Thursday, December 31, 2009

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

From white horses to elephants in 2010

New Year’s eve is a time for reflection on the past year or years, and a time to make plans for the future.
Somehow I have been thinking a lot of white horses in the past few days, even when I was riding an elephant in the Thai jungle earlier today.

(Photo from right to left, Naila, Ablai, I and Mahdi taken today)

I see white horses on the sea from my window here at Patong beach, tossing their heads in a sprightly manner. During the past five years I have seen a lot of footage of the Tsunami striking the shores of India, Maldives, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand and those initial waves became mammoth white horses as they broke. In all the afore mentioned countries except the Maldives, elephants gave warning that the mammoth white horse Tsunamis were approaching. In the Adaman and Nicobar Islands, people followed the elephants into the hills and their lives were saved. A similar story came from Sri Lanka.

Where on earth did this expression ‘white horses’ come from ?
According to the Poseidon myths he had a palace under the sea with an enormous stable filled with white horses who pulled his chariot over the ocean. "White horses" is an old expression referring to the whiite part of a breaking wave.

A view from Park Pass Glacier. Poseidon Peak 7,340 feet on the left, and the two other unnamed peaks,6,897 feet in the centre and 6,720 feet at the far right, that we climbed in February 1967.

Oddly enough, the first mountain I climbed in New Zealnd was Poseidon Peak, 7340 feet. We climbed it at the end of an arduous two week trip in one of New Zealand’s remotest regions, the Olivine Ice Plateau. We were stuck for eight days in Forgotten River during incessant rain, and when it cleared we climbed over Fiery Col, Cow Saddle and up to Park Pass. From there, I saw the mighty white horse, Poseidon Peak standing supreme from the Park Pass Glacier. What a peak to choose for my first climb.
I was with John Armstrong and Robyn Norton, who later married.
Poseidon, like Hinduism’s Vishnu, was also a destroyer. He destroyed buildings, heavily flooded some lands from his powerful seas, and brought a bad drought to others. These Poseidon myths are really history transformed into mythology. Actual events were about one religious group trying to get a hand over another. Has anything changes today ?

So for 2010, I wish the world to move away from Poseidon type conflicts, where the person with the biggest chariots and the strongest white horses wins over the other, and we take the gentleness of the elephant, his measured pace, large ears for listening and steady footsteps. Elephants can also detect disasters before humans can feel them. Let’s learn from the elephant in 2010. Elephants are symbols of good fortune, something the world is lacking today.

I wish you all a very happy New Year.

Mt. Chaos left, and Poseidon Peak right from the Dart River.(Permission sought from naturespic. Hopefully they will agree.

Monday, December 28, 2009

iFarm for iPhone

Addicted to Facebook's Farmville, Country Life or Farm Town?
Then here's one for you.
This time you can take care or visit your farm anytime, anywhere you go.
Welcome to iPhone's iFarm!!

Install it now. It's FREE!!!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Howcast for iPhone

If you're mobile and badly needs some tip, video tutorials on just about anything, then this app is for you.

Tsunami remembrance in Thailand and other Tsunami affected countries.

Candle- lit ballons soaring over tree tops, a moving tsunami poem from a young high school student, haunting music from a high school orchestra, songs in French and Thai and a remembrance tribute and prayer from a Christian pastor, were moving moments at Patong Beach, Thailand, on 26 December. Throughout the ceremony, the sea, only 30 metres away, was lapping the shore and reminded us of hidden dangers

Earlier in the day at Patong, (photo above) a Thai beach resort village bustling with tourists, local artists performed traditional Thai songs in a pavilion where tourists gathered to look at photographs of the tsunami's damage.

Having spent most of the last five years of my life, working for the Red Cross on Tsunami relief and recovery operations, I found it a very soothing and healing event, to participate with mainly gentle Thai people and a scattering of foreigners. Ablai, my ten year old son was with me and he got emotionally caught up in the moment, and simply loved helping light the candles in paper ballos, and send them flying heavenward.

Closure takes time, and I watched a mixture of pain and relief on the face of a young Scandanavian woman, who placed a bunch of white roses near a lit candle on the beach. She somhow looked at peace.

Thumbs up to the Tsunami recovery operation.

Ceremonies took place in Indonesia on Saturday to mark the fifth anniversary of the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami that struck after a huge earthquake off Sumatra island in 2004.

The tsunami killed 226,000 people in 13 countries, with 166,000 killed or missing in the Indonesian province of Aceh.

Thousands of saffron-robed Thai monks chanted and prayed for victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami on Saturday as Asia marked the fifth anniversary of one of history's worst natural disasters.

The gathering of monks in Ban Nam Khem, a small fishing village on Thailand's Andaman Sea coast that lost nearly half its 5,000 people, was one of hundreds of solemn events across Asia in memory of the towering waves that crashed ashore with little warning on Dec. 26, 2004, killing 226,000 people in 13 countries.

"All souls from all nationalities, wherever you are now, please receive the prayers the monks are saying for you," said Kularb Pliamyai, who lost 10 family members in Ban Nam Khem.

