10.01.2009

of dear Samoa...


Most of you have hard about the destruction and chaos that has descended in the South Pacific, specifically Samoa. Most of you might not know that I used to live there, doing service for the Baha'i Faith for about six months. I became extremely close to the Samoan community and feel extremely bonded to the people and the place. What has happened recently with the tsunami has been utterly heartbreaking. I am posting to ask you to please keep them all in your best thoughts and prayers in this extremely challenging time.

I am attaching an email from one of my dearest friends who lives in Apia, Samoa, as she writes me a personal account of what has happened:

"Here life seems surreal. No time for sleep. News drifts in on people we know on the south coast. Lalomanu has been decimated. Do you remember Tafua beach fales- Loumepa's place? (she and her dad are Baha'is) Its gone. Soumepa and Tili are in the hospital, the little girl has drowned. It's dreadful to see the destruction.

Here is my account of what happenned in our house:
I was making breakfast yesterday when the house began to shake. It's
not uncommon to have tremors and I usually stop what I'm doing and
marvel at the peculiar sensation of the earth moving. It got stronger
and pottery rattled; items from the third floor loft began falling
over the railings. I was loosing my balance as I went to wake Ben for
school. " Think you better come stand in the doorway Ben!" I called.
As the house began to sway and shake forceably I added " get outside!"
and Ben bounded out of bed. The violent shaking continued, meanwhile
Steven emerged and Joe who had been wondering who was hitting
the boxing bag so hard.
(this always causes a bit of shaking
upstairs). Our home is well designed for earthquakes, being of a pole
construction; it would take alot for it to fall. But as we stood
outside waiting for the quake to stop I wondered what you do when the
gound begins to open? Yikes.....I wondered whether there might be a
tsunami....After five minutes of feeling the earth move beneath our
feet (I actually felt motion sickness) it subsided and we returned
indoors and got ready for school.
I turned on the radio as we drove..
Half way down the mountain the alert came. The coastals areas had been
told to evacuate, sirens were sounding. Ninety five percent of Samoans
live in coastal areas! A bit later we were visited by Joe's Japanese
friends, the 2 Judo sensei . They came up the mountain on motor bikes
and reported on the chaos in Apia. Apparently people were running
everywhere, trying to jump onto crowded buses. Some were hanging on.
The ocean had been sucked out and the reef was bare. Police were
waving people away from the beach
road and pointing up the mountain.
Then we started hearing police sirens as they sped over the mountain.
The south coast had been hit by a seven meter wave. Poutasi, Sinalei,
Maninoa, all the villages we know so well. We were having lunch at
Sinalei only last week and I knew that the restaurant on the pier
would have vanished. I suddenly realised how fortunate we were that
Joe hadn't gone surfing! He gets up at 5:30 most mornings for an early
morning surf. Last night I'd heard him talking to one of his buddies
about going out. He was telling his f
riend that today's wave was going
to be the BEST and biggest of the year. (he reads the surf forcast on
the internet). "what?" I had said in amazement. "Tomorrow is the best
wave of the year and you're NOT going out??" He said he was a little
tired from the intensive Judo training and his surf board had a crack
in it. But what a strange coincidence that the tsunami would hit along
with the "best" wave of the year.

We have relatives in Poutasi. Steven's cousins Sui and Joe
and Ginger's older sister Annie. We tried to call but no answer. We
eventually heard that Sui has been swept out to sea and drowned. They
were in the car trying to escape and it was overturned. Her 95 year
old mother survived! (our)Joe's surfing friends just had time to jump
onto a small boat and get
far enough out to deep water and safety. The
surfers who tried to make it back to shore were lost. Coconuts Beach
resort got wiped out and tourists have disappeared. All the resorts on
the south coast and all the villages were affected; any building by
the sea is gone. I heard on the BBC news that some lives have been
lost. There have been many.

Steven has been reporting for CNN (phone interviews) and this morning
a reporter from CNN flew in and will be staying with us.
Today Steven is accompanying His Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese
Ta'isi (the Head of State) around the island. Iosefa is taking the CNN
reporter out and translating for him. I am at home feeding visitors.

The death toll currently stands at 110 but when we today traveled the
south coast area where the waves hit we saw more bodies being
transported to Apia and we heard of many still missing.
Will keep you posted.

Love,
Wendy"

The Baha'i House of Worship, Apia, Samoa:

My Baha'i friends in the village I taught in for a while:
Again, the village:
A Buddy:

Me with my dearest friends, Wendy & Steven:

The Baha'i Montessori School in Apia:

This is Lalomano Beach, seriously one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever experienced, now completely devastated:
before:
after:

if you feel like you can donate anything to help with a relief fund, please click here.

**later....

i have had a couple people ask me if there was any destruction to the Baha'i House of Worship. As it is located on the top of the island, it remained safe and undamaged.

3 comments:

Manijeh said...

thank you for sharing this especially the extracts from the email. didn't realise you had had the chance to visit Samoa.

samimi-extremie said...

manijeh: i am so glad you appreciated this post. yes, i lived in samoa for six months and i loved it. thank you for commenting!

Anonymous said...

thank you very much for these posts.
i am at peace knowing our House of Worship is okay.

I will be staying posted.