Kindness counts

10/08/2018 Posted by admin

by Robin Gill

Sometimes you have to rely on the kindness of strangers.

My colleague Dan Hodgson and I are in Japan to cover the earthquake and tsunami aftermath. We were trying to get to the epicentre of the disaster zone when we hit a roadblock. Actually, a slew of them.

The traffic to Sendai is gridlock. A journey that would normally take five hours suddenly tripled. However, petrol is precious so we had to stop in the nearest city to save gas.

We went to several hotels only to be told there was too much damage and the authorities wouldn’t let us stay. At one point, we asked a clerk if we could just sleep in a corner. That’s how desperate we were.

In the meantime, a producer back in Toronto is sensing our angst. He’s found a slim lead – a pub in Mito.

In this photo released by Nexco East Japan, a worker inspects a caved-in section of the Joban Motorway near Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture, after one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded in Japan slammed its eastern coast on March 11.

A kind woman answers the door. She takes a break in between cleaning up the mess in her bar. She works the phones and grimaces. Even though I don’t speak a word of Japanese, I know she can’t find a place for us. She sends us on our way with a guide to try a place she’s sure wouldn’t turn us away.

We try a half a dozen more hotels and still no luck.

We head back to the pub. Our guide goes to the back room to talk to the owner. We are left waiting outside and by this time, the temperature has taken a major drop.

Then, when we think we will be spending the night in our rented vehicle jammed with equipment and bottled water, the door opens.

Blankets have been set up on the bar’s benches. Our host apologizes there’s no heat and no running water – as if the earthquake is her fault.

We hunker down. And the truth is…no one slept.

But I can now say I spent a night at the Drunken Duck in Japan.

Our host wasn’t there when we left at dawn, but we hope she knows her kindness was a bright spot in the middle of a disaster.

Robin is Global National’s Sunday anchor and a B.C. correspondent, based in Vancouver. Follow her on Twitter: @Robin_Global. You can also follow photojournalist Dan Hodgson on Twitter: @darkroom.


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