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Stand up to life and compassion to others

Beverly in Flood area of Bukit Lawang Sumatra Indonesia

I met my husband in Sumatra Indonesia when volunteering on a project working with Orangutans and medicinal plants. The project highlights the Orangutan and their knowledge of the forest's medicine, another reason we need to protect the orangutan and their environment, we can learn so much from their knowledge for humans. My husband was running a guest house for tourist near where we were volunteering.

My husband and I were waiting for our visa to return to the states, I was anxious to return home because my mom had cancer. We lived in the river jungle village Bukit Lawang, surrounded by pristine forest hills and rice fields, rubber and palm oil plantations that unfortunately took pristine areas from the rare forests. We stayed in a little place on the river, that cost .50 a day and we bathed and washed our clothes in the river, I reveled at the rain daily and it's grandeur and each night I would always have my mind blown by the orchestra of sounds the jungle.

I had recently returned to my fiancé's river village from a trip to Thailand, I had bronchitis and went to our little room on the second floor with a small balcony where I watched the river and looked daily to the other side of the river where it was not rare to see the bright orange fur of an orangutan going about his daily business. Continually fascinated by our amazing cousins!

My fiance asked me if I wanted go to the little Warung (small restaurant) and get a ginger tea, I was exhausted but with my bronchitis I thought it was a good idea. Also, I had brought back some Thai cigarettes to give the grandfather of the family who owned the Warang, I knew he would love the gift. It was raining, not unusual in the rain forest, but this night was not usual, no one knew that miles up stream that a dam of trees that had accumulated over the years due to ground erosion, most likely from loggers over the years. At the Warung, located on the river bank, a local person said "The river is getting high" again not unusual but this time, the locals lost their usual smile and in a knowing that only locals could feel, it was obvious this rain fall and night would not be normal. Collectively, I felt the village in high alert, and in seconds the water was at my waist as the villagers ran for high ground.

I turned to look for my husband and saw him also just up from me in waist high water also reaching his hand out to me. I went to reach his hand, when a courant took him past me and we missed catching our hands. The water was getting higher and now a local boy is reaching from his small wooden house out the window to pull me in the window. He pulls me to where my stomach is on the sill, a moment believing I made it, but the house collapses on me. I am being dragged down river sandwiched between planks of wood, with my thoughts coming to the conclusion that this is how I will die, that THIS is how I will die!. This is all happening in seconds, then suddenly, like the reversing of a film, the planks seem to go in an opposite direction and my head pops from underwater. I was very lucky I did not take out my contact lenses that evening because I would not have been able to see in the dark night of the jungle. The electricity was out and I was left to only see when lighting struck, or there was some moon light? The first thing I saw was a tree in the ragging river, I was in survival mode and strength came from a resource in me I did not know I had and some how I got to the tree and held tightly. But I instantly I knew that the tree would not last long that the raging river would pull the roots of this tree out soon. I then saw a cement pillar, closer to the river bank, where ever that was? Again, I don't know how I got there, but there I was maneuvering to the side of the pillar that was not getting hit by the water directly, muddy warm water was rushing around me, it was a large square cement pillar, I grabbed my legs around the pillar and the water was still mounting, I climbed until my head hit a roof, or whatever the pillar was holding up. I thought what do I do?, I was on the 2nd pillar, the 1st one already fell and trees were piling upon it I did not know when it would burst on to me, there was a tube that went by and for a minute I thought, "should I grab it and go down river? " I'm very glad I did not do this, but the water was mounting and I had no where to go but swim, I tried to reach to the balcony above me, but it was too far out. With the water mounting, I was yelling out but realized that my voice sounded so small that in the jungle I was just like any other insect exclaiming, I really don't know what I did at that time, but like a dream you wish for, the river started to go down and I slowly moved down the pillar where my legs had a grip so tight I made cuts into my thighs. When I finally got my feet back on the ground I did not want to leave my pillar, the river was muddy and my feet sunk in. I did not know where I was, I did not know if I should stay under this structure and hold the only solid thing around or make a run for it. Waiting to see more when lighting struck I saw that electrical wires were around me and I quickly pulled them off me, and ran up the slope on the river bank of the jungle, with only glowing mushrooms to see, I noticed I had a heavy weight and realized my purse was full of river mud and I threw my purse away. I scrambled up the wet vegetation slope to find a thin tree to get behind and brace myself on for support. I looked around and had no idea as to where I was, I thought the entire village was gone. And I still felt now that the entire earth may be in the process of being destroyed. I sat there, knowing it would be a long time before morning, I was in a state of alert, it started to rain again, which made me wonder if the slope would collapse into the river and I would be swallowed like a earth that decided to rejuvenate by churning it's soil. I did not hear one soul, I was wet and cold and in my continuation state to survive I started to sing and move my arms to keep warm. I was in full alert, amazement and animal like senses active. I'm not sure how long I sat there when I saw a light near the river bank below me while I was perched on the slope. The light flashed up at me, then I heard a voice "Bole Bole" (white tourist), I then went to this place of fear thinking that the man was from Aceh where there was a rebel war going on on the northern part of the island, the man grabbed my hand and I tried to pull away thinking he was going to kidnap me, then I heard a voice, it was my husband's friend and I snapped back to understanding that I was not in Aceh but in my husband's village where we live, my body started to relax. My husband's friend came to me with my husband, who thought I had died, he was so happy he could not speak, we hugged and they walked me back to shelter, I was covered in mud and my not much of my clothes were left. They brought me to higher ground to a shelter where many survivors were keeping warm. It was so surreal, it was dark and many people there but I did not know who survived. There were some tourist trying to talk to me and I really could not put things together.

