Feb 11, 2006
May 27, 2006
Well, I had always wondered what would happen in Fiji if a tsunami was approaching. This morning I found out: pretty much nothing happens. No sirens, no police cars, no warning. If I hadn't been staying with someone well connected to the outside world, I probably wouldn't even had known that there was an imminent tsunami warning for Fiji. Spencer's phone rang at about 5:30 this morning and I could tell by Spencer's exclamation of "You're sure this isn't a drill?" meant that something serious was up. The phone call was from Peace Corps headquarters saying that it was time to grab our stuff and get out with the 25 minutes to spare before a tsunami was supposed to hit Fiji. Spencer's house is located near Suva Point, a peninsula surrounded by water on three sides. Luckily Suva is pretty sheltered in a bay, but you can still see a lot of water when you look out! Spencer roused the other Peace Corps volunteer and her dad who are also staying with him. We had a few minutes to get dressed and grab what we wanted to take. I've always thought what I would take with me if my house was burning down; this morning was a similar exercise. What made it into my backpack were my journals, camera, money, first aid kit, underwear, socks and an extra shirt. I decided everything else could float. I called the other girls on the program at a local hotel to let them know what was up. They hadn't heard anything about it. They were going to trek to the Peace Corps office as well which is on a hill. I threw on some sneakers (in case we needed to run) and pretty soon the Peace Corps vehicle showed up to take us to high ground. It seemed like we were the only people in the neighborhood who were aware of anything. The Peace Corps vehicled dumped the four of us on a high spot with a few of the other volunteers who also live nearby. We weren't given any further instructions, but at that point a few minivans packed full of people started to drive by. They all stopped to tell us that the tsunami was coming. It was strange to wave them off with "Oh, it's ok our transport is coming." Several jokes were made about famous last words. After about 10 or 15 minutes the safety and security officer from Peace Corps returned to tell us that the warning had been cancelled. He took us back home, and that was that. It was a very anticlimactic ending to a rush of adrenaline. Video clips of last December's tsunami had been playing over and over in my head; thank God they didn't materialize again! There have been a few earthquakes that people have felt around Fiji in the last few weeks. I haven't felt anything, but they are definitely around. I'm intersted to see the papers tomorrow to see if they analyze the response to the tsunami warning. Like many other government-initiated things in Fiji, I think the response is seriously lacking - without Spencer, I would have slept right through it! Good thing I can swim... That's all from here for now. I just thought people back home would like to hear the Pacific perspective! Keep your fingers crossed for no more 5:30am wake-ups!