Disposing bodies in the first days.

In Indonesia's Banda Aceh, survivors gathered in neighbourhood mosques or homes on the eve of the anniversary to remember those killed by a wall of water as high as 30 metres triggered by an undersea earthquake off the island of Sumatra.

Indonesia was the worst hit with the number of dead and missing over 166,000. Massive reconstruction aid in Banda Aceh has rebuilt a new city on top of the ruins, and many survivors are only now putting memories of the waves behind them.

"The psychology of the Acehnese people is starting to recover after five years," said Eva Susanti, who lost 125 members of her extended family in the Banda Aceh area.

Some locals such as Taufik Rahmat say they have moved on, helped along by new homes in the Banda Aceh region following one of the largest foreign fund-raising exercises. But still pockets of people in his village remain homeless.

"Not all elements have been fulfilled, I think about 80 percent to 90 percent of the people still don't have proper housing," he said.

Unloading planes


Thailand's Ban Nam Khem village is a shadow of its former self. Its once-thriving centre of dense waterfront stores, restaurants and wooden homes is gone, replaced with souvenir shops, a wave-shaped monument and a small building filled with photographs of the tsunami recovery effort.

Many former residents are now too frightened of the sea to rebuild close to the water.

"I still feel bad about what happened. People from all over the world were killed here. It's their misfortune," Kularb said.

In Thailand, 5,398 people were killed, including several thousand foreign tourists, when the waves swamped six coastal provinces, turning some of the world's most beautiful beaches into mass graves. Many are still missing.

Almost all of those killed were vacationing on or around the southern island of Phuket, a region that had contributed as much as 40 percent of Thailand's annual tourism income.

> New Red Cross village in Mate Ie, Aceh. Photo: Bob McKerrow

"The economy has not recovered," said Rotjana Phraesrithong, who is in charge of the Baan Tharn Namchai Orphanage, opened in 2006 for 35 children who lost parents in the tsunami.

Dozens of small hotels and resorts are up for sale in Thailand's Phang Nga province north of Phuket whose forested coastline includes Ban Nam Khem and the serene 19-km (12-mile) Khao Lak beach, two of Thailand's worst tsunami-hit areas.

"More than 100 of these small hotels and retail tour operators are looking to sell their operations because they can't obtain loans from banks to keep going," said Krit Srifa, president of the Phang Nga Tourism Association.

"Many small operators are still in debt after renovations since the tsunami and many just haven't recovered financially."

Materials for building houses had to be taken by landing crafts to remote Indonesian Islands.

On Khao Lak beach, where the tsunami killed more than 3,000 people, there's little physical evidence of it aside from occasional "Tsunami Hazard Zone" signs and colour-coded evacuation maps.

A symbol of the catastrophe, the Sofitel Magic Lagoon where more than 300 guests and staff died, re-opened last month as the 298-room JW Marriott Khao Lak Resort & Spa.

In Patong, tourism is down but few blame the tsunami.

"The only time people seem to talk about the tsunami is in December during the anniversary," said Pattahanant Ketkaew, a 27-year-old manager at Phuket2Go tours near Patong beach. "Tourism is off but that's because of the global economy."

And to serve as a reminder, a strong earthquake struck off Indonesia's Tanimbar Islands in the east of the country on Saturday, but there was no tsunami alert issued and no reports of immediate damage, the country's meteorology agency said.

The US Geological Survey pegged the quake at magnitude 6.0 and its epicentre was 270 km north northwest of Saumlaki in the Tanimbar islands at a depth of 56 km

USGS had initially put the magnitude at 6.2.

After the Tsunami ceremony last night, I popped into a bar for a nightcap. A waitress brought me a drink. Her name was Thu. there were few customers around so I asked her where she was when the Tsunami struck. Her face darkened and she seemed to shrink back as memories flooded back. " I was right here. Waves went out and many people ran to collect fish. I stayed here. A few minutes later a huge wave smased into bar and threw me into the corner. I nearly drowned. someone saved me, I broke my arm. One foreign tourist died just there. We took her body away. many people die right here," she said sadly.

Five years doesn't heal the wounds fully.

FRAMED for iPhone

I got this cool iPhone app that I love playing around with.
It's called FRAMED.

In FRAMED, you can choose cool templates to go with your photos.

You can even show it off on facebook if you feel like being funny.
Surprise your friends anytime!

You can get it for free but if you want more, then you just upgrade on the appstore for more cool templates:).

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Photoshop for iPhone

Finally I can rotate and enhance my images on my iphone anytime and everywhere I go.

Thanks to Photoshop.

You can crop, rotate and flip your photo in just few steps.

Adjust the level of Exposure, Saturation, Tint and Black and Whites by just dragging from left to right on top of the image.
Its really easy and simple.

You can either softened your image or have it on sketched style.

Plus , you get to enjoy few but cool and usable effects like. ..



With a Border.

Vignette Blur...

And Warm Vintage.

If you're contented with how your photo looks, you have the option of uploading it online to share with your friends.

Best part, of course,
It's for FREE!!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Reflections on five years of the Tsunami operation.

