My days volunteering in Northern Ibaraki leave me pondering the gap between the digital and analog worlds and the plight of elderly evacuees.
As I looked out of the local bus enroute North I saw a line of at least 500 cars for gasoline and was told some had waited in their cars two days at the early days of the trauma. But just 10 km ahead in the next town was a gasoline stand with only 10 cars waiting. Had they not seen that Tweet? Most of the people I meet have never turned on a computer much less heard about social media. There I am looking at my Blackberry regularly for new information of radiation levels, food shortages and anger against foreigners leaving Japan while many of the most afflicted go about their lives waiting for the next shipment of elderly diapers, onigiri and miso soup.
Most of the people I speak with are country or village folks, few of whom have or use internet or mobile services other than a phone. Many of the 50 or so elderly at the KitaIbaraki athletic center are alone, some were brought to the center by neighbors who found them in their dilapidated and ravaged homes.
We drink green tea warmed by the kerosene stoves parked around the futon clusters. Some search newspapers for the names of loved ones or friends, others gather in a corner to ponder their plight. During the day the younger evacuees go back to their homes to continue the clean up and to search for ways to rebuild their lives.
I showed one of evacuees my Blackberry. She asked in the most melodious Ibaraki dialect,
“Can you sing ENKA with it?”