Scene: A cloudy 55 degree morning, rain falling steadily from the sky, a strong breeze coming your way, and no sign of clearance in the near future.
This was the scene my teammates and I walked into as we got ready for our usual Wednesday volunteer work with NPO High-Five on the island of Nonoshima. To our dismay, however, this particular Wednesday would not follow the normal pattern of previous Wednesdays. Although having been prepped for the day beforehand, we were taken slightly aback by the small speed boat with no covering that would be our transportation in the rain. Furthermore, when our team leaders told us “moving manure”, I’m confident none of us thought that meant 800kg of it.
We all scramble aboard the tiny, beaten up fisherman’s boat and make way for our first stop: the manure. The water was fairly rocky and the wind was still at high speed so we were in a real-life version of what I imagined Pirates of the Caribbean to be like (expect for the fact that we were on a speedboat in Japan). We approach the manure pile steadily and the wafting stench reaches us about 50 meters out. We quickly throw on our gloves, make an assembly line, and pass the heavy bags of manure to one another until the boat is filled. We then hopped back on the boat, manure in tow, and headed to Nonoshima. Once arrived at Nonoshima, we unloaded, followed the same assembly line protocol, and filled a van with the manure. Here is the fun part: we then clambered into warm, humid, cramped van with all of the manure. Seats were sparse so team members found themselves a spot atop the mound of freshly placed manure. We drove the manure to the flower field and unloaded it there, leaving it to be spread for next week. We hazily made our way back to the boat and eventually back home which left us ample to scrub our bodies clean (multiple times, I might add) and continue on with our other work for the day.
Although slightly irritated and needing to find a smile within me to dig up, it was a great experience. In some capacity, it was actually a lot of fun. Let me be clear: I have no desire to do something like that again, but it was really fun to be able to walk alongside the Japanese men of NPO High-Five who have been laboring over the past 4 years to restore their homes. Although we have been working with them for nearly 5 weeks now, this particular day seemed like an interesting bonding experience because none of us were particularly thrilled about the pile of poo that needed to be hauled.
I guess that is what has been so incredible about this trip: after looking back on some of the experiences, I see the way God moves in the smallest of things. These men take our consistency in volunteering very seriously and it means a lot to them. Our relationships have developed drastically in the last month and I am so honored to have been a part of some of the work here, even if it was just moving poop. We still have one more week of working with these men but I am so excited to see what it holds. There was also discussion of going to onsen together (public bath)…but we’ll see if that happens. I’m sure that will be another story all in itself.
Until next time, friends.