Surviving a Cyclone

“Before you know what kindness really is you must lose things, feel the future dissolve in a moment like salt in a weakened broth.”

                                     from the poem “Kindness” by Naomi Shihab Nye

As I write this, I am waiting to hear that my daughter-in-law and my granddaughter are alive and safe. They have been smack dab in the middle of a Category 5 cyclone.  There is no power, phones or internet as the ferocious Cyclone Pam has ravaged her way through this South Pacific island nation.

Besides the worry for my own family, I am worried about the local Ni-Vanuatu people who have houses made of corrugated tin roofs.  They place rocks on top of the roofs to hold them down during high winds. With this magnitude of a storm, that’s like putting a pin on a stack of papers hoping the papers won’t blow away.

I remember my first real cyclone.  And cyclones, by the way are the same as typhoons or hurricanes.  Depends on what part of the world you reside in.  All are ferocious and many times catastrophic, like this one.   [Read more…]

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When the Unexpected happens…What I learned

A conversation to have with yourself when the worst is over

Here’s part 2 of the story I wrote last week about our scary volcano trip.  If you missed the first part, you can read it here.  And stay tuned for the end to know the real learnings in this adventure.  

I left off when we looked in the back of the truck and it was completely empty.

Where was my backpack?  My purse?  Did they unpack it with the other guests at the last hotel?  For a fleeting moment, I thought, you know, we’ll get our stuff back.  It will just be inconvenient.  I’ll have to just suck it up and sleep in my clothes tonight. 

The driver said he would bring us our bags the next day.  Before we left for the airport. 

Right.  I believed him.  What else to do at this point?

There was no one at the hotel which was dark and locked up tightly.  The owner had apparently given up on us as we were the only guests that night and he’d gone home.   

Hidden Pleasures Resort near the volcano

Our hotel which was locked up tight

Once again, adventure. Boiling pots.

We just wanted to get back to the airport for the flight back the next day.  Please.  I just wanted to see my granddaughters again. 

The three men searched in darkness, to see if they could find someone to let us in our room.  Oddly, they found a set of keys on a ledge somewhere & opened up one of the rooms for us.  So bizarre but welcome.

That night lying in bed, staring at the ceiling of the tiny thatched roof, under the mosquito net that draped around us,  my husband and I wondered, well, who knows we’re here?  Will someone come to take us to the airport? 

We had no food, no water, just ourselves.  We fell into an exhausted but fitful sleep while we waited until daylight. 

[Read more…]

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What to do When You’re Faced with the Unexpected

In every journey or adventure, there will be the unexpected, the low points, the funky stuff that happens.  This is true for travel or for life.  And there are always lessons to be learned.

It was shocking.  And scary.  And life changing.

It all started a little bit wonky, the beginning of our trip to see the live volcano on Tanna in the South Pacific island of Vanuatu. 

That tropical morning we got off the plane from the main island of Vanuatu.  I pulled out my reservation sheet & for the life of me, I could not find the name of the hotel we were booked in.  There were people everywhere, pushing, shoving, loading up people and baskets in trucks.   

Jo Hatcher Retreats

Boarding the Air Vanuatu flight to Tanna

A Ni Vanuatu man ran up to my husband and I and looked at our papers. I’m not even sure he could read English but he said something like…”you got the voucher, come with me.”   [Read more…]

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What a Volcano Taught me about Courage

Standing on the edge of hell

Mount Yasur Volcano - Vanuatu

Approaching the mighty Mount Yasur

I’m all about adventure.  And I’m also a chicken.  AKA scardy cat.   This is part 1 of a series of adventures I had recently while traveling in the South Pacific. 

I heard the rumbling, then an explosion.  The thunder was coming from somewhere deep, and it was primal.  The ground shook beneath me & I felt the same way I’d felt when I’d been caught in Japan’s huge earthquake in 2011…terrified.

I wanted to run back down the way I came.  I asked myself, what was I thinking?

 

Volcano lava climbing

Climbing up the lava to the volcano

My husband and I arrived on the remote island of Tanna in Vanuatu, an island nation in the South Pacific, to climb up to one of most active volcanos in the world.

Here was a rare opportunity to stand on what seemed like the edge of hell.  But it was the unpredictability of what was happening that freaked me out the most.

I stood on the rim and peered down into the throat of the volcano…the earth coughed up blazing lava every few minutes.  [Read more…]

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How I moved across the world

TO ALMOST PARADISE

1M7A9040Okinawa consists of a group of islands 400 miles south of the mainland of Japan. It has an area of 463 square miles.

I scored. I landed a job in Okinawa. In a tropical paradise. I pulled up roots, left the comfort of my home & everything I know, hugged my loved ones goodbye, and began a journey to the other side of the world.

Phase 1   LETTING GO

We tore out of California, my husband and I. This husband of mine who encouraged me, knowing he’d be the “dependent”…this is the man who is the wind beneath my wings. And me, I’d be the “sponsor” & breadwinner for both of us, at least for awhile.

There were months of packing, deciding what stayed, what went with us. Seeing our home empty after 20 years was shocking. The to do list was all encompassing: Rent out the house, sell the cars, close accounts, get the mail forwarded…when one detail was finished, another took its place.

Saying goodbye to family & friends was brutal…and I wondered over and over…am I doing the right thing? Meeting my three week old granddaughter Avery Mae for the first time then kissing her goodbye was like ripping out a part of myself.

Letting go…all the time. Letting go was the mantra.

[Read more…]

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