Friday, September 15, 2006

Bathroom break Aceh style

Thought you might enjoy some pictures of Rob out and about on Pulah Aceh, another island where CRS and others are building shelters. Bathrooms (as seen here) , as are most houses, are not to Western scale!

It takes about two hours on a 'ferry' to this island. On this particular day we had torrential rain storms that night, but thankfully it had cleared by the time they made it to the villages for a look-see. Rob was afraid they'd all be on motor bikes in the rain since the CRS vehicle was on the fritz. Thankfully, a contractor had a vehicle for them to use so Rob at least, wasn't dragging his feet in the mud as he trekked around the countryside!

He's been having a quite a few days out in the field. CRS has finally turned over about 50-odd houses, (the first set!) and there was a big ceremony for that. He was invited to attend as they gave the house key to one of the village recipients - in this case an older single woman. Kind of a nice gesture in such a traditional Muslim country, honestly.

Then, another village, thankful for all the work being done for them, asked CRS to attend a traditional newborn baby ceremony, so Rob got to go there, as well. (I think he just enjoys the free meals!) He ate banana tree soup and checked in on the 7 day old infant.

He's plugging along trying to get these shelters done and working long hours. He's hiring an arsenal of new staff to keep up with all the work. It's been an emotional journey, as there was quite a bit of corruption going on and many contractors split after being paid for more work than they completed. Many houses need to be retrofitted before people even move in the first time, and Rob's had many angry villagers in his office asking CRS to pull out of their villages. This is happening for all the NGOs who are building shelters.

You forget what happened here, and why it's been such a struggle to rebuild,.. but don't forget that on December 26th, 2004, half a million Acehnese were left homeless, 1 million homes were destroyed and 650 villages were completely washed away. CRS and other NGOs are here to give these people new homes that will be safe ("build back better") and in some cases, relocating entire villages.

Rob just hired a new local engineer who lost his mother and two siblings in the tsunami. When Rob tried to assign him to Puah Aceh island, he admitted he had a 'fear of the sea.' I can't even begin to imagine,....

So, it's wonderful that he is here with all his knowledge and expertise to help in areas where he is needed, but it's been the most stressful move we've ever made. So, keep him and all the NGOs here in your thoughts and prayers!

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