First Snow

S

ometimes I wonder if I should feel guilty. While there seems to be such devasation around the world, I–and my Northern VA neighbors–have enjoyed a very mild winter, even though I have spent a good part of it on my back sick. We have had days in the 50s and 60s, incredibly warm.

But it has been getting colder and Wednesday was the first real snow day for us. I was scheduled to go to court–yes, M’s deportation issue has yet to be resolved–and was going to have a student stand in for me at school for the first day of my Lit in Translation class, but because of the snow, the court was closed and I was able to make it to school after all. Many laugh at what happens here in DC when snow hits. The city gets thrown for a loop. Students from up New England or Chicago can’t help but roll there eyes when they see a major city paralyzed from snow that would be considered barely enough for a couple of sno-cones.

And I guess we should consider oursselves very lucky. For the past 12 months, much the world has been experiencing the whims of nature in the form of extreme weather and geological events. Florida was struck by four major hurricanes in one season, leaving it a disaster zone. In California, it has been raining so heavily that the ground is saturated and primed for mudslides, as we saw in La Conchita. But as disastrous as these events have been, they pale in comparison to what occured last Christmas in South and Southeasst Asia: An earthquake that shook the bottom of the Indian Ocean, creating a massive tsunami that killed over a hundred thousand people, with many more still missing. When I heard the news and saw the videos, I was truly shocked. I had heard of tsunami but could not imagine its destructive force. The water level doesn’t merely rise as it does in floods–which is bad enough–but flows over land and rapidly retreats to the sea as any wave on a sandy beach. But when it flows through populated area, it destroys structures in its way, and carries back victims as the tide retreats back to the sea.

A friend of mine actually survived this tsunami. He told me that he was going to Thailand over Christmas, and was in Phuket when the tsunami hit. I immediately e-mailed him imploring him to contact me to tell me he was okay. He did a few days later when he got access to a computer. Yesterday, he gave me a more detailed account.

Thank you for your email and hopefully you got my reply. We just got back to Belgium and we were very lucky indeed. Lana and I were actually on the beach but about 30 seconds before the first wave came, someone yelled out that it seems to be a tsunami when we saw the water going out so far. So we were on our way up from the beach when the water came rushing in. Luckily our bungalow was situated on higher ground so no problem but the restaurant was completely destroyed along with some bungalows but no injuries. Just in the next beach over was total devastation and 7 people had died. We were evacuated that first day but were back the next day helping with the cleanup and the rebuilding of the restaurant. This was the subject of TV coverage so our friends in Belgium saw that we were all right when they saw us on TV! Thanks for your concern and since we’re still alive, I’ll see you at the Maryknoll reunion!

This is a photo of him moments after the tsunami ravaged the area he was staying.

My friend was lucky and I am happy for him. While there are many people who have lost so much over there, and I extend my deepest sympathy to them, I also feel the need to celebrate–albeit briefly and respectfully–for at least one family returning safe and sound.

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