|Coconut leaves hold the roof down
Picture taken after the bamboo holding it down was removed
We had another near miss with a cyclone. This time, it didn’t gain enough power to be classified as a cyclone, though it was a direct hit on Vanuatu.
On Saturday, we heard there was a tropical storm coming our way. At that point it wasn’t exactly a surprise, it was pouring rain, windy and the waves were pounding the shore. We holed up in the house and played Scrabble. I put a bowl under the leak in the roof and went back to Scrabble. Around 10 am, I glanced at the bowl to check and see how it was holding up. There was water pouring across the floor. In another minute or two, it would be running over my feet.
I look up. The hole is the same, the drip is the same, there is no way it could create that much water.
That leaves the other, less good, option. The water is coming in over the cement slab our house is built on. We are flooding.
The entire village of Vansemakul is built on a hill. It is done in tiers, with each house or kitchen being built on a place flattened especially for it. Our house has a hill leading directly into the back. When it rains heavily, the hill can’t absorb all the water coming down it and instead the water pours towards us.
Now, we have a moat. The moat is dug at the drip line of the roof in the back and opens out at angles from the house. It is meant to stop exactly the sort of flooding currently happening. We re-dug the moat at some point but it turns out “some point” was about 5 months ago. Since then, the pumpkin patch had grown to fill the moat and each rain had deposited a little more dirt in the trench. It was no longer so much a trench as a shallow line.
I ran for a shovel while Jason picked up all electronic, paper or other damageable items off the floor. Then we dug. Jason had a bad run in with the wall of the house and had to bow out due to a bloodied hand. Then I dug. An hour or so and a few nice blisters later, I had a moat. I decided the moat was insufficient protection and built a berm out of chunks of logs I found near my house. I now have a berm and ditch system rather than just a moat. Bring on the invaders!
Sunday, the storm hit. Luckily, we had a very good moat to keep the water from flooding. We acquired some coconut leaves to tie down the roof on our kitchen. The tie down method works like this: You tie the ends of two coconut leaves together then you lift the whole thing up and over the roof so one stem hangs down each side. You do the same thing every 2-3 feet until you’ve gone the length of the roof. Then you take a piece of bamboo as long as the kitchen and run it over the stems of the coconut leaves. You tie that in place and start hoping really hard that nothing happens to your kitchen.
When the storm proper hit us, we moved the table away from the outer wall and tossed the papers and technology on the extra bed covered in the blanket. Our walls are woven bamboo. The weave has small, small holes in it. When it is raining and in high winds, the rain is blown in through the small, small holes.
I walked back from a function in Melsisi at dusk. We ran through the coconut plantations out of fear that one of them might uproot on us or send a coconut missile down on our heads. The wind was too strong to use an umbrella, leaving us all soaked to the skin and buffeted about on the road. It was probably the most exciting walk I plan on taking in my time as a PCV.
The storm passed in the night. We walked to Melsisi in the morning and passed through banana plantations that are full of spoiled fruit and broken trees. Even the cabbge plants were shredded in places. I’ve been told most of the banana crop in the gardens is ruined along with the breadfruit crop. I guess we’ll be eating a lot of taro. Too bad, since I like breadfruit.