Saturday, October 31, 2009

Frangipani Trees Line a Tsunami Shore

I am in quiet awe. There are frangipani trees in bloom along the shore of the tsunami zone. Gnarled grey barked trees reach heavenward with delicate white blossoms. New green grass at their feet. Lining a shoreline scattered with heaps of twisted corrugated iron, jagged wood planks and the fast rusting carcasses of once-beloved new cars.

In spite of the salt. And the ravage of eight foot waves that sounded like "the crashing roar of a hundred heavy duty machines". The panicked desperation of those who clung to tree branches to escape the leeching swirl of the receding water.

In spite of the desolation. Spindly shelters where families guard their meagre belongings against the ongoing thievery as both young and old pick through the remains of everyone else's lives. Even the hub caps on your truck are not safe.

In spite of the grief. A woman sits by the road crying on a freshly poured cement block. Her mother's grave. I miss my mother she sobs to us, complete strangers driving by on a sun filled afternoon.

There are frangipani trees in bloom along the shore of the tsunami zone. I am in quiet awe. Of the father who surveys the nothingness that once was his store and no less than 'five fale palagi'. From the shade of his tarpaulin hut. And tells me. 'It is like I am at the beginning all over again. When i was just starting out and we had nothing. All our hard work is gone. But none of it matters. My wife and children are alive. We are still here together. Possessions come and go. They mean nothing. I thank God for our lives.' He smiles to tell us about the turtles, the fish, the sharks that came in with the wave. 'We shared the water. Together we all searched for safety. For escape. We had no fear of each other.'

The smiling laughing teenagers out from school,making their way back to the makeshift camps. In a week they will take their School C and PSSC final exams.

The houses still standing are newly painted. Glorious loud colors. Pumpkin orange walls with a hot pink trim. Sunny yellow and fuschia. Electric green and purple. Curlicues and twirls. Lacy curtains blowing in the breeze. Family photos with cracked glass carefully hang on the wall.

Children scuffle by the roadside. Smiling.

There are frangipani trees in bloom along the shore. They are beautiful.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

An Announcement.

Ive been commissioned to write a book. On the tsunami. And Samoa. The before, during and after. And the long term future. What does this mean?
* That there will be significantly fewer blogs on this page from here on out!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Who's an Addict?

Today is Day 18 of sobriety. For Darren. Who WAS a Diet Coke Addict. Two weeks ago he announced he was quitting diet coke. I laughed. Disparagingly. Mockingly. Doubtfully. The man downs at least 8 cans a day. Haha I said, whatever! He didnt appreciate my reaction. I mean it, he said. Im quitting. Totally. Right now. But why i said? To save money, he said. We're buying a house in NZ and we should stop spending money on Diet Coke.
Diet Coke is 2.60 a can. 8 cans a day is 20.80. 7 days a week is 145.60. Thats a lot of money to be sure. But while that did cause me to pause, still i was unconvinced. You'll get headaches, you'll be a nightmare to live with. Please dont quit diet coke i begged. But like the staunch man that he is, he was unmoved. No. Im not drinking anyore.
He had headaches. His kidneys killed him for 9 days straight. He popped Panadeine every 4 hours. He slept upright because his back hurt so much. And yes, he was a tad bit bad tempered and short with us. And when we arrived home after running away from a possible tsunami - he showed me his trembling hands. I patted him comfortingly - "Yes darling, I know...I was scared too. Its okay to be afraid. We're alright now." He looked affronted. No wife ( in parentheses...numbskulled dodobrain ridiculous wife) - my hands are shaking because of the diet coke withdrawal. Oh. Okay.

But now its official. Hes off the drugs. Hes a pollyanna bubble of positivity to live with again. He can sleep straight. And the headaches have stopped. The impossible has been realized. Darren the diet coke addict - has quit diet coke. I am very proud of him. And our bank balance will continue to thank him. But it means...

I have to drink my one can a day secretly. When hes not home. TO hear the click of the can opening. The hiss and fizz of the bubbles as they rush out. The chink of ice in the glass. The swirling splash as the refreshing black liquid foams over the lid and into your cup. Or to see the adorable way the bubbles embrace a sliver of lime. Or how i close my eyes as i savor the first sip. Then take a deep breath and exhale...all my tension and stress. Awash with a glass of diet coke on the rocks and a twist of lime. Yes, i have to drink in secret now. To help maintain and protect his self control. Just in case he cant handle it. Because HE'S an addict. And we all know that once an addict - always an addict.

