Saturday, 5 March 2016

Vanuatu Week Five: Cyclone Pam

I could have edited this episode but instead I took it straight from my journal entry that day. And yes, I was painfully aware that it was Friday the 13th.  This was written in Wosak Village.

This morning the wind got heavier and the wind stronger. We had gateau for breakfast and that was when it started to get bad.

We had to bolt from the kitchen because the roof was being showered with coconuts. We hid in the store until Mamie told us to run to Miss Viran’s. We were there until lunch. There were 11 kids, Courtney, Miss Viran and me in the house.  I managed to rescue my passport and important documents from our house. Viran’s house literally bowed in the wind. The school office is down, I don’t know where the water tank is. There was a scramble by assorted Ni-van adults to reinforce roofs further, ours in particular but I doubt the classrooms will have them when we go home.

Funny to think I refer to a dirt and bamboo hut as home but it’s true and I pray it’s still there when we go back. Daddy Ben’s place blew down already but him, Mammy, Hensley, Firenze and Nikki are all safe.

Anyway, there was an almighty crack and Kelly’s kitchen came crashing down. Kerina and Auntie were both inside and Mamie said that Dad had to lift the building to get them out. So it was decided that we were evacuating to Wosak. We were sent home to grab clothes etc and I was lucky enough have my journal and bible in the bag I chucked stuff in.

The walk down the hill is the single most terrifying thing I have ever done. Future me, should you decide to walk down a muddy hill in a cyclone, you are crazy and should stay put unless there is no other option. The path is entirely surrounded by trees, which in strong gusts can and do fall down. The descent was a mixture of bolting as fast as humanly possible, screeching to a stop and sliding through mud, half falling the whole time.

I prayed my way down that hill, a tree fell just behind us, Roger was carrying Lavi and I thought we’d lost Basil for a minute. Even though they were telling us not to be scared, every single person scrambling down that hill was in some way. I prayed that we made it to the village intact, nothing more. I had to talk to myself rather sternly for a minute because there was no way I was going to die terrified on a muddy hill. It paid off.

We made it to the Nakamal in one disgusting, soggy piece. I was soaked though, my pyjamas were due for a wash anyway and it was easier to walk in them than my skirt. Oh, the rat that ate my shoes took a few good chunks out of my favourite skirt. I fixed it yesterday. I hope the rat drowns. At the Nakamal, we changed and ate. I have never been so happy to be inside in my life.

Since then, we’ve been moved to a very sturdy house, it’s raised off the ground and you can’t feel the wind. We’ll stay here until the cyclone passes. She’s expected to hit Vila at 1:57 tomorrow, I believe in the morning. This time tomorrow, 3:30pm, we should have survived the worst. Perhaps we’ll be home.

So I don’t forget, the rain is so heavy at points that you cannot see. Complete white out. The wind bends trees in two, they crash into each other and domino down. It’s not hot, it’s constantly dark and the sound of air and water is ever present. This is the worst cyclone Vanuatu has faced in 35 years, since 1980. It’s going to be a hell of a story to tell.

I didn’t realise just how true that sentence was when I wrote it. Just because the cyclone was passing didn’t mean life would go back to normal.

Love From Me and My Backpack

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