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The Journey to Paradise Photos of great cultural and natural beauties of Papua New Guinea

 
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Old 16-06-2005, 05:45 PM
***aCe*** ***aCe*** is offline
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From old to new - Happenings after Tsunami devastation

By Alison Anis

Sailing from Aitape towards the season, the coast looked peaceful and unusually deserted. The beach was lined up with coconut trees and regrowth. The sea was naturally calm, a good time to go fishing.

It was hard to believe that, less then eight years ago, these place was teeming with life and noise. All along the coast, at Malol and Arop, Barupu and Sissano, there have been houses - these had been wiped out by the tidal waves. Now there were few signs life – or of the destruction.

Between Arop and Sissano we passed two fishermen who kept their eyes on their lines.

But there were no houses or signs of people living along the coast where most of the fishing activities used to take place. Only one or two little shacks for fishermen could be seen under the trees a few meters back from the shoreline.

As we neared the small village of Teleg, a reflection of light from the shore caught our attention.

It was the only building as far as we could see, and it had its roof intact. It stood by itself. It was the church.

Rehabilitation Committee Chairman Tas Maketu said: “That’s the church of the Malol people. It was there before the tidal wave and it’s still there.”

He said it was unexplainable, how the wave came and destroyed everything except for the church.

Us...Girls....enjoying A boat ride aboard MV Rita from Madang towards Wewak where we hope to catch a ride on one of the PMV towards Aitape
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Old 16-06-2005, 05:51 PM
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Of our two boats, one was going to Sissano and the other was going to Barupu. We reached the lagoon at around 11am and parted ways.

The sea wasn’t rough so we didn’t have any trouble getting into the lagoon.
The lagoon itself was big. It was as anybody would describe it, peaceful and beautiful.

Most of the debris from the disaster had long since swept away to sea by strong currents or sunk to the bottom of the lagoon.

Only two sunken boats and some uprooted trees that had been swept into the lagoon were in sight.

Our anxiously awaited boat ride towards Sissano Lagoon....
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Old 16-06-2005, 05:54 PM
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However, it was sad to note that the people who once lived in there were now living in the mountains, rebuilding their lives.

Mr Maketu said many people fled to the mountains when the waves came and some are still frightened to move back to the coast.

He said those who came moved to the coast to settle near the lagoon only came in small groups.

What was once Sissano villages were no longer there? What was left of people’s lives was now covered with bushes and trees. It was 20 months since the tsunami disaster.

“There is no generation left of the people who had their houses built at the mouth of the lagoon and along the beach [what was Warapu village]. The whole population was wiped out when the tidal wave came,” Mr Maketu said.

Aitape Coast...Nice and peaceful...
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Old 16-06-2005, 05:59 PM
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He said there were no survivors from this particular village because it was the most vulnerable spot, so people were unable to escape.

“Most of the people who live alongside the lagoon are now living in the mountain which has now become their new village,” Mr Maketu said.

He said they called the new village Olbrum which means “big mountain” in the local dialect.


As our journey continued, it turned out that the clearest clues as to what happened here during the disaster were found in the eyes of the people who survived.


Grief was evident in their eyes, especially the children and women. The first thing you would expect to see when traveling are children smiling and waving, but that was not the case here.

We passed a lone woman fishing in the lagoon. She was old enough to be a mother; there were no children with her. She glanced our way as we passed her. She did nothing more than just look, but it was hard to miss the sorrow in her eyes.

The next people we came by seemed like an elderly couple. The man was paddling the canoe, while the woman was busy sorting ropes for fishing. If they were surprised at seeing us, they didn’t show it. They kept their heads down most of the time.

The same thing happened on our way back. A woman who could have been the mother of the four children on her canoe was paddling by. We took a few photos of them and we tried to amuse the children with a smile and a wave, but they just stared at us. It was hard to miss their sadness.

Me and Helen couldn't resist a refreshing swim at the beautiful Sissano Lagoon. Sissano seemed like a Paradise forgotten...on the beautiful sunny afternoon.
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Old 16-06-2005, 06:01 PM
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“Each of them as a story to tell. Some of them don’t want to talk about it and some want to talk about their own experiences,” Mr Maketu said.

He explained that these were the people from the new village Olbrum who came to fish in the lagoon once in a while.

He said they had experienced their own losses and were still trying to get over it. Some of them came to settle along the lagoon and near the coast, but they stayed away from the beach where they once lived.

He said the movement of people from the mountain to resettle near the coast was very hesitant and may take some time.

“The people have a choice to make and it’s up to each individual to decide where they want to live. No one is forcing them to live in the mountains,” Mr Maketu said.

He said the disaster may have forced them to live in the mountains but they may come back to the coast if they wish.

It is difficult for these people, who left their way of life, to settle in the mountains where life is very different from what they once had and enjoyed.

Not only were they dealing with problems of getting used to new living conditions, but they also have to face the emotional stress and physical pain of what they lost.
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Old 16-06-2005, 06:05 PM
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Mr Maketu also has his own story to tell.
He said he still couldn’t accept the truth of what happened. Nor could he get over the loss of his mother during the tsunami.

He said a lot of people were now living a normal life but they could not erase what happened from their minds. People were still grieving when they remembered loved ones lost to them and it may take a long time to forget.

It took us about 20 minutes to get to Olbrum by boat after leaving the mouth of the lagoon. The situation of the resettlement there was different.

When we arrived, women were helping the men build new classrooms. They were transferring mixed cement from the rivers to the shelter where the men were busy making fittings for the new classrooms.

A few children tagged along behind the women’s heels as they carried buckets of cement.

It was hot up in the mountain and most of the houses were built on high land so it was hard to imagine how the coastal people could fit in here.

A few gardens were scattered across the mountain ridges but no one was gardening at that time.

Men of the new village busied themselves with the constructions of the new school so they didn’t have any time to waste. Women either worked in the garden or helped the men when they had nothing else to do.

Not many children were around but if they were there, they kept quietly to themselves.

The number of people living in Olbrum was estimated at around 1,300.
Mr Maketu said: “The real figure will e collected and recorded during the 2000 census.”


End//….

And what a trip it was...ended successfully with all of us waiting to go back to Madang..
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Old 27-04-2012, 03:31 PM
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Hi Alison

I remember you. My name is Adam, i was the australia who was at Aitape and working in communications for the diocese of aitape. I still recall aitape often and have to say it was one of the best times of life. Now I am in solomon islands. Not working in communications anymore, but with an NGO. I have been in solomons almost 10 years so I must like it too!!!
Do you keep in touch with any of the group that came to aitape? Joe webber married junus in Solomon Islands last year and they moved back to the UK early this year.
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