Monday, October 12, 2009

How to Make Cold Process Soap

Step 1: Weigh all your ingredients super carefully. Especially the caustic soda.

2. Mix carefully according to your recipe. Always remember to add caustic TO the water. Never the other way around or else a volcano eruption could blow your face off.
3. Assemble your soapmold BEFORE going any further. We use box molds lined with thick plastic.
4. Plastic mold insert ready for the soap mix.
5. Adding caustic mix to the coconut oil.
6. Mixing up the soap, waiting for 'trace' stage

7. Pouring soap into the mold. Work fast because saponification works quickly.

8. Adding the insert dividers.
9. Soap sits for several hours. Covered for insulation.

10. Soap ready to pop out. Firm but not too hard.
11. Soap bars will now sit for several weeks to 'cure'.

12. Boxes of soap ready to sell.

How to Make Handmade Soap that Doesnt Burn Your Skin off.

Boxes of Frangipani Coconut Oil Soap.
I used to make soap the lazy,impatient way. I followed a recipe. But with lots of creative license. I threw in things as the fancy took me. A scatter here. A pinch of this and a pinch of that. I'd eat something and be struck with inspiration...oatmeal cinnamon cookies yummy - that would make yummy soap! Which was how glorious soaps like the 'Oatmeal Cookie Bar' was born. And quite by accident my friends would rave that soap inspired by a batch of cookies was healing their eczema. Which would send me scurrying to the internet ( the fountain of all knowledge and wisdom.) where i would read about how oatmeal soothes irritated skin. And cinnamon was anti fungal. And a muscle soother. And coconut oil was wonderful for eczema. And I would be amazed with my creative genius. And create some more.
Most times I would end up with beautiful, luxurious soap. All-natural, all-good for you. And such a delight to bathe with. But i would also end up with lots of creative 'failures'. Lumpy soap. Exploding soap. Bubbly soap. Soap that never got hard. Soap that sludged. And fudged. Soap only good for scrubbing my floors. And some nucelar meltdowns that went straight into the rubbish bin. Double sealed in plastic. To protect the rats from mutation.
So yes, in the beginning, i made soap MY way. It was thrilling living on the edge, never sure what you would make next. Or what part of my body i would burn skin off that day. But then my wonderful husband stepped in. He revolutionized the soapmaking operation. He built a workroom. With two tubs for scrubbing equipment. And miles of benchtop space. And shelving for storing soap while it 'cured'. And best of all, he replaced my little blender which made 12 soap at a time - with a power drill set up that made 40+ soap at a time. Where once i had slaved for hours making lots of maybe good and almost perfect soaps - he used engineering precision and science to make buckets of brilliant soap in minutes. I was in awe. I was worshipful. I appointed him Director of Soapmaking for Coconut Queen Products. (and gave him lots of kisses for his end of yr bonus.) What was his first act as Director of Soapmaking? He fired me. Condemned my creative fluffheadness to outer darkness.
I was bereft. And a little miffed. How could i make 'Chocolate Rum Fantasy' soap confections now? (the idea came to me while watching a movie set in Jamaica...rum cocktails, sweet treats on a moonlit beach) Darren refused to allow me to indulge in anymore wild fanciful soap ideas. No. From now on we make soap that sells. Soap that people actually want to buy. Soap that works. (So if you were one of the two people on the planet who was dreaming of bathing with choc rum fantasies...Im sorry)
But because Im not a total idiot I have slowly but surely been won over by efficiency and precision. And i must admit its soooooo nice to sit and watch HIM make soap. And only have to worry about what labels to make. And what words to use on the brochures. And breathe deeply of boxes of perfect handmade soap. No more sludge soap. Fudge soap. Exploding soap. Coconut Queen Products makes guaranteed WONDERFUL soap everytime now. Only problem is - now theres no dud soap to scrub my floors with.

When I Die.

