Thursday, June 30, 2005

A Birth

Thursday 30 June, 2005 1300: Mulia

Today was an exciting day. As my coworker, Barbara, said, we birthed a baby today. That baby was my Cash for Work project. After a lot of discussion with our sister NGO, here in Banda, we wanted to start with a small village and work out any kinks that might develop as a result. Barbara, our finance delegate from Jakarta, came up for the first day of the project and also to work with my finance/admin officer to ensure that all the villagers get the supplies which they need. We went out at 8:00 AM to the site. Mulia is a sub-village inside of Banda Aceh. It was in the direct path of the tsunami. Destroyed houses were everywhere. Before the tsunami, the village had 2000 people. Now it has 800. I came there expecting to watch the first day of signing in. It turns out they wanted to have a small ceremony and I had to give a speech! The village really went to a lot of work to get ready for this ceremony. There were banners and the local Imam had been invited to also speak. After the chief spoke, then the Imam talked for about ten minutes. It was then my turn. I really wasn’t sure what to say, but I talked about the effects of the tsunami and how on the 26th of December, Aceh cried, then the world cried. I tried to stress that I am only here because of the American people and their desire to help the people of Aceh. I know that this is only a small token of gratitude, but if we can clean this one village, and clean it well, then we’ve done something.

The people were very grateful. After the speech, Barbara and I distributed token wheelbarrows and hats to village representatives. It was a bit strange, I felt like the queen of England or something… I almost touched my hair, making sure I wasn’t wearing a flowered hat! After the ceremony, they brought us to a table (almost like a tribunal) where we could watch the rest of the distribution. They had refreshments for us as well. I didn’t want to sit though. I got up and watched as coordinators made ID cards and distributed boots, hoes, wheelbarrows, and gloves. Many NGOs do not provide protective equipment. I’m glad that we made that a policy early on. We also took a small tour of the village and saw some of the devastation. It disturbs me how the devastation doesn’t shock me anymore. I feel almost numbed from it.

I think we got some good press from the event. Our local press officers were there taking snapshots and interviewing villagers. It was really a great feeling to see something develop from inception to implementation. Knowing I must return in mid-August, it pains me to know that I will not be able to be here to see the program’s completion. I’ll be honest, though. I really enjoyed the moment, but it’s something that I never could have done without the volunteers on the ground. We’re finished with planning and are now in the program management stage… let the fun begin!

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Es Tu Satay?

Wednesday 29 June, 2006: Banda Aceh

Yesterday… was NOT a good day. It actually started off quite harmless. I had a pancake and some scrambled eggs. Ibu Murne, our housekeeper, had made some exquisite chicken satay the night before (this is sort of like a shish kabob of grilled meat that is dipped in a peanut sauce). I was just in a munching mood and had a piece from the fridge. At work, as usual, life was very hectic. I needed to get a money transfer from our finance officer in Jakarta to pay for some operations cost. Simone, my wife, called for a few minutes and I started realizing something was not right. My mom got on the phone and I would usually love to talk, but I just wanted to get off the phone but didn’t know why. I had to go to the bank and pick up a money transfer from Jakarta. As I started off to the bank… I started getting an uneasy almost queasy feeling. Twenty minutes into the ride I was sweating and feeling nauseous. My field officer, Dedy, was by my side. I looked at him and said… I gotta get out. We pulled off the road and I puked till I thought I could not puke anymore. It felt great… you know that feeling of peace after the retching is over!

Dedy wanted to go to the hospital. He’d never seen vomit such a bright yellow and was a bit worried, but I really needed to get the money from the bank. We decided to continue on. This time I got in the car on the right side… so incase I got sick I could get out of the car fast. Glad I did… two klicks down the road I was throwing up again. I was pretty sure this was a nasty case of botulism or salmonella. I had food-poisoning in Rome last year (Simone has a pic of me tossing cookies by the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish steps) and I recognized the symptoms. Dedy was great though. He kept massaging my neck as I was dry-heaving. We called our nurses at the office and they suggested to go home and take an anti-nauseal. We stopped at a pharmacist (where I threw up) and got some pills (and some plastic bags for the ride home). They told me to take one pill. I got took it with the water, got back in the car and five minutes later promptly threw it up into the bag. The pills weren’t cheap, but I wasn’t even considering recycling! Thus began the recurring theme for the next four hours. I got to know the texture, color, and taste of stomach bile quite well. But boy, our housekeeper was a true saint. She kept checking in on me, wiping my brow, cleaning me up. It was not fun, but she made it so much better than it could have been. Ibu Murne’s brownie points were already high and they just went through the roof!

