke up this morning to a message from ATT that I had far exceeded my International Data plan and my iPhone was temporarily turned off, with the exception to call them.
Before I state my case, let me note that ATT has always treated me awesome- they waived all my cell phone charges on the first Haiti trip, which were absolutely outrageous at 10.99 / MB, using that phone everyday to track, tag, email, call, it really added up and ATT was proactive in waiving these charges. I was so appreciative of this that I talked about how awesome this was in my book.
Everything we are doing here, EVERYTHING, relies on my cell phone connection and service. Without the ability to GPS tag, text message, network, call, check the internet for news about tsunami warnings, radiation warnings, etc this operation would absolutely be dead in the water. We have already provided aid to several thousands of people.
All I asked for from ATT was the ability to buy a bigger package, but I had already maxed out their biggest one. (btw-I have 2 iPhone 4's here, one for me and one for Nate/as a backup.) Thankfully it's only $5/MB over, but taking all these things into consideration, I'm looking at a phone bill that will be around $3,500 as of today. I asked to speak with a supervisor, and was put on hold for about 15 minutes and then told that they would waive part of the charges, but anything from here on out I would have to cover.
Just an insight to what I think about stuff like this is simple:
Something like that isn't going to stop me. We didn't work this hard to get here, to get into a system where we are feeding hungry refugees to "tippy toe" like a sissy around some stupid limited data plan. As long as we are making a difference in these peoples lives it's going to go forward.
I will however be very vocal and public about how this plays out. If ATT requires that I pay an enormous phone bill for doing this kind of work, so be it- just know I will keep all of you (which is about 30,000 readers) very much in the loop.
Having said that- today was another AWESOME day. Went out with Samuel and some of the other guys to do a delivery to Baba N, and on the way we tracked down two more small villages along the cost that needed help, one had about 600 people (they were living in the ruins of some 50 homes that survived the tsunami) and the other had about 150. Between these two and the one yesterday we had to hurry to get them supplied by the end of the day, which long story short we were able to.
Doing this kind of aid work is absolutely fun and addicting in the best of ways. I LOVE it!! It's so easy to get sucked in to focusing on other people and serving them, and it has so many strange and wonderful side effects- one of which is that all of the things that caused me stress and pain are minimized. They don't stress me out anymore-they mean nothing.
Another cool side effect in this case is the importance of understanding my role on a team of outstanding volunteers- we have really jelled, but so many times we have had a problem and by discussing it out loud we can come to a proper solution. In terms of creative planning and logistic ideas, this is some of the best brainstorming I've been part of.
I also take these as lessons learned, something that goes into the "playbook" of experience, a plan ready to go if we should encounter it in the future.
One thing I have been wondering today is....how in the world am I so lucky to do stuff like this? Like...literally on the front lines? I don't understand how this happens.
When I first came over I thought I would be working with Salvation Army, but when that didn't pan out, I really didn't have a place to go or anything to do for a couple days. I will be honest with you, I had a lot of self doubts and worry. I slept in that airport for two nights, without a solid game plan or good connection.
Then, somehow...miraculously, I found Meysen through a friend on Facebook. At first I was maybe a little disappointed I wasn't able to serve the way I wanted to but I was so hungry to serve that if loading and unloading boxes was all I could offer, I was absolutely happy to do so. This was a valuable lesson learned- if you truly want to serve, the capacity will not matter as long as you are making a difference. This takes some time to figure out, but once you are given a task, no matter how small, that task is a measurement of your desire to serve. If your heart is pure towards service- all needed tasks are equal.
There was one point when I really thought all I would be doing here was loading and unloading boxes, and I remember thinking "if that is what is needed, that is what I will do".
I am still having a hard time wrapping my mind around what the coincidence it is, just a few days later, I am doing what I came to do, not with SA but with what is most likely THE VERY BEST group (Meysen) to do this type of work here. While I am sure there are other groups doing this, I just don't how anyone else can be doing these types of small findings and deliveries with the speed and efficiency we are. Meysen was absolutely prepared, years in advance, to do this type of work and they do it without a thought of themselves- day in and day out. They are truly some of the finest and most humble people I have ever met.
When I think about how I started, and where we are now as a team, it makes me pause and wonder...."how in the world did that just happen?". In any event.... I'm going to go with it!!
When we tag a place for the first time, I think some of the Japanese are a little suspicious of us, not sure what to think, and then when we return with supplies in hand, something wonderful happens there...trust...love...relief...hope. I feel a deep sense of inner peace and love for my fellow man.
At one delivery today, there was clapping and laughing. Do you have any idea how awesome that feels to see that? To be able to help someone who has been through a living hell, wondering if they would be killed one moment, to lose loved ones, home, belongings, without a shower or good meal for weeks?
Without question it will be one of the most rewarding and memorable experiences of my life. I know I can always think about these days with happiness and knowing the very slight discomfort was absolutely well worth it. I really believe that if everyone could feel these feelings we are experiencing, everyone would RUSH to serve one another. I have served before, but I am seeing a side of it I never have and it is beautiful.
At one delivery tonight, as soon as we set the vegetables down, they began to wash and prepare them for dinner. When you see that....you know.
Looks like we will work at least until Saturday morning, then we will go back to Sendai to reassess the operation. Maybe it will end, maybe we will go another week.
We are hearing reports of people in the evacuated areas starving, but there are conflicting reports- I personally think there are a lot of pockets of people in there that need help. If we have the resources I would have no problem bringing it to them.
We have two days left in the Minamisanriku area, we are completely stocked on supplies and aid, and I know there are several groups of people out there we haven't found that need it. For some reason, every morning I have a little doubt that we will be able to, but in the end, everything has come together better than I could have ever hoped.
What an awesome and wonderful adventure we are having. :)
Looking forward to tomorrow.