I was thinking about dying the other day. Because it was on my list of 101 things to think about and plan. And because i was procrastinating the other 100 things that came before it ( tawdry meaningless stuff like...prepping the overdue GST report for Inland Revenue, helping Zach and Zion learn their parts for the Childrens Primary Sacrament program, finish the application letter to the bank begging for a loan, and maybe make my bed. ) So I made a list. Of stuff i want done and NOT done when i die.
1. If i die in a country with real medical facilities ( ones with toilet paper in the bathrooms. And pillows on the beds.) Then i want to be an organ donor. I like the thought of people running around energetically thanks to my heart. Lungs. A couple of kidneys. Maybe a liver uncorrupted by alcohol. (i confess a scan done 5 years ago revealed the aforementioned liver was a tad on the 'fatty' side. Can you even fathom how small and worthless one feels when a scan stranger tells you your liver is fatty?!) I dont want to give up my eyes though. Im quite fond of them. Owl eyes. Mata omo. The eyes that caused so much angst and suffering as a child because kids had nothing better to do than make me cry about my deepset Wendt-woman eyes. The same eyes that became 'deep pools of midnight' and 'eyes stars could lose themselves in' when a semi-drunk and infatuated male was staring in them. ( and stars) are all in the eye of the beholder!
So organs. Donate them.
2. I absoloutely refuse to go into any freezers. Even the very best very arctic coldest of the cold freezers. Even freezers that Walt Disney is cryogenically frozen in. No. And i refuse to be embalmed. Save that for King Tut. And Cher. Bury me immediately.
3. I dont want a coffin. Horrible things. Who wants to rot in a box that lasts forever? With windows to look out what? The worms diggin through eager for a snack? No. Wrap me in siapo. An ie toga.
4. There is to be NO heavy food served at my funeral. NONE. ZIP. NADA. Nobody gets a free feed at my farewell. Give everyone a drink of water. And maybe a cookie. Better still - a banana and a piece of coconut. Much healthier. And cheaper.
5. I'd love lots of singing at the funeral. Stuff like Ave Maria. And U2. And some primary songs by the children. And maybe derek would play the piano. And Elijah would sing. (Pleeeease u rock Elijah!)
6. I dont want a free for all speak fest at any time where anybody can get up and say stuff. Far too risky. Goodness only knows what state secrets and trash talk grief stricken random acquaintances will spill - especially if theyre bitter about only eating a piece of coconut at the funeral. No. Only censored and pre approved people can say things. I'll have to check my list of who Im on speaking terms with to see who fits the bill for 'Appropriate Speaker for Lanis Funeral'.
7. Dont dress me in white please. Its such an unflattering color. I like red. Purple. And of course black is timeless. And so slimming...

Pickles for Lazy, Impatient People

So heres the second installment of cooking for lazy, impatient people who still want to get that deliciously self-gratifying feeling of making ( and eating) complicated food made totally from scratch WITHOUT risking a stress prompted aneurysm. And WITHOUT sacrificing catching that oh-so-important episode of Desperate Housewives. (Not that i watch such trash. Ever. Really. I totally dont care to clutter my life with details of Bree's obsession with cleanliness and control and how her husband is resorting to kleptomania just to punish her. OR wondering how life will go on without Idi and her endless stream of men, men,men. )

Back to pickles. I have memories of my mothers breadnbutter pickles. Sweet. Tart. Satisfying. Perfect on a hunk of bread. With a scoop of melting margarine. ( we couldnt afford butter) But I always thought that making your own pickles was something Martha Stewart did on her day off. Or seriously super Utah Mormon mothers did before baking bread and milking cows on the prairie. (Im not sure why because my mother is none of those things.) I of course never envisioned i would one day have the techno-know-how to make pickles. Let alone the desire to join the ranks of the Pickle Perfect Homemaker. But then I got a calling in the womens organization that required me to not only plan cooking and craft activities for lots of women - but to actually attend them and pretend like i was learning something. (As opposed to only going to talk/gossip and eat the refreshments like i usually did.)
There I was doing my organizer thing when the demonstrater whipped out a bowl full of breadnbutter pickles. They smelt divine. They smelt like childhood. They tasted divine. Like I was 8 years old and only had to worry about how i could torment my kid sister ( who was spoilt rotten and it was soooo unfair) without her trying to stab me with the bread knife. ( i exagerate you not. Come on Pele - verify it! Embrace your past! Acknowledge your violent childhood!) After sampling the pickles, i was flabbergasted when the teacher then proceeded to make another batch. In 5 minutes. With nothing but a pot, some ice cubes, a gas burner. Various spices. A smile. A few effortless stirs. And voila! Pickles. I was hooked. That could be me. Chopping, stirring, spicing, smiling and then eating pickles...every darn day if i pleased. I got the recipe. I came home abuzz with excitement. I made pickles. And it was easy. And quick. And i rejoiced on behalf of lazy and impatient cooks everywhere. We have a winner folks!

