We never thought that IOM or US Aid would be interested in our trash [referring to IOM providing trash bags to collect empty cans from relief items].
So it was a surprise when they came?
Yeah, it was a surprise.
If you heard that another typhoon was coming on the radio or something, would you stay here or would you have everyone leave? How would you prepare?
It depends on how we construct our houses, because now, we find out that the typhoons are not getting weaker — the storms are getting stronger as time goes by, so we have to construct our house carefully using screws and bolts instead of just nailing them.
Would you make more concrete houses?
Well, I myself would build a frame house, but … because I have concrete house all around that I can take shelter in, so I don’t need another one. Because with a concrete house you either have to have a ceiling fan or air [conditioner].
It’s too hot in there?
It seems like the community’s gotten stronger since this disaster. Would you say that? Do you think that everyone’s united and pulling together?
I think stronger and wiser. They should have listened to the scientists when they say there’s a climate change, because when they tell us about climate change, they’re all just say it’s nothing. Still, they find out the hard way that it is true, climate change is no joke.
Mm-hmm, it’s true. What about the youth, do you think that the youth has pulled together as well, and that they understand that this can be something that happens more frequently?
They’re doing great. Like when we’re without power, they form groups to bring us water, like me, I cannot get water. They help us gather the materials we need. But, they’re teenagers and some of them think this is a big picnic because they have their tuna and luncheon and their luncheon meat [referring to relief food provided by IOM].
Was there any time during the storm … or at what time, maybe. Was there any time during the storm, 8:15 [p.m.] to 4:00 [a.m.], what was going on in your mind? Was there any time where you were thinking, maybe this is it?
I knew there’d be great damage, but I look upon it as a challenge, especially for the young people. The old people took it in stride because they’ve been through typhoons before. I myself have been through many typhoons, both in Chuuk, Guam, Saipan, the Philippines, Yap and finally here.
Were you here for Ophelia?
I was three years old then.
What would you say is the most need at this point?
The most need is for us, as an atoll as a whole, to have some kind of plan for the replacement of new building sites, taking into account our agriculture, infrastructure, and aesthetics in designs, because what we do today or fail to do will either be an aid or a headache for our children.
If there were three lessons learned, before, during, and after, If there were three lessons learned from this one, what would you say are the top three?
Three lessons that we learned? Okay, first, there’s … we need better housing. This is the design of our houses, because a lot of them blew away with this “magic” typhoon.
Then, what will be the second? The environment? Taking care of the environment? Taking care of the environment before and after such natural disaster. Now I ask you John to give the third. Because I’ve never really thought about this. Okay?
Maybe it’s only two (laughing). Last question. Describe what’s going on in your head, describe your feeling at the peak of the storm, in one word. What would that be? If you were to refer to this storm… when you hear Ophelia, it’s described as the wave, or seawater, or the sand of the sea. If you were to describe this typhoon in terms of that, what would you say?
In one word?
Maybe two words?
Major destruction. But no loss of life, because I know everybody is safe.