Monday, May 23, 2005

Shake, Rattle, and Roll

Sunday, 5/22/2005 16:30: Banda Aceh

So I finally got to experience one! A few days ago Teh had told me that we had experienced a small earthquake but I didn’t feel it. I had also slept through another trembler. Today, I got my taste. BOOM! That’s what it first sounded like. It woke me right up at 6 in the morning. The hotel was truly shaking. Yeah, you Californians are used to this, but Michiganders don’t really get earthquakes. Pipes in my bathroom cracked and started spraying water everywhere and the windows sounded like they would break. It was only a 5.6, but the epicenter was right outside Banda Aceh. In retrospect, I was totally ill-prepared. Ricardo had told me to keep a bag by my bed with all my valuables and identity documents. I didn’t… I had changed pants the night before and stuff was separated into pants. So the hotel’s shaking and in the dark… I should have gotten my pajama-butt out of the building ASAP, but no, I’m trying to find my pants, my passport, my money, and my room key! When I finally grab everything and open the door to leave, the earthquake stops. Shaken, I go back to bed but I couldn’t get to sleep for another hour. This morning as I walked down to breakfast, the plaster had cracked throughout the hotel. This hotel barely survived the last earthquake… I don’t know how many more of these she can take.

After breakfast, Teh and I went out to do some more exploring. It’s the first day of having a car. Indra, our driver, speaks a little English. He’s really a great guy and always smiling. He fractured his leg in a motorcycle accident five years ago. He refused to let them amputate his leg, but now we walks with a painful limp. We checked out another part of the city. I was stunned at the some the sights. One of the most impressive was a fishing boat (see picture), perched precariously on the roof of a home. Indra (see picture), brought us to his home. His family was clearing rubble around what’s left of their house. They were the lucky ones. Their neighbor saw the wave approaching and called them to come to his second story. They got in the house just in time, but the second story wasn’t high enough. They had to climb to the roof… where they waited for ten hours. It was 94 degrees today. I can’t imagine what that must have been like sitting on a corrugated zinc roof, the sun reflecting on the hot room while you watch your dead friends and family float away in the water below you. Their section of town had 1500 before the wave hit, it now has 200. His family was lucky, they survived, but his father died of a stress heart attack a few weeks following the tsunami.
We then continued on up the coast. A lot of aid groups have built seahuts for the homeless. Seahuts, named after the Seabees, who originally designed them, are long row houses, built on stilts. The house is then separted into 4-6 big rooms. Each family gets one room in these seahuts. I actually lived in one when I was in Kosovo, but I had a whole room to myself! We also saw a lot of the fish hatcheries and nurseries that were also devastated… recovery is so much more than building houses, it’s the rebuilding of the infrastructure and the rebuilding of a way of life… a way of life that might be gone for ever.

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