Ingredients:(give or take whatever's in your cupboard)
- cucumbers. As many as you like. Maybe 8. Or 15. Or 25. The sauce in this recipe will pickle any number of cucumbers. And come on, how can one really say a defn number? Because everyone knows cucumbers are all different sizes. And shapes. So however many you have - then thats how many you need.
- 2 onions
- 3 tspns of minced garlic from a bottle. If youre obsessed with purity and suffering then go ahead and cut your own fresh garlic. 3 cloves of it. And try to catch up with the rest of us who are smart enough to buy a jar from the store for a couple of bucks.
- 1/3 cup salt
- 5 cups sugar
- 3 cups vinegar. I use white vinegar because its the cheapest. Pickle perfectionists use cider vinegar.
- 1 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1 1/2 tsp celery seed ( dont be fia poto like me and try to chop up fresh celery instead. Trust me, it aint the same thing!)
- 2 tbsp mustard seed
Slice the cucumbers. Thin. Slice the onions. Thin. Throw in a bowl. Add the garlic. Sprinkle the salt over it all. Mix it with your hands gently. Crack a tray of ice cubes on top. Cover the bowl with a teatowel. Put in fridge for a few hours. I forgot about it the other time and left it for 2 days. Still turned out okay but i wouldnt recommend you push it too far.
Take out of fridge and rinse the salt off in running water. Put aside. In a pot, combine the sugar, vinegar, and spices on the stove. Medium heat and stir it to dissolve the sugar. Let it boil a little. Add the cucumber stuff. Stir it. Simmer it a bit. Turn it off. Wait for it to cool then eat it quick before the kids find out and all your pickles disappear before you have a chance to gloat over them

Cucumbers all cut up and covered with salt and ice.

Pickles in a pot. Simmering. Prepare to gloat.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Operation Budget

So we might be getting this huge loan to buy this smallish house in the semi medium country of New Zealand so that we can and will eventually make the hughmungously huge step of moving our selves and our medium size family of five hugely amazing children in pursuit of life, liberty and unlimited access to no less than TEN different kinds of drivethru fast food. ( As opposed to the seriously meagre ONE drive thru option available in Apia.)

But i digress. What i wanted to say was - a loan means the launch of 'Operation BUDGET'. It means no more livin it up in the high flying, high roller life of excessive consumerism and disgustingly extravagant wastefulness. Thats right - the Youngs are going to get serious about money. Saving it that is. We had a 'family meeting' yesterday to tell the FIVE about the new Operation. The need for teamwork. All hands on deck. Inviting ideas for frugal living. Now i dont call them the Fabulous Five for nothin...

Sade's Tips for Thrifty Treasure - Turn the tap off when youre brushing yr teeth. Dont take 30 minute showers even if youre trying to avoid doing the dishes by running the tap and secretly reading a book in the bathroom. Dont turn the fan on because you claim "Bellas hot and needs the air" when really you want the fan on for yourself. Only feed the dogs once a day.

Jade's Nuggets of Financial Wisdom - 'I dont know. Ummmm...I dont know.' When pressed upon to 'think of something or else your mothers gonna get extremely upset and forget you are made of easily bruised flesh and blood' he then furrowed his brow and expended a few more brain cells. We could eat less. And i could run to school to save petrol. Or how about we just dont buy the house in NZ?

Zion's Pearls of Great Price - Mum could sell more soap. Dad could build more buildings. Zach can only have one sandwich instead of two. Sade can go to bed early and turn off the light early to save power. What about the money machine? We could get more money from there?

Zach's Gems - None. He was asleep.

Bella's Bounteaous Suggestions - On the Beast's behalf we suggested she could...take greater more COMITTED effort to be toilet trained thereby reducing the need for $40 pack of Huggies diapers. Stop playing with the water cooler. Sip her water instead of taking huge mouthfuls to then run to the bathroom and mimic vomiting into the toilet with huge peals of laughter at her cleverness. Eat all her food instead of leaving a trail of Hansel and Gretel breadcrumbs all through the house. (Encouraging the mouse to forage under the sheets in my bed. )
So there you have it. I am terribly excited and hopeful of our future success at saving based on the wonders of the above lists.
In honor of our first day of Operation Budget I very virtuously engaged in frugal activity all day. I made 60 solid beeswx perfumes to sell. I turned a 8 dollar bag of cucumbers into a pot of sweet bread and butter pickles. I used the last of the hand ground rice flour to make a loaf of GF bread. I ransacked the fridge and cupboard to make a 'soup of creative ingenuity' using all the odds and ends that normally would end up stinking in the trash. But that wasnt all. On a roll, i baked 5 dozen GF sugar cookies that theoretically will last the week. (HAH yeah right. Im eating one right now.) And two absoloutely amazing meat loaf...glazed in a cinnamon, sugar, tomato sauce, honey sauce.
After all that industry i was ready to deport my family. And burn the house down. And run away to join the circus. All that homemade heaven was driving me up the wall. So armed with the iPod i went running on the seawall. Which felt good.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Peles Photography: Tsunami Samoa

