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Friday, August 31, 2012

Time Flies

Bye the time many of you wake up and read this, our future will already be decided. However, I still find the need to write as it is therapeutic for me.  Sorry for the lack of posts.  I had one I "posted" but it never hit cyberspace.  What did we do before there was the internet?  Here is a quick re-cap.
We waved "Goodbye" to our friends in Hiroshima after  our 1-1 tie with China.  China broke through and found the net midway into the first half for one of their only chances all game. The US squad rallied to tie it up before the half and that is where the scoring ended.

China was much different than Ghana in their style, system and how they played against the U.S.A.  We would have preferred 3 points and a big "W" but there were valuable lessons learned against a team that posed a different set of circumstances to us.

Next, we boarded a plane to Miyagi with the German team.  Our new digs were just as hospitable as Hiroshima.  The day we arrived, we visited Yuriage,  a community that was engulfed by the tsunami  2011.  Ninety percent of the houses were destroyed.  900 of the  people were killed in a city of 7,000 and many are still missing.   People are struggling with how to deal with the devastation.  The news reports and cameras have disappeared and there is anxiety about what to do next.

Yuriage's  Center of Hope 

There is a prefab room that has been erected where people can go to reflect, "re-create their memory" cry and be together.  They describe their own demeanor as "sluggish" This community is at a stand still.  Some do not want to rebuild for fear they will find remnants of loved ones.  Our team heard stories and watched a video of the houses and townspeople getting carried away. We all saw similar clips on CNN when the tsunami rolled in, but standing with some of the affected family members in their tiny portable made if feel as if it was in my neighborhood.

Our team kept looking at the skeletons of foundations where homes used to be. Very few buildings were standing as we looked as far as the eye could see.

 A clock atop a middle school that has been untouched since the tsunami is a stark reminder of this travesty.

Hiromi, our liaison, explains the story behind the desk

Cpt. Julie Johnston pays respects
 Fourteen children from one small middle school perished.  We saw  2 school desks that a mother drug out to the front of the school.  They were the desks her children sat in every day.  She does not want this town to forget them, and thanks to US Soccer she has 35 more people that will carry these children in their hearts.   The desks have been their for 17 months and a marble desk/memorial has been added so that none of the children will be forgotten.

One woman was explaining to our group that many many younger people died unnecessarily.  She went on to say that the older generation that remembered and/or heard stories of earlier tsunami's and fled as soon as the sirens were blown.  The younger generation that did believe the seriousness of the stories also did not believe the siren.  When the wall of water was seen, it was too late to find safe ground.  Kids, listen to your parents and grandparents'.

Our team boarded the bus and headed to the hotel, looking out the window, still trying to imagine what it was like to have a wave take away 28,000 people. Each kilometer closer to our hotel marked one more blessing we were sure to count.

I loved the hotel because the Goddess of Mercy was looking over us; meaning I could leave our hotel and have a much better chance of not getting lost.  She is one of the dieties most frequently seen on altars.
our hotel :           Quan Yin
Her feet:  She is HUGE

Quan Yin means "She who always pays attention to the human cry. " A great hotel for the directionally challenged.  No longer did I have to say "We were staying by that one teriyaki place. You know.. that one where the bikes are parked and a Pachinko machine is close by.  Nope... I can literally see the statue from the stadium that is 30 minutes away.

Speaking of Goddess of Mercy... Clearly the Germans were staying at the same hotel and praying to the Goddess while I was merely using it for a meeting point.  The Germans handed to us a 3-0 loss. Instead of Okonomiyaki (delicious) and Sushi we found ourselves finding it difficult to eat Humble Pie with chopsticks.

As is with sports, the 3-0 score did not do justice to the many things we improved upon.  Our possession in the midfield against a great defense was fantastic.  On this day, we struggled and did not have our spunk in either of the 18 yard boxes.  As with most posts... I do not write to talk about the X's and O's.  There are enough Tweeters, Bloggers, ichatters, Facebookers  and arm chair quarterbacks,  I mean soccer afficionados going over our game so I do not need to go into detail.   All I know is I would love to see that team again.  And in order to do so, we need to beat Korea DPR in a few short hours.

Our next city... Saitama.  We scooted from Miyagi to Saitama via the bullet train.  Last year it was the Autobahn.  This year the Bullet Train.  Clean. Silent. Efficient. Fast.  I love them both.  Wish we had the technology to be shot around the U.S.  Oh... we do.

I don't have time to write about Saitama as it is time for me to board the bus for our game against North Korea.  I will say that wherever we go, we are greeted with kindness.  At each venue we give thanks and are sure to mention how, "Everyone has been so fantastic and generous and helpful." The reply is always the same, "This is our culture."

Many Japanese want to give thanks for all of the help the Americans have shown their country in difficult times.  There are signs of thanks in every stadium. We are greeted with waves and people scampering to help us with our luggage.  We are met with smiles and respect and of course, the bow.

It is already tomorrow for me in Japan and while I am here I will be cheering on the Huskies yesterday. :)  Lets hope we get a great win tonight!


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