But I’m all better now. I finally fell asleep in the early afternoon and slept for another four hours… my body needed the rest. My appetite has improved, but I haven’t touched satay since!

Friday, June 24, 2005

Safe and Sound

Thursday 23 June, 2005 10:30 AM: Banda Aceh
You might have heard that a relief worker was shot last night in Aceh and I’m just checking in… letting you know it wasn’t me and I’m fine! Though, it was a little freaky for me because I have travelled the road where the person was shot several times. This has been a wake-up call to all of us here in the field. It's also a reminder that we are still serving in a conflict area. Our thoughts and prayers are with her and we hope and pray that this was just a freak accident.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Community Action Planning: Volunteers working with village chief (man in the middle) and senior village leaders to create an action plan to rebuild their village.

Community Action Planning: Our sister society decided to include women in the planning process at the last moment. I'm so glad they did. They provided tremendous insight and really were responsible for the overall success of the training.

Mappng: The Fisherman describing his ideal village. They envision fish ponds and and processing plants. They were concentrating so much on fishing that they forgot about farming and schools.

Mapping: Explaining the concept of mapping with Ruby, my translator and right-hand man.

Capacity Building at Its Best

Wednesday 22 June, 2005 21:31 Banda Aceh

Wow, again it’s been a busy week. I have been so caught up in the planning of our Cash For Work training. It’s been non-stop for the last few days getting things ready. We’ve been working with our sister society here in Indonesia to build their capacity. With my anal tendencies, I was a little scared that things would fall through. They have never done anything on this level before… but they did not let me down. The training was a full day. It was held on the grounds of the local university here. The university had a lot of open spaces and parks… now they are filled with IDP (Internally Displaced People) camps.

Sharial and I went yesterday to check out the facilities. The room was damaged from the tsunami. It was missing part of a roof, but we decided to use it anyway… with the condition if it rained, we could move to another classroom. The building is actually used by the women’s handicrafts training. This is where seamstresses perfect their art. I was amazed by the beauty of some of the work. I talked them into letting me by a quilt from them (we don’t have any at the house) and also am ordering an ornate quilt that will take about a month to complete. This quilt, which is hand made, would easily fetch $1500 for its intricacy in the states. I’ll pay just over $100.00 It’s worth every penny. It’s beehive flower style. Each of the hexagon’s are about an inch wide… really a fine piece of handicraft… and really, I just came there to look at the room!

Even though I was involved behind the scene for the training, I really wanted it to be run by our local society. This was partly successful. I did an icebreaker and facilitated a four hour critical thinking activity… I really liked the concept of my icebreaker… it was classic youth camp/church group activity… but it bombed painfully here. The basic idea is that you have a name taped to your back. You have to go around and introduce yourself to others in the room and ask them a yes or no question about your character. When you finally guess who you are, you can sit down… easy… right? Something definitely got lost in the translation. Ruby and I had worked to come up with World and local politicians as well as Indonesian pop stars. But when we planned this activity, it was mainly going to be our sister society at the training. They invited the geuchiks (village chiefs) and a female representative. Some of these people were in their sixties… and had NO clue who “Jet Lee” was. In retrospect, the group size (fifty people) was too big for this activity.

After my activity, they took a prayer break and then started with the technical part of the training. There were discussions of the SOP and of pay grades. Our sister society also conducted a refresher course on the fundamentals of our organization and why we do what we do, trying to let our volunteers know that we are part of the bigger picture. We had lunch and then I conducted my critical thinking portion. This was mainly to get them to think outside of the box and to understand how good planning is directly related the success of an operation. We also discussed community action plans and the importance of a holistic approach to village rehabiliiation. We then conducted a mapping exercise to illustrate the point. This was more successful than I EVER imagined. We divided the people into five groups: Women; Farmers, Fishermen; Small Business Owners; and Entrepreneurs. I gave them a simple scenario… your village has been completely wiped out and you need to design your village from scratch. How would you design it. We had poster board and colored markers. Each group really got into it. As I sort of hoped, farmers only concentrated on their farms and neglected the fish ponds. But they also designed small scale palm oil factories and rice mills. Small business forgot about the farmers, etc. It was great to have the kids view as well… In the midst of disaster, it’s easy to forget the remaining children still need to have a childhood. Everyone is concentrating on the farms and the houses, but kids need a place to play and have fun.