Tsunami Samoa

Samoa. She smiles.

Its 10:30pm and the house is asleep. Im trying to ‘debrief’ my brain from today. Spent the morning cooking. We went out to the Tsunami area at about 12:30. Took 45 min to get there. Tai Tauilili drove our dyna with Sio – loaded with coolers of hot chicken soup, drinking water, 70 loaves of bread, 250 hot dog sausages, paper cups etc. Peta, Henry T, and two other friends rode with them. I had Kristen T. and Sade in my car. People wanting to help helped cook the food. Mum. Kristen. Rebecca Lolo. Peta. Another one of my dream teamers, Tania Mitchell. Henry Tunupopo, Kristian Scanlon, Sita.

It was eerie. Up until right before the aleipata zone – Samoa looked totally and completely ‘normal’. People playing volleyball. People gardening etc. One minute we were in tropical paradise. The next it was hell. Im sure you’ve seen the footage on tv by now. Its truly horrific up close. The road is clear all the way round the island – lots of big machinery has been working overtime to clear roadway thru wreckage. The sea has claimed the land right up to the road now. Houses, shops etc that once lined the road are a mass of rubble. In some sections they are trucking in loads of sand and stone to reinforce the road so cars can fit thru safely. We only drove a few 100 meters into the zone before pulling over and starting the first serving out of soup and sandwiches. That was the pattern for the rest of the afternoon. Drive a little ways. See people. Stop and offer food. As soon as they heard we had hot food, people came from all directions. We were feeding EPC crews trying to put up new poles and restore power, police teams searching through mess for bodies, people looking for family members, health workers. A woman sitting under a tree on a broken bucket – waiting ‘for them to find my baby. O lo’u sister ma lana tama. All dead.’ she said. A man who wolfed down two hot dogs and refills of soup before describing their escape in the hilltop behind the mangrove swamp, climbing trees, hanging on. Now searching for his wifes family. Cousins. A brother. Only a handful of ragged children around to give the candy and Petas homemade choc chip cookies to. My brain kept screaming – ‘The children? Where are all the children?’Reminded me of the child catcher scene in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. They’re gone. All gone.
There was a distinctive smell all along the route. Not immediately one of decay. More a stale, dank wet seaweed smell. People wearing masks in pickups going past with cloth covered shapes in the back. Everywhere there were anomalies. Oddities. A cement foundation – smashed brick house on its side beside it. The insides splayed everywhere. Right next door – a open Samoan fale. Still standing. TV sets half buried in the sand. A land cruiser crumpled in half. A boat sitting high in the mangrove trees. Just a month ago, I ran past the new LDS chapel at Malaela where primary children lined the road beside the basketball court and clapped for me. “Go, go, go fa’amalosi!” they cheered. Today theres nothing but rocks and sea where the basketball court was. All that’s left of the chapel is a crooked roof balancing on broken walls. The children? What of the children?
Considering the extent of the damage, I was surprised not to see more crews searching – for the dead, for the living. I never saw any boats checking the water. Only bedraggled pockets of people shifting through the wreckage. My bossy/control freak/manager/know it all - self wanted to back up to those villages with volleyball games and mobilize everyone to get their happy cheerful butts down to the hell zone to start cleaning up and looking for people. Probably just tied into my general feeling of overall helplessness and frustration at how little we could really do to help.

