Tag Archives: Tsunami

Funny photography

I was giggling to myself moments ago about how bad at photography I am (MJ can vouch for recent bouts of unwarranted giggling), and then I found this picture which isn’t so bad.

I took it this morning when I was visiting one of the Balai Inong (a traditional women’s space) that we’ve built. You can’t see the detail all that well when the photo is this small, but I think it gives a sense of the landscape in the part of Banda Aceh where the tsunami hit the worst.

In the water up front, next to the road I was standing on, you can make out the mangroves that presumably were once very thick. They are slowly reclaiming the water. In the background you can see the tsunami houses lined up in rows. You can almost imagine what this area might have looked like before the tsunami.

After taking this photo I turned 180 degrees and saw this:

And for good measure, here is a picture of the building we built. I think it’s very pretty.

A mostly awesome long weekend

Happy Birthday Jess!

If the past week reflects my blogging practices for the next few months there is no way I’m going to reach my blog target (see “9 things to do before 2009“). So I will get cracking.

This weekend past I had a million visitors. It was one of the most fun weekends I’ve had in Aceh yet. A bunch of AYADs from around Indonesia came for the long weekend, and Benjamin dropped in from Thailand so we headed to Pulau Weh, the island off the coast of Banda Aceh.

The weekend involved diving and non-stop action for some, and snorkeling and sitting on the beach for others (place Sarah in camp B). It was great to be reminded of the tropical paradise a one hour ferry ride away from my office. My friends were shocked that I’d only been there once before.

I also took the guys on a tsunami tour to see the giant generator ship, the boat on the roof and the gazillions of identical houses built by NGOs lined up in rows. It’s always interesting to do this tour because I am yet to grasp the magnitude of the tsunami, so it’s a good time to reflect and try to figure out what happened that day in 2004.

A dampener to the great weekend was that my friend’s camera and cash from her wallet were stolen from my house. We can’t figure out when or how someone came in, but we think someone quietly came in when a few of us were at the beach and the others were having breakfast on Tuesday morning. We’ve turned out house into Fort Knox as a result.

AYAD Chris from Jakarta is a clever cookie. He put together some footage of the weekend and put it on Youtube. Don’t get too jealous about the beaches, just come and visit me.

Tsunami aid ‘spent on politics’


THREE years after Australians donated $400 million to rebuild Asian lives devastated by the 2004 tsunami, aid groups are under attack for spending much of the money on social and political engineering.

Tsunami aid ‘spent on politics’, The Australian, December 27, 2007

Fireworks, "ground zero" and rugby.

This weekend I didn’t take a single photo. So beware of the photo-less post.

On Saturday I discovered the bule (foreigner) supermarket. It has Vegemite AND macaroni cheese. I didn’t buy them but knowing that they are there gave me real sense of calm. I also picked up my friend’s DVD collection. I’ve only watched one movie so far (Harold and Maude) but beware, this blog could become a film review site before you know it. I will say though, Harold and Maude was delightful!

On Saturday night I went to the WFP bar (a bar hidden in the depths of the compound away from the police) to watch the rugby. Yep, I watched a world cup. Oh lordy it was boring. But I met another person interning with the UN which was nice. There were a lot of people there, some of whom seemed a bit too keen on themselves. Gee, some people think they’re so cool for living and working in a really crappy place (i.e. disaster zone).

After the rugby my boss and some others picked me up for a late night adventure (9.30pm!) to the beach to set off fireworks. But on the way to the beach it started raining so we chickened out and went back to the office to set them off. It was great fun! Fireworks should definitely not be illegal. Yes, they are dangerous and badly made, but they are also cheap! A recipe for a good time! Some of the fireworks were decorated with pictures of Sponge Bob Square Pants.

On Sunday, while waiting to be picked up by my boss for another beach outing some little kids were playing in the yard next door. The littlest one, who was the size of a six month old, but was walking around and playing like an 18 month old walked over to the fence and just stared at me. For a long time. I waved and smiled but held back, not wanting to frighten her, and she just kept staring. Then, out of the blue she burst into tears. She was hysterical! Her sister tried to calm her down, but her dad had to come out and take her inside away from the thing that was frightening her…me!

After that devastating turn of events we drove to the beach which was beautiful but very nasty looking. Apparently drowning in this beach is the biggest (and only) killer of international workers in Banda Aceh. I don’t think I will be going in.

On the way to dinner after the trip to the beach we detoured into one of the neighbourhoods that was worst hit by the tsunami. Around here people call it “zero point” or “ground zero”.

I learned that one woman in my office had just come back to Banda Aceh from Jakarta to have a baby before the tsunami hit. Her parents’ house was in that neighbourhood and both of her parents, her two older children and the new baby were killed. Then she spent months and months in hospital recovering from her injuries. She was very ill because she had swallowed so much water. Another man in my office also lost his entire family.

That an entire community has suffered trauma on this scale is something I’m slowly grappling with.