After each of the groups presented, we had a wrap session and discussed what we had learned. They really got it… their villages are wiped out and yes, this is an almost unbearable tragedy, but they also have the unique opportunity to rebuild their villages from scratch. They can build them with paved roads and with every house having a vegetable garden. Yes, there are budgetary limits, but you don’t have a pesky neighbor’s coconut trees in the way. After that, the villagers broke into small brainstorming groups and our sister society got together and had their planning sessions. After about an hour of that, they then divided into six villages. Our volunteers then got to meet with the villagers that they would be working with. Their task was having a community action plan before they left. I had introduced Gant charts and almost cried when I saw some of the village chiefs creating Gant charts from scratch… they really got it… and I cant’ even speak the language. The training ended about 6:30 PM. It was a long day but was ten times more successful than I could have imagined. The villagers arrived that day seeing what we could do for them and left planning what they could do for their own village. The position change was subtle but clear. We moved from a “money giver” to a partner in reconstruction. My heart sang and is still singing as I write this. Ruby asked me what we were doing tomorrow. I have been so focused on this day that I truly have NO idea… but don’t worry, there will always be something.

Our Ice-Breaker Activity: Villagers and volunteers had names on their backs and each person had to guess who they were, only by asking yes and no questions... the activity sort of bombed, but lots of laughs. That's what's important!

Thursday, June 16, 2005

A Little Snack: Sharing the Love in Lhoong

Remains: Lhoong villagers get a break from work as the remains of a tsunami victim are found.

Villagers in Lhoong, Clearing Fields and Building Fenceposts

Goats and Skeletons

Thursday 16 June, 2005 17:06 Lhoong

I got into the field today. The last few days I’ve been cooped up in the office and it was great to get out into the fresh salt sea air. I actually went as an emissary of our Water Sanitation delegate, Teh. He had promised to build a dam in the Lhoong and hadn’t been able to get back to the village because he’s been so busy typing his own proposals to NHQ. Sujata, our psycho-social delegate accompanied me. She wanted to look at schools and orphanages. The road was extremely slick due to the tropical rains and Indra, our driver, almost slid off the road on three different occasions. We’ve hired another translator… Poor Ayu didn’t fare that well. The winding roads got to her and she threw up five times. If I didn’t know her better, I would have guessed she was pregnant!

Believe it or not, we got lost on a one way road… we overshot the village (which is just a collection of tents). Had lunch in a small little warung (shop). It was a noodle place. Food was good but spicy. Everything went well until a goat jumped on our table and broke a plate. It was trying to get at the fried bananas that had just been served to us.

After our lunch, we did find the remains of the village of Lhoong. Villagers were out in the fields, burning stumps and clearing rubble. Women were bringing small logs to the men and the men were whittling them into fenceposts. Another group of men was digging holes and dropping the fence posts into the ground. We walked towards where the villagers were working and saw that many had stopped working. They were gathered around a large stump that they had been clearing. Sujata wanted to talk to them and as we approached someone exclaimed that they had found a body. That stopped Sujata in her tracks… I went closer… and yes, there were definitely remains. They had found several arm bones and part of a jaw and skull. In this tropical climate, bodies compose in weeks. What surprised me most was that the villagers dug a small hole next to the bones and just put the bones in the hole and closed it up… No prayer, no formality. Sujata asked one of the older women if this was a traumatic… she said no, it was quite normal. She added that finding the remains offered a well needed break from the days labor-intensive activities. What a world, what a world.

Cash for Work: Burning and clearing felled tsunami trees... you can see why Indonesia is famous for its lumber.

Lunch Break in Lhoong... playing with local kitty. See those goats in the background, they may look innocent, but just after this picture was taken, the one on the left jumped on our table and tried to eat our fried bananas!

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Tuna, Yummie... Grilled about an hour... TOO LONG!