The dusty road was very busy. Trucks piled high with sacks of rice and clothing. Vans filled with health workers. Diplomatic cars inspecting the damage. TV crews galore were at the beach fale stretch at Lalomanu, just past Boomerang. Or whats left of Boomerang. Theyre still trying to establish how many tourists are missing. Unsure how many there were staying at different places to begin with. The first group of survivors flying out tonight. All they want is to go home. To get as far away from here as possible. Hurt and afraid in hospital. One tells of her experience. The wave tore the clothes off their backs. Cut and scraped all over. Survivors found naked and bleeding. At one surf resort, the owner didn’t wait for a warning. As soon as the earthquake hit, he alerted the resort and got everyone out. Also told the village to move as well. How many lives he has saved.
In this climate, decomposition is of course setting in quickly. Searchers say they are finding body parts in places. One body decapitated. Force of waves and debris ripping people apart. Said they will need to bring in DNA experts soon. The bossy/control freak/knowitall in me wanted sniffer dogs. And thermal heat imaging equipment. And all that other stuff they have on CSI. And James Bond movies.
I was humbled by our peoples attitude. I think I would have been cursing the heavens if it had been me digging through my house to find my children. I was almost afraid to offer people food in case they lashed out at me. I imagined ‘Are you crazy! Of course I don’t want a #@&*%# cup of soup – I just lost my entire family here and you want me to have a cookie?!’ Instead, we got nothing but appreciation, gratitude. Blessings. ‘Faafetai mo lou agagalelei’. May the Lord bless you. Thank you so much. You’re so good. Thank you, thank you.’ Everything taken away in one swooping wave and there they were giving thanks. And asking God to bless ME.

People desperate for water. To drink. To bathe. To cook. Big truck from Craig construction went past with 3 vast rota tanks of water. Many people there to help. Two vans - seats piled high with tarpaulin and canned food sat patiently outside a shell of a church. Looking for a congregation to receive it. Pickups loaded with water bottles and masi, sheets and towels. Everybody wants to help.
The nights here have been very cold lately. Im shivering under a blanket and I hope the people of Aleipata have something to keep them warm. The soup is finished. We left the last of the bread and curry at a makeshift hospital at Poutasi. And the rest of the lollipops. They looked rather dismal in their surroundings. Sade said – it feels good to help. Did you see how happy they were to get some food? Im glad she came with us. But im not sure about the happy part. I keep thinking about the woman sitting on a broken bucket under a tree. Waiting. I gave her a cup of soup. Then went back and hugged her. I cried. But her eyes were dry. Do you think shes still waiting there?

Finally some children to give cookies to.
Soup crew at work.

Disaster Zone Images

Things I wont forget...
* The mother sitting on a upturned bucket in the shade of a crooked tree. Meagre belongings scattered around her. Waiting. For searchers to find the bodies of her children.
* The little girl in ragged clothing, a dirty face. No shoes. Eagerly reaching for soup and a bag of candy. Then taking a call on her cellphone. And telling the caller about standing in line for hot soup and hot dogs.

* The LDS chapel at Malaela. That got totalled. The basketball court that is no more. Where a line of children stood and cheered me on as i ran in the perimeter relay. I wonder, did they all make it out?

*How sad and happy i felt when we shared food with the first group of people. Their disbelief that we were giving out fresh food for free. Ice water.

* The smell on day four. Like driving past a dead dog on the side of the road. The fish everywhere. Dead under your feet.

*The aqua blue sea. A silken cloth of shimmering strands, strewn with diamond surf. Did it really rear its ugly head and wipe out entire villages? Rage and storm and rain upon so many? Sweeping away all and sundry in its path?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

