Tsunami? part 2

There was a huge earthquake in Chile over the weekend and yesterday morning we were on tsunami red alert - but just to let all of you know we are all OK, it really didn't end up as too much for us, thankfully! We're currently in Tahiti for the salon de tourisme........but I will blog more soon! It was a lot less scary than Oli....but I am beginning to wonder what is happening here in the Pacific at the moment!


Where are they now? Amy

Amy now lives in Nottingham, she and Dave have just bought a house and are busy renovating.

Amy is working for Nottingham University as a Community Scientist on the OPAL (Open Air Laboratory) project. Which aims to get people aware of the natural environment and improve peoples' skills in naming and classifying common organisms.
Amy and Dave were at our wedding. Dave put together our truly excellent wedding video, pretty much single-handedly, and Amy was one of my blue ladies! Since that memorable day Amy's been on an expedition to the Antarctic.

In August 2008 she and Dave got married, and I was able to be there as a matron of honor, it was a really beautiful occasion (see blog entry). So she's keeping busy!


Ten Reasons why I like living in Rurutu: #5

Tropical flowers - it's still the summer here, so we're enjoying the exuberant tropical blooms, the rich fragrances and shocking colors, it's a wonderful part of everyday life here. Not to mention the leis, which are a tradition that is particularly strong here in the Australs. Arrivals and departures must be heralded with flowers and the bigger the better!

Our dear friend Maeva would not be seen out and about without a 'couronne' on her head.......

I'm not much of a gardener, but even I'm inspired to give it a go; the lush tropical vegetation barely needs tending. Orchids grow here like a weed.

Heliconia and torch ginger, with their exquisite other-worldly, almost chiseled blooms.

Hibiscus, the quintessential South Seas flower, comes in a fabulous array of reds, oranges, pinks and yellows.

Gardenia with it's heady perfume and equally sweet smelling Tahitian variety, is everywhere and is widely used in leis and for monoi.

Ylang ylang, grows outside our home and while the flowers look a little strange, the sublime perfume filters up into the bedrooms in the evening, it's just magnificent.

Other superb fragrances in our garden include Plumeria and white ginger (it has a peppery, sweet fragrance that is indescribable),

Heck, even coconut flowers smell good.......

I'm just starting work on a wall of jasmine for our terrace. All these fragrances really are remarkable and I'd love to start making my own line of monoi oil and soaps, from my own essential oils or flower waters......I've already been toying with it, but I'm not there yet!


Fat Tuesday-Ash Wednesday

Pancake day went off without a hitch, we managed to put away a good old stack of crepes with pistachio ice-cream and passion-fruit syrup. Ash wednesday Gary Z got 8th in his heat of the halfpipe snowboarding, so there go our medal hopes.

Kung Hi Fat Choy!

Welcoming you all to the year of the Metal Tiger!

But that's not all, aside from Chinese New Year, we've also celebrated St. Valentines, Carnaval in the French Caribbean, the Winter Olympics and, of course, the 6-nations rugby which is in full swing! All the excitement was a little too much for our poor DSL connection, which has been in spasms all weekend. Today it's finally sorted itself out (the technicians in Tahiti were probably all out partying/watching the Olympic Games). For those of you who don't know, the french are actually pretty good at those old winter sports, so it's quite a big deal here, which is a teensy bit weird as most of us in Rurutu have never even seen snow! But we do have our own (half-)Tahitian medal hope, the snowboarder Gary Zebrowski, he's reached aito (super-hero) status here. While surfing and snowboarding aren't so different it's still quite amusing that we even register......Go Gary!


Good News!

2010 has got off to a rather inauspicious start with the cyclone and various other bad news from our family, on both sides. So I thought I'd blog about some good news, or at least a slightly unusual event. Mum and Dad were here with us in january and on their way back home they managed to lose one of their carry on bags at Heathrow, it was a small brown rolling case containing Dad's laptop and camera, what a disaster! They weren't sure exactly where they had left it, but they were in touch with the lost baggage service, as soon as they realized. They waited, but they heard nothing and assumed the worst, the bag had probably been destroyed or stolen. The insurance claim was filed.

But, in early february, more than two weeks later, they received a call from Air New Zealand, their case had been located next to the baggage carousel and finally returned to Air New Zealand, thanks to the baggage tag Mum had insisted on attaching to the case (there's a moral to this story!). They went back up to Heathrow and collected the case, untouched. What are the chances (less than 1/100 according to the AirNZ baggage handler). The insurance company was amazed, when Dad called.