Dinner: Grilled Tuna and Cooked Tuna with Chilis, served with Fried Tofu in a Cream Sauce... So So

Monday, June 13, 2005

Monday, Monday

Monday 14 June, 2005 23:00 Banda Aceh

Another week behind me. I can’t believe that another Monday has come. I’ve now passed my month mark and it just seems like yesterday when I arrived. It also means that I only have two months left and I really need to get this initiative going. I spent a good part of today haggling over the cost of hoes and sledgehammers. Our implementation is going well. We have had to write and rewrite our proposal but I feel that things are finally ready to get moving. I also spent two hours getting cost estimates for beds and sheets. We want to provide 200 beds for three orphanages in a village here. The kids have no beds and have been sleeping on the hard cement floor.

Had some interesting food today. Sharial took me out for lunch… even though I have an expense account and could have paid, he insisted. It was padang style (they bring all the food to the table and you eat family style)… but I didn’ realize that the restaurant specialized in innards… there was goat heart, chicken lungs, cow intestines… Those of you who know me will be disappointed… I didn’t go for any of the innards. I DO NOT LIKE GUTS! I love a good gooseliver pate stocked full of truffles and garlic, but I’ll pass on the lungs. Luckily there was a bit of normal chicken neck and a piece of spiced beef… that was what I ate.

I came home famished after work. My friend Adam came over for dinner and James, a great guy from the NGO, Project Concern International, come by. ( He wanted to look into the possibility of our two NGOs working together… He wanted to meet tonight and I didn’t want to stick around the office later than seven so he came by the house for dinner. Our housekeeper had grilled two tunas and cooked up some more tuna in a spicy sauce. The grilled tuna (which could have been amazing) was dry and leathery. The cooked tuna was nice but dry as well… I don’t know if she understands the whole “medium rare” thing when it comes to ocean fish. She also cooked up some tofu in a cream sauce. Luckily we had several black-market Bintang (Indonesian Beers) to flush everything down… I’ve heard “hugs make life bearable” but here in Banda, “Bintang makes things bearable!”

Saturday, June 11, 2005

My First Banda Dinner Party: Curried Crab, Roasted Prawns, Fried Chicken, and Salad (Left to right: Eddie, Sharial, Indra, Nanda, Ruby, Atik)

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Nicely Crisping: Our Dive Boat in Sabang

Back To The Real World

Monday 6/6/2005: 21:22 Banda Aceh

Well, I’m definitely back. It’s a little past nine and I just ate. Sabang seems like a distant memory. I was in the office for thirty minutes this morning, checked my email and then went to a planning meeting for seven hours. As I have mentioned before, my main term of reference is to implement a “Cash for Work” program. “The project, a short-term response to food and non-food needs, provides communities with an opportunity for employment where jobs and livelihoods have been lost, injecting money into their economy. While the program is short-term in nature, with the clearing of fields and villages will serve as a catalyst, allowing villagers to return to their villages and/or livelihoods sooner. From a psycho-social perspective, giving cash gives control to people who currently have little control over their daily activities. The clearing of a village will allow for the eventual construction of wat-san facilities and reconstruction of homes. Cash for work, as opposed to food for work, allows villagers control of their personal finances, deciding how to allocate and spend the salaries which they will earn. This project will not just focus on men, but women as well. With male and female supervisors in each village, our program will engender a community of mutual respect and cooperation.”

What do you think? Doesn’t that sound important… I just swiped it from the proposal I have written for our NHQ! My policy background is really helping me… I’m learning to BS with the best of them… no seriously, this is a great opportunity to help these people. They are essentially sitting on their butts. Their families are dead, their homes are destroyed, their livelihoods ruined. We help them take a step towards normality by paying them to clear their villages for rebuilding and their fields for replanting.

We are working with our Indonesian NGO counterpart. They are a family name in Indonesia. We’ve been working with them on capacity building and we will be working directly with them to implement this project. I have spent the last week in direct negotiations trying to hammer out the differences between our proposal and their proposal. We look at cost-benefit, estimated budgets, and project implementation procedures. We must make sure that our US proposal is in line with our sister NGO, our NHQ (and its lawyers), and the Indonesian government… WHAT?!?! You mean, the stuff I’m learning in my policy classes is actually useful?!?!

