terse & at large

GRRRRR. Arrrgh. And sometimes a travel log.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Nias, Part Three

07 April 2005
It rains during the night and a pack of Marlboros get wet. Fortunately I wake up in time to move my cameras closer to me. The tent leaks in strange places.

I'm feeling less tense about this assignment than the one before. Either I'm handling it better or it's just not as bad as the previous one. Or I could be spending less time dwelling on the disaster, most of my free time is spent fulfilling the duties of being logistician.

Nias #14
Originally uploaded by Terz.

There are familiar (almost) sights and smells. Familiar, yet different in so many ways. It's more than one week since the earthquake, and there are still many earthquake-related cases coming in to our little clinic (which incidentally, is for the moment, run by the MR team of 4): spinal injuries, stitching, internal injuries...

More disconcerting though are the many patients who come to the clinic because the injuries that have been treated earlier by other doctors, have become infected and, in some cases, septic. Many also come because they have been turned away by the only hospital in town for reasons beyond my understanding.

Nias #15
Originally uploaded by Terz.

Nias #16
Originally uploaded by Terz.

Nias #17
Originally uploaded by Terz.

We make another run for supplies at the airport, where the Chinooks have been banished since they took out the roofs of the houses near the Lapangan Pelita. Our supplies had come in in the morning, and by the time we got to the airport, the cardboard cartons of fresh water, canned food and biscuits, left on the landing field, are soaked and muddied. There ensues a long series of the comedies of errors. A lorry, sent to pick up our supplies, as well as the supplies of the Indonesian YMCA and Red Cross, gets stuck in the soft mud of the field. It takes two hours of arsing-around before someone decides to use the UN heavy 'copter to pull the vehicle out. In the meantime, I stay with the supplies we'd moved earlier, left dangerously by the taxiway used by all the aircraft flying to and from the airport.

Later, while moving the supplies into the storeroom, we are surprised by a stranger in our home: a man who came out of one of the bedrooms and who looked completely at ease in the place. H talks to him, and before we know it, the man, Pak Hamid, is staying with us and cooking our dinner over the kerosene stove. It turns out to be a blessing, Pak Hamid is an expert scrounger and he manages to, among other things, hook us up to our neighbour's water tanks to bring in clean water from said tanks, filled up by the public utilities department every day.

Exhausted by the heat and activity of the afternoon and cooled by the early evening air, I take a short nap on the porch. And miss another slight tremor at 1800 hours local time. I was beginning to wonder if I'd ever get to feel an aftershock while I'm in Nias.

At 1925 hours local, electricity is restored. Throughout the neighbourhood, ragged cheers are heard. At the porch, W is quizzing F on the SOP for taking over the clinic. It's gruelling and unrelenting. We all feel sorry for F, but all accept that it's necessary. With W and H slated to leave on the afternoon Chinook the next day, it will be left to F to control the entire clinic and make all the decisions on the evacuation of patients.

Then at 2230 hours local, I finally feel an aftershock. It lasted about 5 secs, and we ran into the open. It started as a low rumbling and vibration. It's a little different from the aftershocks I'd felt in Meulaboh, which were more of a swaying motion. These were more higher-frequency shivers, or in the words of one of the team: like being a grain of rice on the speakers of an Ah Beng's bassed-up sound system.

We spend more time that evening talking about our lives, our jobs and our families. The senior nurse prepares another dose of Xanax for the dog next door. He'd kept us awake the first night, but three tabs the previous night solved that problem. Since the nurses weren't keen on the combat rations given to us by the SAF, they served a different purpose. We sleep like babies after that.


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