One of us MUST Live

I need some Humor. If youre NOT in the mood for a lighthearted take on tsunami warnings then dont read this note.
Today there was a tsunami warning. Again. And with so many people 'hit' in so many different ways LAST week - it was nervous chaos as people evacuated the low ground. Gotta say though - it certainly puts a lot of stuff in perspective when youre (supposedly) outrunning/outdriving a tidal wave with yr husband and thinking abt the fact u have 5 children at home. And no will. Or life insurance.
We were at wesley arcade when the sirens went off. And then we were stuck in the nightmare traffic crawling at snails pace along the main road. And all around us people are walking and trotting along waaay faster than the cars. Women teetering on platforms and high heels got me thinking - we totally need to carry running shoes in the car at all times.
Told darren - no matter what happens one of us MUST live cos of the kids. He said, if wave comes, I will carry you and run to safety. I said - dont be ridiculous. You mst run and not even look back for me and my slow self cos i will kill him if kids end up with nobody. So then he takes my words farrrrrrrrr too much to heart and tells me - well one of us must drive the car and the other has to get out and start running NOW. I say - but its hot outside! And I'll feel silly. He says - youre not taking this seriously enough. You come drive then and Ill run. I say - but that means you'll leave me behind all by myself how could u abandon me like that!? And he says exasperatedly - hello didnt u tell me one of us must survive and of course it will be me since i can run a mile in less than 5 minutes flat? And my romantic princess to be rescued bubble bursts and i grumpilly get out of car and start walking home. And he calls out to me as i walk off - hey just make sure your clothes dont get swept off in the wave hahaha. And im thinking - fine then...just leave me to get swept away to a horrible death then... And he fnally catches up to me when i get to Moamoa. ( hey im a prety fast walker at least!) And we get home safely. And there is no tsunami. And all is well.
But now the truth is out. My knight in shining armor CAN and WILL run like the wind to safety and solo parent our children if need be. Which is a good thing. For the five children with parents who have no wills and no life insurance. BUT where does that leave me? Swimming in septic sewer water. Hanging on a satellite dish on top of the TV 3 building. Surfing to Palisi on a coconut frond?
Clearly - theres 3 things I must do before the next tsunami warning.
1. Get a will. 2. Get life insurance. 3. Run harder and faster so i can get fitter and then I can run a mile in less than 5 minutes flat.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Extraordinary People: Tsunami Samoa

Today in the zone, it was blazing hot. And dusty with sea silt. And it smelled. Bad. Very bad. Not just wet, dead fish smell. The air was thick with what i can only describe as lots of dead things smell. It seeped through the windows. Into your clothes. Your hair. Making you want to cover your nose. Or hold your breath for the three hours it took to drive the zone and give out soup. But you didnt. Because it felt rude. Disrespectful. To all those picking through the pieces of their lives. Pushing a wheelbarrow with a rice sack and a water canteen. Sweeping sand out of a spindly hut thats surrounded with hills of tsunami trash. Asking politely if theres a spoon to eat with? while wearing one jandal and sitting on the cement foundation of your swept away home. Announcing with a sigh of relief - 'No, theres nobody missing from our houses here. Everybody is found. 18 bodies all found yesterday. Nobody missing anymore. '

The zone is not an easy place to live. Or to work in. But extreme circumstances require exceptional effort from ordinary people.
People like EPC linesmen. - The day after the tsunami they were putting up new power poles. Clearing away fallen wires. Today, they were still there. The same teams because lots of them recognized the soup truck and greeted us like long lost friends. I will never flip a light switch again without a greater appreciation for the work that goes into shining light in darkness. Amazingly, power poles are up. Lining the road clear through to Lalomanu.And as we drove away at 5pm, still the linesmen labor on. I doubt theyre calculating their overtime pay. And certainly none seemed to begrudge their hard work. As the lights start to go on at Aleipata - we say thank you.
People like - the road crew. Immediately after the waves hit, a call went out on the radio for all and any heavy duty equipment companies to please, please come help clear the roads so rescue teams could make it through to the disaster zone. They came. Bulldozers. Diggers. Dump trucks. EXcavators. And with them came the machine operators. The truckloads of road workers. They cleared the road. They started trucking rocks and sand to fill in the holes so cars could make it through. They're reinforcing the seawalls. Moving rubble. Shifting concrete blocks and fallen bricks. Helping to find the lost. You can drive smoothly and pothole-free right from disaster zone start to finish. I got home at 6pm, eager for a shower to erase the grime of the day. I wondered - what time will the road crew get to sleep tonight? As the relief trucks roll in on beautiful strips of road - we say thank you.
People like - the Samoa Police force. On the eve of tsunami day, the radio called for 'all police to report at 4am in work boots and heavy duty gear.Bring a change of clothes because you will be swimming and diving to recover bodies. Come ready to work.' And they did. On Tuesday, police were everywhere. Doing everything and anything. Today, they're everywhere. Doing everything and and anything. At Boomerang over 60 of them are scouring the ground for the 7 people still missing from those beach fales alone. They found one crumpled 4 year old today. They'll be there till late tonight. And they'll be back again tomorrow. Until they've found them all. We got to them at 4pm. They were tired. But cheerful. As the relief effort continues, organized and orderly - we say thank you. Extreme circumstances require exceptional effort from ordinary people. And the results? Extraordinary.

EPC take a soup break.

Police pause for soup.
Road crew take a break. Road warriors.
Police stay positive.
Soup crew at work.