So here are a couple of salvaged photos, taken at the airport in Rurutu back in january......


Ten Reasons why I like living in Rurutu: #4

Passion-fruit. The vine is native to South America, but is grown broadly across the world, in Rurutu it grows a bit like a weed. It has attractive flowers and beautiful purple fruits with orange pulp.

It's now the season and, despite the recent cyclone, our vine at the back of the garden is laden with fruit. This year it's a bumper crop, I've already tried my hand at sorbet (to be recommended) and passion-fruit butter (I think it's an improvement on the jelly I made last year). But what I really need to go with the passion-fruit butter is cheesecake..... Alas, it's one of the many deserts that you just can't find here in Rurutu, due to a serious shortage of cream cheese!!!


Where are they now? Mandy

Continuing on with news of my maids of honor.......

Mandy's had an exciting few years - after leaving Bowling Green, in 2008, she headed to India, where she traveled through the Gujarat region, working in environmental education. It's wonderful to be able to follow just a few of her adventures and thoughts on her blog.

Now she's back in the UK, training to become a teacher of the International Baccalaureate.

In August she heads to Thailand to a dream job at Patana School, the British International School in Bangkok. What an amazing life!

News from Tubuai

We've heard from the family in Tubuai, the telephone lines are back up. They were very fortunate that their home was not badly damaged by the cyclone, though the island must be quite a mess, (pictures and an account of the devastation, in french). But islanders are resilient folks, cyclones are not that common, but they are part of life here. Polynesians have often had to start over in the face of disaster, Austral islanders in particular, are known for their hardiness and grit. It's estimated that the cyclone did 12 million euros worth of damage to the island. But people are already starting to clean, rebuild, repair. Life will go on.....


Bilan - Oli's aftermath

The cyclone has past, and is now starting to dissipate, it is now just a severe tropical storm. Rapa was not badly effected and the red alert has been lifted. Tubuai sustained the worst damage. 150 homes were totally or partially destroyed by the cyclone, over 600 of the 2000 odd inhabitants are homeless. The electricity, fresh water and telecommunications infrastructures have been very badly damaged, the government and army are mobilizing to assist with the clean-up, and restore normality. At least 23 houses were destroyed in Raivavae as well, but there was not the same magnitude of destruction as in Tubuai, the cyclone passed about 100km from Raivavae, so they also got off lightly. In Tahiti there are collections of food and clothing to be sent to Tubuai and Raivavae by boat. Our whole island is mobilized today, busy cleaning up the debris, (Viriamu's busy in the garden hauling coconut fronds around) and getting back to life as normal. But I still have this dull feeling of dread in my stomach, I've spent the morning answering e-mails and blogging, still listening in to the radio. I just can't believe how lucky we were. I think that the fact that we have a young fringing reef, with a very shallow lagoon must have protected us from the worst of the sea. The waves broke onto the reef and were dissipated in the lagoon. The areas worst effected on our island were the areas where the reef is broken or absent, the waves break almost onto the coast. In Raivavae and Tubuai there is a well developed lagoon, sufficiently deep to carry the waves, people live on the motus, or at the waters' edge, inside the lagoon, and so would have been much more vulnerable to the sea. And what can you do with 200km/h winds........

(precariously placed homes, at the water's edge, opposite the quay in Mataura, Tubuai)
We have, as yet, no news of my brother-in-law and his family, I'm sure they are alive, but not sure how their home will have held up...........Oli is not over yet, for them.


Still Here!

Cyclone Oli passed Rurutu last night, there were strong winds, high seas and heavy rain, but we were safely shut in our house, with lovely thick walls between us and the gale. Now this morning the sun is shining and the red alert is lifted, so we've had a drive around to survey the damage, no big disaster to report, thankfully. We've also just been re-connected to the net and to the electric grid......hurrah!

There's a lot of debris to pick up and a lot of flattened banana palms, but it could have been so much worse. There were 6-8m high waves and in places where the reef is close the coast, it must have been quite scary.

(The Tuhaa Pae our cargo ship waits off the coast of Rurutu, in the swell, it's
been 'stuck' at sea since wednesday, not able to return to Tahiti and now
waiting to go to Tubuai to assist if necessary)

On the northeast coast the road was inundated in several places, bringing a lot of rocks and sand with it! The primary school lost its gates, and the police station might also have got some of the worst of it.

But really, no serious injuries to report, so we all feel very relieved today. A lot of the families in our district spent a tense night in a nearby cave, as they always have, in such situations.

