Ten months – Since Yasi – Part 1

Ten months Since Yasi

It’s been ten months since Yasi and as we head towards Christmas it seemed a good time to do a reflection on how far we have come.

I asked three women I admire  for their strength, resilience and contribution to Cassowary Coastal life to participate to reflect on this –  Sal Badcock, Pam Galeano and Carolyn Bofinger.

 Cyclone Yasi out of Control and Return to Kaos. (c) Sal Badcock

Sal singing

Sal shares her account on her website click here to read it all Cyclone Yasi Out of Control and Return to Kaos. Sal has documented her journey in photographs, facebook and emails sent to friends.  Here is a small extract.

Where the heck has this year gone????

I do believe we have been living in an alternate Universe, just occasionally visiting the real one, only to discover that yet another month has disappeared into the chaotic void of 2011.

11 weeks ago we returned to our chosen place in space.

A place that has undergone many changes and transformations in the 30 weeks (or 210 days) since we abandoned it first to the elements and then to the builders on 14th February – Happy Valentines Day!

Each visit was fraught with pain and sadness and anguish. We’d come here full of energy to do things, only to crawl away beaten. Our house was crying out in pain, and we couldn’t help it.

Now we are home again. I had not realised just how badly it was affecting me being away from my place in space and my home. (c) Sal Badcock

Sal on top of house repairs has been giving art workshops, singing at public events and weddings and singing requests outdoors in the afternoons as she did before the cyclone came along.

Pam has written a guest blog about her life since Cyclone Yasi, as she doesn’t blog I have asked permission to share her whole contribution.  I thank her and will be quoting from it in an upcoming ABC Open blog.  Very soon the videos I have been making on the Galeanos will be completed, just doing a tiny bit more polishing.

Pam, Joe and the Mighty Yasi...Joe and Pam – After Yasi

  (c)  Pam Galeano

30/11/11

The morning after we were grateful to be alive, unharmed, with our house and personal goods mostly intact. We felt shell-shocked and awed by the power of a wind that could uproot huge corner posts of our farm sheds hurling them away into cane paddocks and by the might of a tidal surge that could barrel kilometres up the Hull River and into our crop.

For two days we had no running water.  For a week we had no power, then the welcome, but limited and noisy power of a generator for another two weeks. Life for those three weeks was very different and we felt disoriented. We worked hard physically, made necessary phone calls, took necessary photographs, filled out official forms – but it was difficult to concentrate.

During the fourth post-cyclone week I slowed down, appreciated the air conditioning and wrote a children’s picture book text – a cyclone story! Joe kept organising and doing farm recovery work but was sleeping after lunch when possible.

Following that our lives seemed fairly normal superficially (unless repair work was going on in the house) but our emotions remain closer to the surface and we need more sleep.

Work on the house was completed late September but Joe worked the cane season without one decent farm shed.  Foundations for two new sheds are being poured today.

Watching nature cover her scars with green leaves and bright flowers is solace for us.

We try not to show it but we both have more ups and downs than is usual.  I know we require a little more recovery time. We need to be gentle and tolerant with each other and with our traumatised community.

You can find out more about Pam’s picture books here.  Looking forward to her cyclone book for kids, it will be a special one.

Carolyn in Brisbane

Ten Months Since Yasi

(c)  Carolyn Bofinger

It’s ten months on since Cyclone Yasi passed over our paradise neighbourhood and we’re now settled in Brisbane, loving our new faster-paced lifestyle.   Everyone has settled into their employment, schools, sporting clubs and music tuition and seems grateful for the move and the opportunity to meet new friends.

We miss our FNQ friends terribly but seem to find this weird kind of peace in skype, phone calls and quirky day to day text messages, not to mention the quick visits to and from coast life to city life.   It’s a similar kind of warmth we shared with our family when we lived so far away.

We’re grateful for many simple aspects of our new Brisbane lifestyle, like seeing our families and sharing in celebrations … and riding along bike paths for Sunday morning restaurant breakfasts … and stumbling upon another great school for the boys to build their childhood school day memories from … and finding Paddington shops once again … and the novelty of driving in traffic … and spending time with childhood besties … at a whim … and the feeling of living in our own house once more … and creating a new home … and going to see live music … and taking ferris wheel rides overlooking our new sky-rise backyard … and eating out during the week just because we can. The sounds and smells and outooks are different.

Often we talk about the beach smells and sounds that we miss whilst in the four walls of our new ‘forever’ house or the feeling of sand between our toes when we walk outside.

Then we take a walk through the creek at our doorstep or listen to the birds in the bush and we remember life is what you make it and for us … that’s happy times in whichever part of this small world we live.

Carolyn can be  found if you click here.  She is a wonderful photographer and will be featured in upcoming ABC Open video documentaries as well.

I’ll tell my family’s story in a second blog.  Part 2 of this one.

(c) of Respective contributors remains with them, this compilation copyright of June Perkins.

Yasi – our story one of many

What is it like to go through a category 5 cyclone?  I never thought I would know the answer to this question and that I would, along with my family and many other cassowary coasters, experience the strength of the wind in a house that shook as if it was Dorothy’s in the story of Wizard of Oz. Two fat kookaburras sat on our clotheline in the light hours before the rain began to pick up and wind started to move the palms into a flag of wind directions.  We heard their ironic laughter a few more times in the afternoon.

Waiting – we seemed to wait for hours and hours.  We just wanted it to be over.  But we did not know how violent that storm was going to get.  We couldn’t really see what it was doing in the dark, but boy could we hear it!

