The news that the travel and import ban had finished lifted everyone’s spirits. Whatever the actual truth of it, at least it was an indication that things are heading in a positive direction. On the drive over to the port, our convoy (are three cars a convoy?) pulled over. I wasn’t sure why at first, but they’d seen a motorbike parked over by the side of the road and a man reading a book nearby. Hearing us coming, he waved us down.

The middle-aged man had all of the biker gear, complete with leather jacket, pants and gloves. They looked so new and shiny that I wondered if he actually polished them. He had an American flag bandana, and his sunglasses were on the seat of the bike. His bike was pretty big one with lots of decorations added to it. There was a skull on the back of the seat, as well as a pirate flag and rows of reflectors. All of the modifications looked homemade. Up front, he had hooked up an iPod, phone, TV or computer screen, some sort of radio and a camera. The phone was connected to a USB charger in the motorbike, and there were plenty of other bits and pieces that I didn’t get a good enough look at, but seemed interesting.

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Hiroshi got out of the car, and a few of the SDF went over to talk to the man. Everyone was interested in the bike, and he seemed used to that. He said hello to me loudly, but in the friendly way I associated with people who didn’t know any more English than that. If we had been in a bar, he would have acted like we were best friends to legitimise his American biker image. Or if he felt threatened by the usurping of his ‘Mr. America’ mantel, then he might have tried to put me down. Either way he would try to use the fact that I was from a different country to increase his social image, but essentially harmless. He did seem like a nice guy though, and it was a good chance for everyone to stretch their legs, have a smoke and talk to someone different.

I held Ayako’s hand and we watched Risa investigate the bike. “Don’t touch that,” I told her when she reached out for the cellphone. She looked up at me and said “Okay, daddy” in English and giggled a little. Oh. That got me right in the feelings. I hadn’t seen her smile since we heard about Alex. I was speechless. I just smiled at her and tried not tear up. Ayako squeezed my hand tighter.

The biker, who goes by the name Tonbo (Dragonfly) invited us to his house to eat. Apparently he has enough food to “feed our whole group for a year”. It’s on the way to Ise port, and Shimoda agreed to go without discussing it with anyone. As soon as food was mentioned, I remembered that we really haven’t eaten much for a long time. The contents of a few vending machines is pretty much all we’ve had since the tsunami took out the power station. I guess I’d just gotten so used to being hungry, the pangs had just become normal. Back in the car now and the whole convoy is following Tonbo to his house.

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