So all in all, more fear than damage here in Rurutu, however, Tubuai got a direct hit, with gusts of wind over 200km/h. Again, from first reports, there don't appear to be any major casualties, but the islands electricity pylons have been flattened and there's apparently a lot of trees fallen across the roads. Our hearts and minds now go out to the people of Rapa, awaiting the cyclone.....

We're deeply touched by the messages we've received from friends and guests, from all over the world, in the last few hours. It's wonderful to know that you are out there thinking of us....

(Here we are in our cyclone shelter...the morning after)


It's 15h00 and we're bracing for the worst. The waves are crashing in regularly now, and the sea is inching up the beach, the rain is heavy and steady, we're expecting the electricity to be cut anytime soon, so we'll probably be offline until tomorrow, at least.
It's now 9h00 and we're still waiting for the worst. At the moment the weather is eerily calm, and while the sea is definitely a bit rough, nothing really remarkable yet. But it's coming.......In Tahiti the worst appears to be over, and from the radio we hear the reports......the roads are pretty much impassable at the moment, and there are widespread power cuts, but aside from that there are few real caualties, though a lot of people will have to repair their homes, about three hundred homes in Bora Bora sustained serious storm damage. We're sitting tight and hoping for the best! A large portion of the population of Vitaria (our district) has headed to the nearby cave to shelter.....we're sticking it out here. We're most concerned about the sea, we're only around 5m above sea level. A falling coconut palm could also do us some damage, but we have a pretty sturdy house and a second floor, so we feel as safe as is possible in a cyclone red alert zone.

Red Alert!

Oli's trajectory has changed, he's coming for us sooner and faster than expected. The Meteo's crisis center called us at 01h00, to let us know that we should expect the first signs in the next few hours and not tomorrow evening as expected yesterday. Specifically we are expecting waves of between 6-8m from about 6h00, so enough to result in some flooding, we'll see. We're preparing ourselves and getting prepared to sit tight for the next 24hrs or so. Not sure whether we'll have electricity/internet, but at the moment all is well here in Rurutu and as far as we can tell the damage from the cyclone has been mostly cosmetic in the Society Islands. We'll try to keep you up to date as we can. I know the cyclone has made French national news.


The ministerial visit that never was!

Matotea was ready..... the village of Avera was ready........

The commune had been feverishly filling in potholes and decking the roads with coconut palm fronds, but in the end the minister canceled, due to Oli, who has decided to come and visit, bringing >100km/h winds and 6m swells to the leeward islands.

So, at 8h00 this morning the commune were out feverishly pulling down all the decorations, in anticipation of the cyclone-force winds. At the moment he's doing somewhere off the coast of Maupiti, this evening Tahiti and Moorea are on red alert. Inhabitants have been advised to stay home from 18h00 and driving is forbidden after 21h00 this evening! After that he heads our way, we're still only on orange alert right now, but we're expected to go red by tomorrow morning. So there's a meeting at the mayor's office tomorrow morning to plan for the worst, which is expected to occur on thursday evening/friday, meanwhile our heart's go out to those already in the hurricane zone.......


You're kidding

For those of you who've been to visit us, you may already know that we have goats out back of our house. There are only two, but they can make some unholy noises and smell very musky. Anyway, finally after a good few months of waiting we got our first kid yesterday.

Matotea was absolutely charmed.

She very carefully explained to me which one was the mummy, which one was the daddy, and of course which one was the baby goat, lest there be any confusion on my part!

orange alert!

Oli is officially a cyclone, and it may even attain hurricane status (winds over 64 knots, ~120 km/h), before tailing off, toward the end of the week. It's current trajectory shouldn't worry us too much, but you never know. We'll brace ourselves to experience some strong winds in the next 48h.


Now it's Oli

What is going on here! There's yet another tropical depression brewing - it's enough to give you a tropical headache. Whatsmore there's a whole blog devoted to tropical depressions! This time our depression has been called Oli, by the Fijians, and is currently in the northern Cooks, it's not clear whether it will actually make it to cyclone status, but if it does, then it will be here on Wednesday, just in time for the arrival of the french Ministre for d'Outre-Mer, Marie-Luce Penchard. Yes, you heard right she'll be right here in Rurutu on wednesday, we are part of the real world! Our works department are knocking themselves out repairing the roads and making Rurutu presentable. Maybe they could stop illegally extracting sand from our beches to fill in the holes in the road. We'll find out if she has any magical solutions for the political and economic pickle we've gotten ourselves into here in PF! (You can follow her every move and that of our second tropical depression on our French Polynesian national newspaper's site http://www.ladepeche.pf)