A woman who survived the Tsunami in Aceh In Indonesia, in her new Red Cross transitional shelter. Taken in February 2007

We walked along Patong Beach last night. A tourist ship was anchored in the bay. A slice of moon nudged stars that were dancing heal and toe. Naila, Ablai, Mahdi and I walked into the surf and felt the waves around our feet. During the last five years I feel a wrench in my gut when I step into the surf. I have personally witnessed so much death and destruction from the sea, since that fateful day on 26 December 2004 when the Indian Ocean tsunami killed over 200,000 people, with over 100,000 still missing, that my relationship with the sea has changed. I am more cautious.

Half an hour before we walked in the surf last night, we had dinner in a Russian restaurant with an exotic menu. One of the waiters talked about the Tsunami. He was sleeping when it hit the coastline. Many of his friends were killed here in Phuket and down the coast in Krabi. Across the street the Information Kiosk has a DVD and screen you can watch the Tsunami video on. On the streets there are Tsunami evacuation signs directing people to higher ground. (see photo below) The tsunami has taken lives and changed lives.

My work initially on the Tsunami relief operation, for the first year, was mainly in India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives and was rewarding as we provided life saving relief including medical aid, water, sanitation and shelter. Then it was into recovery planning for building whole communities which included houses, schools, clinics, water supplies, toilets, waste disposal, livelihoods and institutions such as nursing colleges and mental institutions.

In August 2006, I moved to Indonesia to head the Red Cross recovery operation and now, after five years we have almost completed our work. This is my third short visit to Thailand since the Tsunami struck, but the other visits have been more for regional planning meetings.

Stefan Kuhne-Hellmessen and Leslie Schaffer. Stefan's story is below and Leslie ran the Tsunami desk for Sri Lanka and the Maldives from Geneva. Photo: Bob McKerrow

Today in Patong I met Stefan Kuhne-Hellmessen who runs our Tsunami recovery operation in Thailand. When the Tsunami struck, I asked Stefan to go to Sri Lanka and support the relief operation there. Later he moved here and has been heading the Red Cross relief operation together with the Thai Red Cross for more than three years. On Saturday 26 December, Stefan and I will participate in some Tsunami commemoration ceremonies marking five years. He is going to take me to show me many of the Thai Red Cross success stories as well as providing me an opportunity to talk to survivors.

Over 2000 people died in this small bay, Patong. The Thai Red Cross have invited me to a ceremony where a floating candle for each person killed will be lit and placed in the sea.I cannot think of a better way to remember those who died and to celebrate those who survived.
I will also think of those people I worked with over the past five years and who ‘built back better.’ Many of them are pictured below.

Mr. Tsunami, Dr. Kuntoro Mangkasubroto who led the most professional Government Ministry for Tsunami Recovery in Indonesia, with Bob McKerrow on Simeulue Island. Photo: Aroha McKerrow

Building back better. A Red Cross permanent house in Aceh with the wooden Red Cross transitional shelter behind. The wooden shelter provided accommodation for the first three years until permanent houses were completed. Photo: Bob McKerrow
Jerry Talbot (left) and Dr. Kintoro. Jerry was the special representative to the SG of the International Red Cross and provided inspirational leadership to all of us in the field. Photo: Bob McKerrow

Two girls who survived the Tsunami in Mate Ie village in Aceh. Photo: Bob McKerrow

A group of senior officials who played key roles role in the five years of the Tsunami operation. From left to right:
Yasuo Tanaka, Japanese Red Cross who played a major part in assessment in Aceh in the early days of the relief operation.
Satya Tripathi the UN Recovery Coordinator in Aceh who did an outstanding job.
Tadateru Konoe President of the Japanese Red Cross and IFRC. For five years he led Japanese RC efforts and played a key role in the Federation.

Kuntoro Mangkasubroto, head of BRR.
Pak Heru BRR head of International relations
Bob McKerrow, the writer

Marcel Fortier (desk officer for Indonesia) and Valpuri our monitoring and evaluation specialists. Photo: Bob McKerrow

Per Jennes and Isobel Grainger. Per ran the operation in the Maldives and Isobel was our legal delegate. Photo: Bob McKerrow

Women in Teunon, Aceh, benefit from a Red Cross livelihood programme.
Indonesian red Cross volunteers removing the dead.
The early days of the relief operation in Aceh.
Pak Iyang (l) SG of Indonesian RC, Borge Bente, SG of Norwegian Red Cross and writer. Pak Iyand worked tirelessly for five years full time om the Tsunami operation.
Pak Mar'ie, Chairman PMI (left) who gave outstanding leadership throughout the Tsunami operation, talking to Ken Baker. Ken led the Canadian RC housing programme. Photo: Bob McKerrow
Younis Karim (l) and Flory who ran the Red Cross operation on the island of Nias. Photo: Bob McKerrow
Eddy Purwanto,(l) Chied of Operations, BRR, Indonesia, talking to Ann, from the IFRC office in New York. Eddy visited New York with Pak Kuntoro to meet Bill Clinton and Ban ki Moon. Photo: Bob McKerrow