November 14, 2011

Back in Cyclone Season (11/8/11)

 So cyclones are better known to most of the world as hurricanes and in Vanuatu they're not a bad weather system, they're a part of life. November being officially the start of hurricane season in this area of the pacific it becomes a regular occurrence that low pressure systems start building up and floating around bringing ridiculous amounts of rain as well as quite a bit of wind. The majority of these low pressure systems never develop into full hurricanes but the change in the weather is unmistakable. The few days before hand everything becomes still, hot, humid, and quiet as if in anticipation of what is to come. Then at some point the wind starts again and within hours it becomes a strong gusty wind and rain starts coming down in a constant drizzle. This continues to strengthen and within an hour or two the wind is blowing the rain horizontally through windows and the rain itself is starting to come down as if someone was dumping buckets of water on a movie set. It keeps up this angry weather until its spent all of its rain like a child throwing a temper tantrum. This is just a low pressure system. Welcome to Vanuatu! Just yesterday the first low pressure system of our 2011-12 cyclone season came. As the wind began to pick up I asked our safety and security officer what the weather report was. Small low pressure system south of Vanuatu, expect wind and rain for the next few days. I told her I hoped it settled down in time for the two current Peace Corps trainees to get a chance to come visit my site. Her reply was a text message that read: Vanuatu has been ranked first as most hazardous country in the world risk report of 2011 done by the U.N.. Having been here for a year now and experienced a decent share of Vanuatu's temperament, I found that hard to believe. After considering it for a while though it started to make more sense to me. If another country were regularly hit with the types of natural disasters that Vanuatu gets it would seem apocalyptic. The US is a fantastic example of this. The east coast received an earthquake that cause major power outages and millions of dollars worth of damage. The power of that earthquake is what Vanuatu gets on a monthly basis. The hurricane that flooded and ruined Queensland, Australia, payed its dues to Vanuatu before proceeding. It is a country that has developed a lifestyle aimed at existing in just the right manner to deal with all of these disasters. As it becomes more developed these rules are slowly changing and it might not be long before Vanuatu starts having larger problems with its natural disasters, but for the time being on islands such as Maewo, many people live in this way. Most people build their houses up in the jungle to avoid tsunami's, they build in areas that are concave to reduce the amount of wind that hits them during a hurricane, they build away from flood zones that the constant rains and hurricanes can cause, the build houses out of bamboo lashed together with vines that aren't the least bit bothered by an earthquake. They exist in large communities with strong ties to each other. They laugh often and live in the moment. Planning for the future is an almost alien concept with the weather unpredictable and even the islands themselves molded by storms. The weather can be hard when you have a schedule so better to just live by the weather rather than a piece of paper. It has certainly been a novel experience for me after living in Tucson, never having felt an earthquake, run from a tsunami, or hid in a house during a hurricane. One thing that all of this has taught me is to appreciate the sunny days, because you just never know when your roof might fly away!

1 comment:

  1. Great blog, Nic. You captured the essence of life on the islands, which is so very different here in the U.S. Thirty-five days and counting! Can't wait to see you.