Finally after all my time with the base team since the 26th of September, I’m delighted to say that tonight I’m sleeping in a room by myself! Not that I don’t enjoy all the snoring, burping and other noises that echo around the rooms that we’ve been sleeping in until now, but it is nice to have some time to yourself. I didn’t go out for dinner tonight. Instead I found a supermarket in Hiroshima, bought some sandwiches (with what I can only hope was ham and cheese although the label was incomprehensible) and thought I’d have an early night. I’m writing this from my bed and now it’s nearly 1am!
This morning we got up at 4:15am, well Stefano and I did. We were expecting to leave by 5:00am so we both set our alarms in case one of them failed. We got up and got ready to leave, thinking that all the others were doing the same in their rooms. Imagine our surprise (and later on our amusement) when Rafa came stumbling out of his room at 4:45 incoherently mumbling “que hora es?” Both he and Marco had completely slept through their alarm. Then Stefano and I realised that no one else was up and that we were leaving in 15 minutes. You can picture the scenes of chaos as bodies came running out of rooms, desperately getting dressed and pushing clothes into bags and running for the bus that was about to leave for the airport!
The schedule we have is crazy really. If we were to plan this March again all flights before 10am would be banned!
So anyway, we made our 8:00am flight to Fukuoka, Japan and one hour later arrived feeling greatly encouraged as we found pictures and stories of our March yesterday in the Demilitarized Zone had appeared in 3 Korean newspapers overnight.
Upon arrival in Fukuoka we were met by Makiko, our lovely Japanese organiser who has put together a tough schedule taking in 3 cities in 3 days. So today we started in Fukuoka on an island at the southern end of Japan. Here we had a very small yet charming event in a public square where several media outlets came to interview Rafael. The friends in Fukuoka thought it would be a great idea if we then sang “we shall overcome” and assuming that one of us must be able to play a guitar they tried to give one to us so that we could play along. Sadly in this part of the base team we appear to have no musical ability and we all sing like frogs! After two very quick verses we moved on with the programme to hear messages from young students of English in support of the World March and then we had probably the shortest March we will do throughout these 3 months from the square to the taxi rank 100m away where we had to flee to the train station to get the train to Hiroshima. This we achieved with 2 minutes to spare!
We arrived in Hiroshima after an hour on the famous Japanese Bullet Train and after leaving our bags at this magnificent hotel where I have a room to myself (did I mention that already?) we went to our next event. This was an event called NO NUKES 2020 and was organised by the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation, and organisation funded by Hiroshima City and chaired by Steve Leeper, a friend we first met in New York back in May. Steve presented Rafa to all the young people at the event and talked about the World March, then he presented Rafa with an embossed copy of the Hiroshima Nagasaki Protocol, and a letter of support for the World March.
The kids at the event then made a couple of symbols. One spelling out NO NUKES with what must have been hundreds of thousands of paper cranes folded by local children, and 2020 formed by children sitting on chairs holding white paper in the air.
After this we had to wait around for a couple of hours before the next event which was probably one of the most moving events I will experience on this March.
It was quite simple really, the words “NUCLEAR FREE NOW!” were formed on the ground with candles in little glass jars and it gave a very evocative atmosphere to the event which was accompanied by beautiful singing and music.
Then what was for me the most emotional part was meeting a little old lady who survived the atomic bomb. These people are called Hibakusha in Japan. Rafa explained to her about the World March and how important it was for us to be in Hiroshima and to meet her. Then the most amazing thing happened when she started to say to us “Thank you, oh, Thank you” but with such profound sincerity that it nearly made me cry and I almost couldn’t translate for Rafa! Now I rarely get emotional in real life (although I can cry in a good romantic film), but being here with this little lady, whose hands were suffering from arthritis and whose skin still showed the effects of the radiation, and on top of that she was thanking US, it was too much for me. It still affects me several hours later as I write this blog. Then Rafa held her hand and she came with us and held the World March banner as Rafa spoke to those present. It really was a most humbling moment and I shall never forget it.
We’re only on day 15 and already we’ve achieved so much. Even if the March finished tomorrow it would be an incredible event, but we’ve got another 78 days to go. It’s a good job I’m not doing the whole journey with this team though because I’ll be an emotional wreck at the end.
I’ll tell you more about Hiroshima tomorrow after we go to the Peace Museum where I really don’t think that it’s going to be an easy experience.
With a big hug and lot of love from Hiroshima,