Sunday, November 7, 2010

Gunung Merapi Meletus! (Eruption)

A friend of mine in Redding used to live in a trailer near the southern border of Washington State in the beginning of the 1980's. In 1980, he was in his trailer when Mt. St. Helens decided to wake up after many decades of calm.. Apparently he lived a good distance from the volcano, because on May 18, 1980, the mountain erupted.

I have a hard time trying to comprehend 230 square miles of pyroclastic flow, or plumes of volcanic ash shooting over twelve miles above sea level. Yet, for me, this was a news story that settled on California television screens, and shy of my tenth birthday, I could hardly imagine what devastation was involved. My friend was in his twenties, and much closer to the action. From his trailer, he watched as bricks of hot ash landed outside his home, leaving him stuck inside until the bulk of volcanic fallout stopped.

At the age of ten, I did not realize what hot ash falling from the sky was like. Kids traveling through Washington would bring home- as a souvenir- a small jar of authentic ash from the eruption of St. Helens. Back then, I thought the eruption was an isolated event. Only now, three decades later do I understand that the activity of that mountain continued for months before quieting down.

The only volcanoes I ever experienced have been quiet for decades. For a short three years, I lived in Redding, California, wedged in between two active volcanoes, Mt. Shasta and Mt. Lassen. These two mountains form the southern tip of the Cascade Volcanic Arc. Neither of them have erupted in over a hundred years, so the ever-growing communities within Shasta County feel relatively safe.

So, I get online, and talk of my desire to walk again. I express this by affirming my desire to hike a volcano. I still have the interest. Just in the past weeks, though, I learned of the eruption of Gunung Merapi near Yogyakarta in Indonesia. Just seventeen months ago, I stayed at a hotel in Yogyakarta. I was taken on a tour, where I got to view Gunung Merapi up close. Videos and t-shirts bill it as the world's most deadly volcano. I can't be sure what standard was used to make that statement, but I am sure t-shirts touting a 'reasonably dangerous volcano' could be challenging to sell.
(follow this link for pictures taken after the Mount Merapi explosion)
I have gotten reports of the ongoing eruptions of Merapi. . For me, the eruption would have hastened my exit from the city. But for the people in the nearby areas, Yogyakarta is forced to create shelter for several hundred people. The air quality has declined due to the eruptions, and evacuation of several homes in Yogyakarta has also taken place. While staying in these shelters, many will wonder what to expect when they return home.

I met many beautiful people during my short visit, and it is sad to know that it may be a long time before life in Central Java can return to normal.

Thank you for reading.

Monday, November 1, 2010

All Saints Day 2010


Last night, we had an enormous party, a Halloween celebration with plenty of food, a lively (though disappointing) game on the screen, and steaming bowls of menudo with hot corn tortillas. The hours that our caregivers spent- cutting tripe and pig's feet, opening up cans of hominy, decorating cookies, and baking cupcakes - culminated in a delightful party. Even then, I took a quiet comfort in believing, knowing, this series would be won by the Giants


I was in Burger King earlier, and opened up a book when I heard the song "God Bless Texas" on the store radio. It occurred to me that some compassionate soul was anticipating tonight's World Series game. I believe whoever it is anticipated the imminent loss of the Texas Rangers, and wants peace for the team and their fans.

Last night's game settled my heart. I am not a sports fan, but when the Giants were playing the Phillies, I wheeled into the living room, stared up at the 52" screen, and discovered baseball. I went to a game many years ago, the only baseball game I ever watched through nine innings. My mother had tickets to watch the Oakland A's. It was a great experience. I watched the people in the stands. I watched the beer purchases of the people in front of us. I truly enjoyed myself at the ball game.

Still, my enjoyment was for being outside, the fresh air, the joy of the fans. Finally, well into the game, a hitter knocked a ball out of the park. I exclaimed quietly in response, and my mother grabbed my arm, and whispered that that is the wrong team. The A's lost that game that night to the Texas Rangers.

Tonight I raised my newfound appreciation for baseball to a fevered pitch. My sister brought pizza, and we watched the game broadcast from Arlington, and my fresh enthusiasm for baseball had elements of bloodlust. Uncultured and immature, I felt devastated by last night's win to Texas.

Friends have told me that they wanted to win here, in the Bay Area. Impatient, and doubting, I wanted a quick kill. I was nott bothered by the silence from the bleachers as the last strike was thrown. I felt a joy, a peace, with waves of exhilaration. I ate pizza and orange soda. I write this to all you, with a quiet satisfaction that my sanity will mediate itself, at least until this time next year.

As for my responsibility to vote, my ballot has already been cast. So, this is my report for now.

Thank you for reading.