March 13, 2011

A Quiet Tsunami Story

Well, its not much of a story...our cousin came over right before midnight a few days ago and told Vaiokema and I about the tsunami warning out for the whole Pacific after a large earthquake in Japan.  He said the peau kula (lit. red wave, or tsunami) was predicted to begin affecting the Tongan islands around 5am. I was, needless to say, fairly scared.  Firstly because Salesi is in Tonga, and its just Pops and I, so I was feeling scared just not having him around during an emergency.  But then again, last time we had a tsunami warning early in the morning, Salesi would not wake up to go to higher ground.  "Where we gonna run to??" because our island is completely flat.

So, saying "better safe than sorry" I set our alarm for 3:30 and woke up and called my sister Ofa in Utah, and had her look up the newest reports, which said that Hawai'i had seen some wave action, but nothing damaging.  I figured then that we were pretty okay, but Pops and I still packed our backpacks (mine had toilet paper, passport, matches, my laptop, stuff like that, plus a pillow and blanket) and we took our flashlights and walked to the LDS chapel - which is farther inland, and was open all night for people heeding the warning (its also the place the village goes to when the cyclones hit).  Anyways, we were walking past the mala'e lahi (royal cemetery) and Dad said, "If it were just me, I'd have stayed at the house", and I said, "Hey, me too!  I was just thinking if it were me alone, I'd just stay at the house too."  Well, I guess we were both making the journey for the sake of the other!  Then he said that he prayed last night.  "Prayed for the wave to not come?" I asked.  "No, prayed to be ready if it was my time to go".  I had been praying for the wave NOT to come, and had been too afraid of death to even consider being calm about its imminent arrival.  No siree, my prayers were in defense.  Earlier on the phone, Salesi had said he was praying hard for the safety of our house and our land and our island...even on Tongatapu he was praying for us. I love my husband.

We got to the church and I promptly laid out my blanket and pillow and fell asleep on the grass, while Dad talked to some of the kids who were lolligagin' about.  I woke up around sunrise and there hadn't been any damage in Tongatapu, and so around 8 or so, we walked back home, passing lots of our neighbors who had been watching the tsunami waves.  When we got home, I milked Lula our goat, then I opened up all the windows which face the sea, and made pancakes as I watched the sea go far out to past low tide mark, then back in just past high tide mark....The sea did this several times, like a slow but deliberate washing machine.  It was a subtle movement and not what you'd expect from the disaster movies, or from the word "tsunami" which has come to hold such fear...for good reason, and my heart goes out to the people who were hurt by this one.  Grateful we on our island simply saw the ocean "dance" as my friend Kathryn in Hau'ula said her ocean on the North Shore did.

The lesson I've learned is that the sea is our mother...a saying goes, "the sea giveth, and the sea taketh..." 

March 5, 2011

Cyclone Wilma, January 26th, 2011

Here are a few pictures taken on the day of the Cyclone.  I'll follow this blog up with some words....As far as our property goes, the forest was flooded, hence LOTS of damage to the ecosystem (trees fell, trees dying from salt water flooding, plants uprooted, soil and coastal erosion, etc.).  Look closely, the flooding from the east side of the property has come to our backyard...Lucky for us, it stopped right behind our bathhouse.

The pathway in our forest is soaked with excess seawater....Salesi doing Land Steward duty....

Flooding in Town, thirty houses flooded & damaged

Flooding can't stop the warm smiles....

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When the going gets tough, the tough go surfing!  This is the same "surfboard" (actually the top of an old freezer) that these two rascals use to fish with during last summer break....I saw them pull in a whole flour bag of large fish AND a huge stingray...

More photos on some of the tree and coastal damage from this newest Cyclone.  This makes it 2 cyclones in 1 year...Truly we are experiencing some traumatic events in our lifetime, and truly, mother earth is reacting to this modern civilizations' depradations...