It’s easy to think… we’re funding this project so my word should go, but our counterparts are the ones who ultimately have to answer to the people. It’s easy for me to walk in and say, “this project worked for OxFam, let’s copy them.” But they have their own structure. For example, we as a Western NGO are a bit more trusting of the workers… but our Indonesian counterparts are fearful of corruption (even in a small project like this). They insist of having a supervisor supervise a supervisor supervising a supervisor! Today we had to hammer out the nitty-gritty. I thought I would be working one on one with my counterpart… we had had a formal meeting with about ten people to discuss this… I show up and the two of us start talking… then his boss stops by… AND sits down… the boss of the boss also comes in. Finally it’s five of them and me… I mean, we’re not confrontational… but it’s much easier to conduct a conversation with one person than with five!

But it was a fruitful meeting. I really like my counterpart. Sharial is a man of the people. He is a chemistry teacher at the local university by profession. He has a soft smile and easy going manner. After the tsunami he started volunteering with our sister NGO to help and to get his mind off things. I asked him if he had been affected by the tsunami… That was an understatement. Oh yes, he suffered… he lost his parents, his wife, and his three children in the tsunami. I don’t know what I would do… Would I kill myself? Could I even get up out of bed? When someone tells you that they have truly lost everything… how do you answer? What do you respond… “well Sharial, there’s plenty of other fish in the sea”… or “Sharial, I feel your pain” or maybe even better, “Sharial, I’m sure they’re in a better place.” It’s like that song,
“What do you say, in a moment like this,
when you can’t find the words to say it like it is,
just close your eyes and let the heart lead the way,
in a moment like this, what do you say?”
But I just tried to change the subject. I asked if he planned to rebuild his house. He said again matter of factly, “why should I build, I have nothing to fill it with.” You know, I worked for five years where my job was telling people that their parent, sibling, or child had just died… but I usually did it via someone else… but in a situation like this, where someone tells me with a straight face that they lost everything that ever meant a damn… I could only think of one thing to say… “I’m sorry.”

Fisherman at Work: Sunset on Sabang

The Ride Home... the sun burn long on its way towards completion.

To Dive or Not to Dive

Sunday 6/5/05: Sabang
I’m tired, I’m whipped, I’m burned, but I’m totally exhilarated.

Whatever people might say, we work our butts off here. In the last two weeks I don’t think I have left the office before 7 PM, and several times I’ve continued to work on proposals and budgets until eleven. Hence, I haven’t been very great at providing daily updates. This has been the same for Ricardo, my boss. At least when I come home at 8, I’m usually done… his conference calls with our NHQ last until 10PM. He has not taken a day off since his arrival to Indonesia in late April… that all changed today. The Brits have a boat. They use it to transfer materials to and from the island of Pulo Aceh where they are doing village reconstruction. Our team will be helping with their water sanitation, but since they have contracted with this driver, they have the boat all month. They decided to take a trip to Sabang. Sabang is an island about two and a half hours by boat from Banda. It used to be a big tourist destination for people from all around asia. They would come for the hammocked bungalows and amazing diving. But this all changed in 2001 with the declaration of martial law. Due to the civil war, the Indonesian government closed the province of Aceh to all non-Indonesians and crippled the burgeoning tourism industry there. The tsunami hasn’t done anything either for the island… they’re trying and now they have a new market, the ex-pats working for NGOs who are desperate like us for a day off.

OK, so back to the boat… this ain’t a speed boat. It’s a traditional wooden boat that goes VERY slow (see picture). When I first saw it, I first thought of the expression… “he’s on a slow boat to China!” I also realized quite quickly that there was no real “cabin” just a place for the driver. That meant that I was going to spend about three hours in direct equatorial sun… good thing I had sunscreen. So about twenty of us, mainly Indonesians working for the Brits, got on the boat. Many of the diving ex-pats cancelled though… they simply had too much work, but Ricardo was determined to go… he’s a divemaster who taught diving for several years, so he was geeked, and I had to support my boss, right?

We left at seven in the morning. The Australians that we worked for had had a house-warming party and I had been at that till eleven the night before. Simone called me at five that morning… so between the slight hangover, and four and a half hours of sleep, I wasn’t feeling that dandy… and the rocky seas didn’t help much. But I was brave, I didn’t blow any chunks, but as I looked over the side of the boat at the forty dolphins swimming around us, I had to swallow hard… you can only overcome sea-sickness if you look in one direction and don’t change the scenery.

