Cement rubble and damaged trees - greening

Cement rubble and damaged trees – greening

Destroyed Lot

Destroyed Lot

Headless Palms

Headless Palms

Beached bangka

Beached bangka

Tent city under the coconuts

Tent city under the coconuts

Kite on the beach

Kite on the beach

Kites in the air!

Kites in the air!

We flew into Tacloban on Monday afternoon, February 3.  Tacloban is the city on the island of Leyte that we saw so much of in the coverage of Super Typhoon Haiyan or Yolanda.  Few houses were standing in those photos from early November.   From the plane the city no longer looked utterly destroyed.  Rebuilding has begun to hide some of the scars.

Our friend Ellen was returning for the first time since before Thanksgiving, when she arrived with a team from Kids International Ministries (KIM) to set up their first projects.  Ellen said the landscape was brown then – the winds and water had broken and shredded all the vegetation.  Now, in early February, the coconut palms that survived the storm had grown new leaves.  Other trees were greening out along broken limbs and the runways were lined with tall green grass.

I looked for a word to describe my impressions of the first day, and the one that came to me was resilience:  the resilience of nature and of people.

We took a short tour of Tacloban that afternoon.  Deb, our guide, showed us a coconut palm snapped off about 30 feet above the ground.   Locals had told her that this tree was submerged by one of the three or four monster waves that crashed onto shore.  These waves hit at different points and had a churning motion.  We saw reinforced-steel cement structures that had been torn apart, and others that still stood.  The sea rushed in for several kilometers in places, the winds reached 195 mph and, as you have seen, the destruction was immense.  It still is, even beyond the reach of the sea.  Lina described what she saw on a long trip inland as “devastation”: homes, churches, hospitals, clinics, city halls, even cement crypts in cemeteries all gone.  She drove through acres of decapitated coconut palms.

And, in the midst of all this, resilience.  Huge amounts of foreign aid have flowed in to the area, much of it targeted for Tacloban, the largest population center.  Yet people have not waited for aid to reach them.  They have scavenged sheet metal and scrap wood and repaired their own walls and rooves.   Fishermen who lost their boats, the double outrigger canoes called “bangkas”, attached outriggers to doorless refrigerators and resumed fishing.

As we drove through the city and along the shore, we saw kites everywhere catching the afternoon breeze.  I can think of no better symbol for resilience than those kites fluttering above the wreckage, and the children flying them.

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