terse & at large

GRRRRR. Arrrgh. And sometimes a travel log.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Meulaboh, Part 1

I left Singapore on 14 January 2005, ostensibly to 'refind my centre' (as my wife puts it). I had been unfocused and listless for a while (since my 33rd birthday, actually). It didn't help when the events of Boxing Day happened. I was lost, helpless and feeling that I should be doing something; to be anywhere but in Singapore. So when I was asked to go on this trip, I said yes.

I met up with the other guys on my team on 13 January 2005 for the first time for a briefing. It wasn't an instant connection. Some of them I had met before at Kovan, where volunteers were helping pack food, clothes and other necessities for the tsunami-devastated area, but most of them were strangers. Our mission was to provide aid to the people of Meulaboh, one of the hardest hit areas of Aceh. We were to lay the groundwork for future missions to the region, to recce the place for specific areas where we could be of maximum use and to establish trust and belief in the locals. all very high-flown and noble, but deep down, I was uncertain of the extent to which we would achieve these goals. Furthermore, my role on the trip was to be more 'hands-off' than the others. I was there to document. Period. It felt unfair that my hands wouldn't be as dirty as everyone else's.

We arrived in-theatre on 16 January 2005. From the flight deck of the RSS Endeavour, we could see the extent of the destruction for ourselves. The sunset alone would have commanded premier prices if this was a beach resort for the idle rich. Instead, the sun's ebbing rays revealed to us a vista both painful and surreal.

There were at least three plumes of thick, black smoke rising to the air, casting a strange purplish glow over the entire coast. The coast itself was flat and a dirty, muddy brown. As far as the eye could see. There were a few hollowed-out buildings, but little else.

Meulaboh Coast
Originally uploaded by Terz.

"My God! The whole place is flat," was my first SMS message to Tym.

I spent that night thinking about what I would find once we were on terra firma.

(To be continued)



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