A white ash blanket…

Indonesia is known for its suseptability to natural disasters, and this week has certainly been no exception. Located in what is known as the pacific ring-of-fire, Indonesia is particularly prone to volcanic activity, earthquakes and tsunamis, and in the past two days we received the full trifecta.

The earthquake hit late on Monday afternoon in West Sumatra, causing a tidal wave that has so far killed 113 villagers in the remote island chain with hundreds still missing and rescue teams are still finding it difficult to access the areas in most need due to the location of the affected areas. As if Indonesia hasn’t suffered enough, this same fault line was the cause of the massive tsunami in 2004 which killed over 230,000 people across 12 countries in this part of the world.

Now as if that isn’t enough to stomach, yesterday Mount Merapi, one of Indonesia’s most volatile active volcanoes (Indo boasts more than 129 of these active beasts of nature), erupted. Merapi is in Central Java, right near Yogyakarta, and a mere 9 hour drive from my home here on the coast of West Java. We are remote here, we live without TV and without a strong internet connection. So the news of both of these events took a while to get to us through the grape vine. But within a few hours we heard the news and last night we watched it on the one TV in our local eating house. Lava and smoke and ash spewed down the volcano, killing many villagers who had ignored the warnings and stayed behind tending to their farms. Even on TV it is hard to believe that this is happening mere hours away from our serene paradise village.

But this morning we woke to reality, a white ash blanket covered the village, the leaves speckled white, and a thin layer of dust along the roads, looking like a light blanket of snow. As we rode to the beach at 5am to catch the early swell, the sunrise was spectacular. An orange glow, tinting the dust that still silently fell around us, making our world feel warm as the morning was tinted orange for an hour.

Cars and motorbikes are speckled in ash, and even during the day it is still falling like a light snow, hard to see in the air, but you can feel it on your skin and see it on your clothes.

Indonesia offers so much, culture, beauty and warmth, but it comes with disasters that show the true nature of its people. With so much death and destruction caused by the very place this country is located in the sea, the people here are resilient, forgiving and empathetic.

This is my home, even if the ground shakes from time to time.

Barefoot, speckled in white, walking on the ashes of recent tragedy and forgiveness.


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