TSUNAMI-RAVAGED INDONESIA'S ACEH
Letter written by
Paula Rice who is currently living in Aceh, Indonesia.
10 December 2005
Iíve been in Aceh
now 4 months Ė Can you believe that? Thatís over one quarter of the
year. I miss all my friends and family terribly; but there are
problems! Let me start telling you some of them.
rarely works and the phone line, on which it works, is located in a
hot, dark, mosquito infested area of the house. You see, this is the
home office in which we live and the only phone is not exactly
located in my territory; a secretary or accountant occupies that
strategic spot from early morning till late afternoon. And of course
the fax machine greedily chews up the rest of the time when I might
have bravely swung on the line.
daytime office in which he slaves from dawn to dust is further
downtown and because it is packed tightly with scores of big time
Indonesian officials, they get the benefit of wireless connection
internet. My partner, as a senior consultant, swings on that line all
the time. Are these the only reasons I procrastinate? No! Itís more
due to the fact that itís so difficult to tell you about life here.
Nevertheless, Iím trying.
The first day
here I rode with our driver via streets seriously damaged by the
earthquake and the even more ghastly and merciless tsunami. The
streets now were fringed by hundreds of rubble heaps, once two
storied shop houses, and an occasional less fragile row of the
same establishment, which having partly survived the massive shake,
was then totally guttered of life and content by the following
deluge. With so much evidence still remaining, it was hard to accept
that eight months had passed since Acehís worse disaster. And, I
could not believe that this area was about four kilometres inland
from where the tsunami had done its worse.
As we approached
the more coastal parts of the town, I saw scraggy clothed workmen
scooping up copious amounts of sloshy mud from rubbish clogged,
meter deep, drains. I noted a worker pull a mud-drenched lady's
handbag from the slop. The man awkardly wobbled his way over the
piles of tsunami trash, happily holding out in front of him his
dripping recovery. My mind immediately went to imagining the fate of
the unfortunate owner; so very unlikely to have survived the former
stories I have heard about people loosing their entire family. What
do you say to your cook lady who asks if you have any grandchildren
and then you find that you are unable to tell her that you are not
as unfortunate as her, who lost her five grandchildren her husband
and all but one of her children? Taken by the tsunami. The one
remaining child of twenty years, she works to support, as he lost
his legs in the all-inclusive rubble being swirled and rolled back
towards the sea by the retreating tidal wave. The tsunami recognised
neither poverty nor wealth, rank or religion, erudite or illiterate.
During the first
week here a BRR government official commandeered me with a
professional interest in Tourism to give my views on that subject.
At the workshop I was introduced to a young female lecturer. She
showed me the photograph of her two children taken by the tsunami.
The photographs, of two very cute, smiling, pre-school children were
recorded in her mobile phone. Her eyes brimmed with tears as she
told me that she had taken the snaps the morning before the tsunami
hit. Thousands of people are buried in mass graves, the bodies
unidentified. Every day there are still photographs in the local
paper of either individual children,
Older people, or
family groups; the heading in the classified ads section, more often
than not, bears the title ďDi CariĒ meaning Ďsearching forí. Some
people here never give up hope that somewhere their loved ones are
Near the coast
there is little evidence of any dwellings, maybe a particial
platform of a tiled floor, a piece of metal or wood projecting from
the ground, or a piece of half buried torn cloth. Itís hard to
believe that thousands lived here; sometimes in large expensive two
storied houses or more modest abodes Ė all suffered a similar fate.
Up river, inland by possibly a few former streets, one formerly
densely population section of Banda Aceh, some of its buildings,
although seriously damaged had escaped total destruction.
Here life forms
were not so lucky. There, I saw a ship sitting on top of a house.
There was nothing much salvageable of the house, but the rooms
beneath the ship were distinctly recognisable. The ship was capable
of carrying about forty people and cargo. I photographed the scene.
In another part of the city, a huge multi-storied electric power
station was carried nearly 5 kilometres inland. A man told me that
the bodies of his mother and children still lay beneath the station,
and that only tunnelling under the huge metal hulk could retrieve
some of the dead. His house with its occupants was irretrievable. I
photographed the PowerStation.
My partner has
been working hard. He is enjoying job satisfaction and some
self-actualisation. He leaves very early from the house, goes to
work all day and returns home late afternoon and sleeps until we
eat. He then returns to the room for some more sleep. I walk around
in circles sometimes, or I go out from the air conditioned room and
let the Aceh mosquitoes have a meal of my sweaty body. Returning to
the room I can sit or lie and watch my partner sleep or try to sleep
also. My partner gets up and works on his computer during the night
for a few hours. He was previously fasting and then needed to get up
at around 4 am to eat before sleeping again. That has passed and we
now eat at more conventual times.
Will see you all
sometime next year.
Love - Paula
(Written by Paula Rice
for AusNotebook Music & Creative)
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