Were you here during the typhoon?
No, I was in Guam during the typhoon. Um … What else? (Laughing)
What did you hear? ‘Cause you were far away, and then you came here. Did you have this impression of what it was when you weren’t here? When did you hear about the typhoon, and saw what was going on at home?
Okay, so … in Guam I work, I was at my work when they announced the typhoon. This is when it was heading towards Guam, so Guam was on typhoon watch. I was just thinking like, “Okay, when are they going to say Condition 2 so that we don’t have to work?” (Laughs) So later on when they announced that it was heading towards here, I was … I didn’t know that it was turning into a super typhoon, so I thought that it was just the same as the storm before, the tropical storm. I was just … “They’re going to be fine, it’s just a tropical storm.”
When they announced that it has become a super typhoon, that’s my first time to hear a such thing as a super typhoon. When it was heading towards here, they said it turned Category 5 I guess, I think that’s what they said, and it’s a super typhoon, so I was just praying that all my families and the whole communities here are okay.
After the typhoon, and I’m very thankful that Brad Holland was able to post some pictures, we were able to see the pictures that he posted, pictures of Falalop. Even though it was slow … even though I was really anxious to see the pictures of Federai, I know it was a hard time for them to go to all the islands at the same time to take the pictures. I was very patient and I was very thankful that, you know, they were able to post the pictures of Federai.
When I was at work, I would sneak on Facebook just to see the pictures of the damages done to the islands. When I saw the pictures of here, I was heartbroken. I really wanted to cry. I just, I was like, you know what, I’m just not going to even think about it. I held it all in, tried to keep my mind off it and focus on work, get work done with.
It really, it really got me when I saw a picture of my house (laughs). No tin roof, um … There was one that was far, they shoot it from afar, and then there was a close-up shot. It was pretty clear. I could tell that it was my house, so I was just torn.
As soon as I got home, I got into my room, locked my door, put my face in my pillow, and cried my heart out. I was heartbroken.
What was it like going from pictures of it on Facebook to real life?
I think Junior was able to post a picture of Falalop right after the typhoon, and one now that there’s a little more green. I was able to see that, you know, the island is finally growing back. It’s going to take time, but, yeah, it’s finally growing back. But, you know, compared to the pictures that I saw, I really feel for them right after the typhoon because I know that’s when a lot of manpower is needed to clean up those big trees that fell down, you know. Now that I’m here, they found a lot of work really, mostly in Falalop I saw the pictures. There were big trees lying everywhere. When I got here, there’s … they cleared out most of it. There’s roads that we can take.
I’m not too sure about here [Federai]. I didn’t really … I don’t think there’s much damage done to here yet, compared to the other islands.
What was it like seeing your family here?
I’m so happy to be home, even though it’s only for roughly a week now. I’m so happy to see everybody and see that everybody’s doing okay. I’ve seen a lot of different in not only the island but also the effect the typhoon has on the people. Also, people look darker because of all of the sunlight, not enough shade of course, and most of them are skinny, skinnier than the last time I saw them. There’s a lot of working going on, not because of a shortage of food because you know, people outside, and I’m thankful that other people are able to send in food for them. They lost some weight. I see some weight loss, not only because of the food but, you know, a lot of work that needs to be done here to clean up the mess that Maysak left.
Do you think the community is stronger and tighter now?
Compared to the things that I heard when I was out there, yeah, people did really come together to help out. Hearing the stories from … ’cause I would ask some people when I was in Falalop, I asked a few people about their experience in the typhoon, and yeah they did mention that people really come together, especially the women. They would sit together and meet every morning and decide, “Okay, we’re going to go to this person’s house and help clean up this person’s house, and then after we’ll go to the next person’s house.”
And so are the men. They would meet together also, and say, “Okay, we’re going to cut down the big tree on that end of the island.” And then here, also, it’s the same thing. My brother was able to come in and also help during rebuilding. Based on the stories from him, yeah, people did really, especially the men and the whole community really, it’s tighter here. They really did come together and help each other to rebuild.
Have you noticed any effects on the reefs at all?
I haven’t been in the ocean much, I only get to swim this morning but I didn’t really take the time to see. I haven’t had the time to go around the island and see all the damage is done, but I think I’m going to do that tomorrow. And also in the water, sure. Yeah. But I haven’t really been in the ocean so I can’t really tell you how much damage that I’ve seen.
What do you think of in terms of the future, if there’s another typhoon (and most likely there is), how do you … do you think it’s a part of climate change from other parts of the world effecting you guys?
That’s one of the questions that came to mind when I … after Maysak, I was thinking that, you know, this is … according to our elders, this is one of the, it’s the strongest typhoon that Ulithi has experienced. The strongest typhoon that they experienced was Ophelia, Typhoon Ophelia, but compared to the damage done by Maysak, they said Maysak now made history, that it’s the strongest typhoon other than Ophelia. It has done more damage than Typhoon Ophelia.
As for … yeah, thinking about Typhoon Maysak, I did really think about, you know … the damage that’s done, does it have anything to do with climate change? I saw a picture of Maysak in space, the one that they took … I don’t know who took the picture, but I was able to see that. I was looking at it, and I was wondering, because there are some swirls somewhere in there, so what I’m wondering is, were those tornadoes? Were they hurricanes? I don’t know, I’m just thinking and in my head I’m like, I hope it has nothing to do with climate change, but at some point I do feel that it has something to do with climate change. I’m not blaming the western cultures, I’m not blaming the … you know, the United States and other countries that consume a lot of, are contributing a lot of green gas, so … I’m not blaming them, but I’m just hoping that it has nothing to do with climate change or global warming. Maybe I’m in denial, maybe I’m not, I don’t know. I just hope it has nothing to do with global warming.
One last question. You’ve gone away to university, you’re going to continue school and go for it. What’s it like, how is that role as a woman change, I guess. You’ve seen it probably more as you’re older, I don’t know.
I’m sorry, I didn’t really get the question.
Sorry, that was a stupid question. What is it like going to school and coming back and seeing the elders, women who haven’t gone to university, or probably very few have. What’s that like? Do you feel torn between the traditions? Do you feel like you would want to come back here, or would you want to stay in more of a westernized country?
I would say … now that I’m here, at some point, I think, I want to stay. I want to stay and just live the island life, where you wake up in the morning and go to the taro patch. You know, swim in the ocean, cook the fish for the men, kind of thing. At the same time, I think about, you know, the future. I think about, you know, we’re moving. Change is happening. Our subsistence way of living will still be here, but even now, I can still see that we are more dependent on money. At some point, you have to support your family. You can not only depend on the breadfruit, the fish, the banana. I would say that our community is moving towards depending more on the money, and at some point you still need to buy things for your family. The shirts that we wear, we don’t make these, we buy these, so … of course, even for our lava lava, the threads, we buy the threads. We don’t make the threads anymore. It’s not like before when we made them.
For me, I’m more … I want to stay. I would say I’m torn in between, because I want to stay and live the island life, but at the same time I want to support my family.
Comments by sara cannon