Join Date: Sep 2004
Greetings to Everyone -- I Missed You!
To those of you who noticed I haven’t been around for quite a while, I wanted you to know you have all been missed by me and thought of so often. I have dreamt of Rainee’s barbeque, crewsk’s cheese straws, Goodweed’s pancakes, subfusc’s breads, middie’s smile, buckytom’s lightening repartee, mudbug’s dry humor and kitchenelf’s compassion a lot! And I have worried my socks off about Luvs! GB, you must surely be a proud father by now! And Marge? How are you?? MJ, seen any good jpgs lately…??? Wasabi, what's up? Michael, how's the neighborhood? Choclatechef...DS...PA Baker...I can go on and one forever here -- I have missed you all!
I left January 26 for Banda Aceh, Indonesia as part of an ICRC medical dispatch team and spent two grueling weeks there doing everything from treating illnesses and residual injuries, to building housing structures, to offloading tons of food and supplies from a myriad of helicopters. As innumerous teams poured into Banda Aceh especially, I was transferred to the Maldives, which was then suffering so much more than Indonesia in terms of response units, sanitation, and housing. It seems that all of us, from throughout the world, landed in Indonesia first, then spread out as needs were met and new ones identified. Work through this large region will continue for months and even years.
Quality healthcare is as common as fallen oak leaves in the Autumn throughout most of the area for some time now. And locals are taking strong use of this very new opportunity born from such a tragedy. Housing is such a rare commodity, though. Hundreds of construction teams work endlessly to build simple one-to-three-room shelters, which is where most able men whose families were left without income have turned to work. Yet so common, in the Maldives, is to find 10 to 15 people living in one tiny structure, deeply grateful to have a place to get away from the rains. Ironically the tourism industry, or at least the resorts themselves, have been remarkably restored. Lovely resorts boast beautiful landscapes and luxurious accommodations, but very, very few tourists. It is surreal to see those lovely places – that won’t allow anyone there unless they are a confirmed tourist – and then climb the hills where people live in squalor, grateful to be alive.
As I sit in my comfortable home with a broadband connection to you, the smell of fresh banana bread wafting up from the kitchen, and my sons (and 7 guests, I think…) thrilled to be enjoying, at last, their copy of Grand Tourismo 4 that they pre-ordered a year and a half ago…I see a sea of hollow-eyed, emotionally devastated children, and my heart is broken for them. Oh, the children. The youngest and the teenagers are coping admirably with the incredible losses they have suffered. But the full force of the tsunami’s devastation is clearly and ever-chronicled in the eyes of those little boys and girls between the ages of 6 and 12 years of age – those old enough to feel the complete loss, but too young to rationalize. Many teams of psychologists and mental health personnel are in place, especially in Indonesia, but I know in my heart that some scars can never heal. My prayers for them are constant.
You have probably heard about the political strife and some of the difficulties caused by territorial clans. That, albeit minor, is increasing. But among adults, the biggest and dramatically increasing danger is in domestic violence. Tensions are now so taught among men, probably due to their complete loss of control over their lives and the incredible daily difficulties in just living and providing for their families. Now, the vast majority of injuries in certain areas are in women and children who have been assaulted. Many have been the times that I have experienced true fear for my life there.
I am sorry for painting such a grim picture, but this has been my daily experience for weeks now. And my heart is very full and my life forever changed. But I also want to tell you of the wonders that I have seen.
First and foremost, never before in the history of mankind has there existed such an overwhelming outpouring of love and compassion and money as has occurred in this region of our world. Food is so plentiful, and coming in several times daily by the tons, that it is being distributed to absolutely anyone who wants it, not just identified tsunami victims, so that the food will not spoil. (They did stop the arrival of rice in Indonesia, since their own crop is coming in.) Children are receiving vaccines and care at unprecedented levels and, indeed, healthcare in general for the entire area is improved incomprehensively and is so easy to reach. Medical care there has long turned from being reactive to being proactive and educating the masses on prenatal care, hygiene and nutrition. And the people who have come from every point on the planet to offer aide is staggering. One of the most amazing feats, in my mind, has been the almost effortless coordination of so many different organizations – I truly expected chaos with the huge numbers of “foreigners” there to give aid, but that was never the case. All these different organizations have come together to work together and it is like being part of a beautiful symphony.
I arrived home just a few days ago and look forward with all that I am to spending some quality time in my kitchen! But first, I have an overwhelming need to spend every moment I can with my family, catching up on the last month away and savoring the simplicity, comfort and happiness of my own very precious family.
Hug yourselves, your children, your grandchildren, your neighbors and those wonderful folks behind the meat counters at the grocer, and know that we are all blessed beyond comprehension to live the lives we lead and have the luxury of this very website to expand our network of friends and share in our common joy of food.
I look forward more than you could possibly know to chatting again with all of you, so special to me, in the times to come.
And if any of you have a bona-fide, never-fail cure for jet-lag, PLEASE let me know!
Pain is inevitable. Suffering is Optional.