After three and a half hours on the boat, we arrived to the island of Sabang. A dive boat was waiting to pick us up and we all transferred to it. They brought most of the people to an inlet to snorkel, and then Ricardo, myself, and a Brit from “Save the Children” went on to deeper waters to dive. I learned to scuba when I was in Egypt… back in 1996… I haven’t dived since! But this is Indonesia, they trusted my word and never asked for dive documentation. But I was honest and said that I haven’t been underwater in nine years. Ricardo and the Brit, who is also an expert diver, went with one divemaster, and I went with Ami, another divemaster. He was patient… and I was impressed how quickly things came back to me. After remembering how to use my BCD, we went down to a coral reef about twenty-four meters deep. If you’ve ever dove in a highly touristic area, you may see a lot of fish, but the coral is grey. That’s because when you touch coral with your hands, it often will die. Three years of zero tourists has helped this coral return to a stunning pink and blue. The fish were amazing. I felt like I was in the opening scene from “Finding Nemo” and I saw enough clown fish to really feel I was in the film. I lost count of the blue trigger fish which I saw. There was a three meter long yellow moray eel (scary mo-fo), scorpion fish, rock fish, manta-rays, you name it, it was there feeding on the coral. The fish absolutely glowed in the water. It’s like being on a safari all by yourself. There was no one around to bother you. We were down for about thirty minutes. Ricardo, who left before me, dove for over an hour on the same tank that lasted me thirty minutes. I hope with practice, I can also improve my air consumption. He’s dove in dozens of countries and said that he can’t ever remember seeing such a wide and diverse variety of fish. We had lunch on the island, and then dove again in the afternoon.

Starlight, Star Bright, First Star I see tonight…

By the time we picked up the snorkelers, it was about six and starting to get dark. The ride home was perfect. A painter’s sunset soared over the sky and as the sun disappeared, the stars appeared. Out away from the light pollution, the stars were amazing, and a different sky that I had ever seen in the US or Europe. I saw the Southern Cross ( for the first time. This is the equivalent of the north star for the southern hemisphere. It’s like a big kite in the sky. It’s bottom always points due south. The breeze was light and the conversations were many. I sat on the stern for several hours and just shot the bull with the Indonesians. We talked about life, about love, about sex, about religion… it was like sitting around a campfire, but without the campfire. Luminescent fish sparkled like fireflies in the water below us. I wanted Simone there so bad… her absence filled me with a melancholy that I have not felt in a long time. I saw several lovers clandestinely embracing (here holding hands is ticketable) and it ached.

I’m determined to return to Sabang though. I think we’ll take the last ferry and go for a night dive one night, sleep in a bungalow and get two dives in the next day. I guess night diving in the tropics is amazing. We’re also going to plan a deep sea dive (around 42 meters) and Ami, my divemaster, has promised me lots of sharks and tunas. I can’t wait!

Ricardo (Left) and I, Ready for a Little Dive

Our "slow boat to China"

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

House Hunting: Part Deux

Wednesday, 6/1/05: Banda Aceh

Wow, it’s already June. The days really seem to be flying by. We had our first really heavy rain today… and our house has MANY leaks. There was water everywhere when I got up this morning. I think we’ll have to call our landlord, Pa Ibrahim, and get some holes patched. We had also had our first guests. Ricardo was here (of course he has his special room) and two Indonesians working with our sister NGO. We only have three beds, but Teh had a field bed (like the ones I slept on in Iraq) so one of them slept on that and the other slept on air mattress. I think though, we are going to furnish our extra room. It doesn’t have a bathroom, but we really need the space.

We also closed on the second house today. I really like the house. It has been furnished with a lot of love. Since the tsunami, the price of decent housing has skyrocketed here and we’re sort of torn. These people have suffered a lot and can definitely use the money, but in the same respect, the houses are inflated at 300% their pre-tsunami value. We met with the owners… drank the obligatory copious amounts of coffee/tea and started the bargaining. I hate bargaining with my own money, but bargaining with somehow bargaining with donor dollars is a bit easier. Whatever we can save on the house, we can spend on projects to benefit the people. This family has also been affected by the tsunami. Their house is intact (CBS news used it as a base after the tsunami), but his shoe and clothes store was destroyed by the tsunami. His one condition was that we pay a year’s rent in advance. We had a real heart-to-heart and he said that it pains the family greatly to have to move out of the house, but he needs the initial capital to start relocate his business in a new area. I understand his problems and offered a compromise. We raised the price that we were willing to offer but with the stipulation that we only paid six months in advance. He agreed. So we have another house!