Back to Sendai (in the north-east of Japan), the last year’s earthquake and tsunami are much closer, emotionally and physically. One can see cracks and damages all over inside the building, and we started our scientific conference with a minute of silence for those passed away.
What can we do, when our “money donation” reflex in the face of a disaster is not really adequate, and foreign hands-on help not possible or even welcome?
The best and maybe only thing we can actually do is to come and be here in person. After the dead are buried and basic supply for the living is restored, most important is finding back to a day to day life. Let aside the economic basis of a once popular tourist resort, the feeling of being deserted or forgotten after traumatic experiences must be horrible, and similar the feeling of being nothing more than a helpless victim.
I am glad the organisers eventually decided not to relocate the conference, but allowed us to come to Sendai and share some time working and enjoying warm hospitality together with our Japanese colleagues, while not forgetting what has happened and is still going on.