terse & at large

GRRRRR. Arrrgh. And sometimes a travel log.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Nias, Part One

Nias #10
Originally uploaded by Terz.

05 April 2005
I'm sitting on a bench in the middle of the airfield in Medan the RSAF is operating out of, waiting for the Chinook to take us to Gunungsitoli. It's been two hours since we'd left Singapore and that old, familiar feeling is beginning to come back: the rush of adrenaline and the nervous anticipation of what to expect.

Nias #1
Originally uploaded by Terz.

This much was clear from the briefing of the night before: although the destruction is localised to some areas of the town, 70% of the town is believed to be destroyed; roads, not all, are usable, but unreliable; Mercy Relief has secured a house as the team's base camp while in Nias, but the building suffered damage during the initial earthquake and is structurally unsound; there are aftershocks almost every night, the latest one being the 6.8 recorded on Monday night; there is no electricity (which meant I had to fly in with only my film camera - I decide later to bring along the digital camera anyway to shoot for as long as the batteries last); it's going to 1-star accommodations compared to Meulaboh, but the ground itself wouldn't be as bad as it had been in Meulaboh; the team is made up of a doctor and three nurses and we're short of a logistician, which means I might have to double up.

We are treated to a bird's eye view of the town as the Chinook circles it in preparation to land. The destruction, seen from afar, doesn't awe me as much as seeing Meulaboh for the first time does.

Nias #2
Originally uploaded by Terz.

We land in the Padang Pelita where they have been conducting helo operations since 29 March 2005. The initial team, sent to assess the ground was waiting at the pavilion for their exfil. I spot Tahar and we exchange pleasantries. In him, I see the state I'll be in after five days in-country - apparently I'm not to count on a shower every night and I'm told that the smell of decomposition is present here as well and it comes up whenever it gets hot enough. Because it has been drizzling when we were coming in, the smell hasn't been that strong initially.

Nias #3
Originally uploaded by Terz.

As we arrive, the SCDF personnel prepare to leave. Local kids swarm some of them. Deep down, I hope we'll create as much of an impact as they did.

Nias #4
Originally uploaded by Terz.

Nias #5
Originally uploaded by Terz.

I'm glad I changed my mind and bought three packs of Marlboros while we were waiting at the Medan airfield.

I am told there is a possibility that I'll be leaving on the Friday Chinook flight out of Gunungsitoli. I'm hoping that it'll be Saturday instead. Three days in-country doesn't seem like a lot of time to do what I need to do.

The first day passes uneventfully. I take a few prep pictures of the place and try to plot a shooting schedule for the next five days, interspersed with my duties as the logistician for this trip. I meet the people from the initial MR team who are staying for a while longer: H and W. H is the Manager for International Relief Missions at MR. W is a doctor, as far as I was told, on the first day - he conducted the first briefing. My team comprised, Dr F (a young, earnest-looking guy whose voice is a mirror of the missus's friend, Casey), the senior nurse, Ang (whom, by the end of the first night, we were calling 'mommy'), the nurses, J and D.

We didn't say much to each other throughout the transit to Nias. Well. I didn't say much to the others; they, on the other hand, appear to know each other from before (or from being in the same field) and were talking most of the way to Gunungsitoli. I remain in my cocoon for most of the journey, lost in my own thoughts and trying to compose myself for the tasks ahead.

Unlike Meulaboh mission when I had two days in-transit to think about what I'll shoot, the day's journey took only 3.5 hours. It wasn't enough to psyche myself up for what is to come.

At 2300 hours, we are done for the day. It is almost civilised: we have electricity for four hours every night, provided by a petrol-run generator the inital team managed to procure; we have a tent to sleep in, and mattresses and pillows from the house to use; we would need to make water runs from a mountain spring nearby, but if we do that, we'll get to bathe every night.

Nias Addendum #1
Originally uploaded by Terz.

After more briefings from W 'to manage our expectations', we settle in for the night (and I've taken the first of my 3-minute baths for this trip, in a bathroom shored up at strategic points by pillars of wood, in a house cracked and crumbling around me) amid the mozzies and other flying denizens of the night and I prepare for the day ahead.


  • At 10:14 AM, April 14, 2005, Blogger Huichieh said…

    Hi Terz:

    I'm looking forward to reading the rest of your account; linked from my blog.

    By the way, I believe we have a mutual friend--Wah Jiam. He was my classmate at one point in sec. school.

  • At 1:44 PM, April 14, 2005, Blogger Terz said…

    Ah yes... I think he might have mentioned it before.

    It'll be harder writing this time round though, the emotional resonance isn't as great as it had been in Meulaboh.

  • At 8:22 PM, April 14, 2005, Blogger wahj said…

    Oh yeah: Terz, meet Loy; Loy, meet Terz. = )


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