Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Vanuatu Week Five Monday to Thursday: Batten Down the Hatches

Monday started with bad weather and Courtney having a cold. The weather was so bad that the edges of our roof would lift up and there was a patch of rain water on my bed. The pouring rain did have one advantage, I had the biggest bucket shower of my life. I felt clean for a whole ten minutes.

We were sitting outside in the afternoon when Lavi appeared and started pretending to read us Courtney’s book. We had some picture books inside, which I grabbed. She was delighted with them and spent the rest of the afternoon laughing at us and the pictures. She also got into a fight with a chicken and stole my hat, there is never a dull with moment with that little girl about.

The other exciting thing about that Monday was that we had been in Vanuatu for a month. Somehow we’d actually managed to not make complete fools of ourselves the entire time. It was quite an achievement because every day there was something else that I’d never experienced before.

Tuesday explained why the weather was so bad. There was a cyclone hanging out near the Solomon Islands and we were getting updates about where it was headed. Courtney and I packed away our belongings and stored them under the beds, important documents waterproofed. We just had to hope and pray for the best.

The rest of the day was just normal life. I sewed my sandals back together because a filthy rat had eaten straight through the straps. They were the only shoes I had left and I really wanted to keep them. The Ni-vans were amused, I was not. We had namumbwai which I split open myself, before I could eat it, cheeky baby Krystal came and nicked mine straight out of my hand.

Waiting for a cyclone is not a very exciting experience in many ways. Classes were cancelled on Wednesday. Everything was moved to the class five room because it was deemed the most structurally sound. After that, we were practically confined to our house. All around us, trees were being cut down, branches cut back, roofs reinforced and belongings collected. The metal roofs were taken off buildings and weighted down because it is hard to come by and can be deadly in the air.

I got a call from my mum, asking me if I was worried. I was less worried on Wednesday because people had been preparing for it, unlike on Tuesday. My brain had decided there was nothing I could do about this cyclone and that what was going to happen would happen. I just had to trust God and that his plan was the best thing for me, there was no point fighting that.

Thursday morning we got a message, the cyclone, Pam, was not coming at us as a 3 but as a full on 5. On Pentecost there is a kastom that spitting a certain leaf into the wind would keep the cyclone away from us. Needless to say, I was a little sceptical about that.

The weather really started to creep me out. I could deal with the wind and rain but there were these moments in between the two where nothing was moving. I began to understand why people who had been through cyclones and other natural disasters say the calm is the worst. The waiting is the storm getting close enough to do damage but not being quite close enough to actually show up on time.

Admittedly, we were better off than the Solomons, who had been beaten by Pam and then had Nathan smashing into the other side. There was also a third system developing between Fiji and Tonga. I decided that it must have been “Let’s Destroy The Pacific Nations” month.

Meanwhile, more trees were coming down. We helped drag coconut palms up the hill to secure the roofs. This involved hoisting them up to the person on the roof, who would then tie two together that were draped across the width of the roof. This would stop the roof lifting in the wind, no one wanted that in the night. 

Kerina, Kay, Wawa and Jineth stayed in our front room on Thursday night. They made a real slumber party of it, hair braiding and everything. The rain was torrential, the wind knocked the trees about. Sadly, the worst was yet to come. Pam was just getting started.

Love From Me and My Backpack

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