News of Indonesia rarely reaches the U.S. unless something sensational like executions or elections happen. For this reason, I doubt that the disaster that afflicted my home here last week made the news overseas. Bangka island and Pangkal Pinang — the provincial capital and my home here in Indo — experiences the worst flood in living memory. The closest comparison was in 1986, before any of my students were even a twinkle in their parents’ eyes.
As I mentioned in my last post, our house is on top of a hill which means that thankfully we were not victims of this severe flooding. Some of our neighbors at the bottom of the hill and many other people throughout the island were not so lucky.
Last weekend (the one before Valentine’s Day) was wet. It rained nonstop starting Friday afternoon. Sometimes it was a light sprinkle, barely a mist. Other times it was a torrential downpour that lashed at our roof and reached across the open (but locked) front door to spread out on the tile floor. I stayed in all weekend.
Monday February 8th was a national holiday for Chinese New Year. The rain put a damper on some of the celebrations, though Caitlin and I still made it out to Manggo’s aunt and uncle’s house party to celebrate. On the way to their house, we saw the start of the flood. Some houses we passed were already knee-deep in water. People were out in the streets. Some were sitting in chairs, watching the water lap around their worldly possessions. The drizzle continued.
The party was nice–it reminded me of being a kid at big family gatherings where you don’t know everyone and you end up sticking close to the cousins who are familiar faces. During the clean-up after the guests had left there was a blackout, which affected a lot of the city. We finished the job in candlelight. On the way home, many of the streets were dark and full of people seeking a dry place to stay for the night. Thus the flood disruptions began.
Tuesday morning the downpour continued. I asked my friend to drive me to school in his car, but when we got to school the grounds were deserted save for two teachers standing by the front gate in ponchos. Class was cancelled due to the rain.
Later that day, I went with Caitlin on a quest to a Samsung store. What we found instead was major flooding in the main street of downtown Pangkal Pinang. What follows are pictures from the adventure (for lack of a better word) that ensued. All photos are credit to Caitlin.
Wednesday it kept raining on and off, but the flood waters finally started to recede a little. I went to school as usual, though there was no class again. We had a meeting about the flood and then were dismissed to go home and help our friends, family, and neighbors affected by the flood. Thursday we had class as usual, though only half of the students were at school. People whose homes had flooded did not have any dry clothes, let alone clean and ironed school uniforms. I even heard that some people’s houses were looted after the flood waters went down. Terrible.
Friday we did not have class again, but this time because we did a school-wide effort to clean up trash. I walked with students in class 10 IPS 2 (my homeroom because they are my first class on Monday) and we had a great time chatting in English and Bahasa Indonesia outside of the classroom setting. I only have this candid shot because our headmistress strictly forbid us from selfie-ing.
Caitlin’s school also helped clean up on Friday. She had quite the adventure that involved riding in a garbage truck out to a desa [village] and later visiting a black magic man to find out who stole a teacher’s laptop that was left at school while everyone was at the clean-up effort. Maybe she can tell you more about this in her own blog post. But here are some pictures, used with permission:
My heart goes out to everyone affected by the flood and I am so so so thankful that all of our friends and Indo-family are safe and sound at the end of this disaster.