Before the cyclone, everyone was bunkering down, and saying on facebook- ‘See you on the other side of YASI’ I don’t think they really knew just how challenging it was going to become.   Some of us rang a few close friends to wish them luck.  I rang three of my friends.  One a mother to my daughter’s best friend and a couple of writer friends.

It built slowly but then picked up momentum.

We felt like a giant hand shook our house, harder, and harder and harder.  It was just like contractions that strengthen and strengthen as the birth of the eye of the storm nears.   Only the mother of this storm is feral wind gusts, that lift rooves, peel tin off roofs and sheds, it’s as if it was one tremendous tin opener that descended from the sky and went on a rampage through our homes.  We felt like we were in a jumbo jet at times and our house was going to fly away.  We could hear things banging and blowing, knocking into things.   We heard the sound of the wind gremlins under the house, shifting and knocking things so that the cyclone hit us from the floor as well as above and sideways.  We knew there were big trees all around us.  A mango tree fell through our roof and splintered the ceiling which shot down in shards to the floor where we were sheltering.  The bang was startling, and our dear bird Peep, was flying everywhere.  We grabbed our guinea pigs, quail and Peep in each room change.  It was a menagerie.  Of course nothing like Sal’s little ark of animals but ours nevertheless.

My dear husband, approached the cyclone scientificially, getting updates from his family on phone, who were consulting the bom site and he then used the data to calculate which room we should be in.  We had no electricity or iphones or that sort of stuff.  He was calculating the direction of the the wind and moving us in rooms accordingly.  He also asked for updates on the cricket – to calm himself and our youngest, who loves cricket. Our bathroom was not the best room for some of it and then it was according to his calculations.  I was irritable, anxious, and felt the storm in every fibre of my being.  I wanted to be somewhere else, but felt so protective of the kids.  I squeezed my husband’s hand and hugged my kids.  Why us, why now, why this storm?  Later hubby was to tell me his family were so frightened for us they needed comfort in the cyclone we were going through. Comfort for potential loss of us and no way of being able to help us.  We were at the mercy of nature.  Yet I have been more scared, once when someone tried to break into our home and they knocked and banged on the doors and windows – a cyclone of human drunkeness or worse, intent on getting inside and hurling abuse at us.   People are still more scary to me than cyclones.

Our front doors open and we felt a funnel of wind blow the back window open. Hubby and eldest son kept going to close it.  A window smashed in our bedroom but we weren’t in there, but we could hear it shatter.  My eldest thought of getting a board and nailing it across the front door.  So he and Dad did that in between the gusts.

Going to the toilet was a real adventure.  It was very spooky sounding in there, the worst sound in the house.

Nowhere felt safe as the cyclone built and built its strength.  We prayed, checked our cyclone kit, comforted our pets – Misty, Chocolate, Calico, Soot, and our youngest son who was terrified.  He snuggled in his blanket, and hid under a desk.  His sister had a nervous smile on her face.  The science of the cyclone interested her too,  ‘this is scary but this is brilliant’oh dear, I hope she doesn’t grow up to be a storm chaser.   ‘Don’t smile’ yelled her terrified  brother. We recorded our experience in photographs and sound bytes, ‘perhaps if we don’t survive our story will’- we thought.

And then we ran in the eye of the storm, to the car, leaving behind our beloved pets barricaded in the bathroom.  This was hard.  I had to explain to the kids there was not time to grab the pets, and that the pets might make this sacrifice for the kids , and die in their place.  I did not want to run, the advice says stay put, stay in the bathroom, but there’s a tree near our bathroom, tall and strong, ready to fall, and hubby felt let’s go, both on calculations and gut instincts ( this is a man who loves to wear odd socks to keep his students alert)  ‘we’ll be safer up the street’ no time to argue, a decision to be made.  I went with the scientist and we ran to the car.  It’s dark and flooded in our laundry on the way to the car.  Trust at times like these can be tested, disunity has the potential to destroy as much as the cyclone itself.

We waded through it, kids and cyclone kit in tow.  Hubby moved the debris from in front of the car for us to drive out.  Thank God the car was alright to drive.  We went through power lines, thank God the power was switched off – went out at 4pm.

We arrived at the house of some neighbours, and they sheltered us in their laundry and someone gave us soft drinks and a matress.  The kids dropped off to sleep.  All squashed up!  It felt so much safer in this low to ground stone brick? home.  I didn’t sleep.  I kept waiting for it to end. My children did, they sensed greater safety. Such precious sleep through the rest of the storm they had- and they were going to need that extra sleep for days of homlessness and uncertainty were about to follow.

At one point in the second half of the storm though my youngest felt like ice, I checked his pulse to see if he was breathing and was frightened for a moment he had died of shock, but then the gentle rise of his chest told me otherwise.

Some friends were later to say the second half  was worse for them.  Some people had no eye at all.  Oh for that brief chaotic break that allowed us some freedom.

Some had an even greater menagerie of animals, some people had backpackers evacuees from lower lying areas with them.  Some went to stay with family. Someones grandfather was out cleaning the garden before the cyclone.  Hmm the gardens look like someone has just hurled everything randomly around in a violent fit of temper.

We woke next day at our neighbours house and waited for the wind gusts to die down.  We thought of our pets – time to go see them soon and check how they had fared in the bathroom the other place we would have stayed.

We had made it through cyclone Yasi, but the story doesn’t end here.  For we were soon to find that we were going to be searching for home.

(c) June Perkins, all rights reserved on words and images.