When the morning came, what was so surreal after the torrential night of a river raging and a jungle expressing itself, I awoke to the beauty of the jungle, many structures on the river were gone clearing the jungle to be in pristine view. It was richly beautiful and magnificent, I thought, how can you be so beautiful after such a black night of terror, the transformation was like a angry child who now sleeps like an angel. I felt duped a bit and i felt a bit guilty to fall to the forest's charm.

As the day unfolded, the beauty of the forest was sharply contrasted with finding out how many did not survive in the river. sadly 250 village people and some tourist died.
There down river the 200 million meters of wood that barreled down the river that past night had a cumulated in the man made dam at the entrance to the village. The dead were laid out like sleeping bags and I to this day can not comprehend it. Most who were in the river that night did not make it. People asked me if I saw god that night, I was in high alert but I did, while on the pillar, think of my mom holding onto life with her cancer. There were many stories of that night and to this day so many years later, I still try to comprehend and am left with a deep desire to bring the message or action to light since I was so graced with my life that night.

There are so many messages from that night for me to further explain, I saw the worst of what happens from illegal logging, I saw nature speak, so many stories to elaborate on, but one very clear message from that night was, where there was a boy who quickly came to save me and pull me in the window, throughout the night there were many stories of people reaching out to help your fellow man, remember this was a time after 911, time of fear of others, I was in a Muslin country and we were tourist, there was a mix of people and what I found out about human nature was, you need to remember that it is not a race or a religion that was present that night, it was humans helping humans there was no divisions, it was collectively humanly responding to help your fellow man. We can never look at another person as not ourself, when you know that you can be saved by that person.

The human spirit is to help! This is what we must remember, it's in all of us and remember that you never know whose hand will reach to your in aid. Every encounter with a person should be keeping that in mind.

PS: I can write this in more detail, this is really just a start.

Comments

ana hamuka's picture

WOW. what an intense,

WOW. what an intense, life-changing experience. you are so strong! thank you so much for sharing your story with us.

xx ana

beverlyxo7's picture

The Flood Inside

Thank you! xox

Sarvina's picture

Thanks for sharing your story

Thanks for sharing your story to us! It is really a big experience for us people to gain more how live. I do love reading your post. Keep posting!

Love,

Sarvina

Regards,

Sarvina from Cambodia
VOF 2011 Correspondent

beverlyxo7's picture

The Flood Inside

Hello Sarvina,

Thank you for reading my story, I did want to conclude that the flood I was in took place in Bukit Lawang Sumatra in 2003 and then the year after, when the Tsunami hit Sumatra I was pregnant I could not get out to Sumatra to help at the time, but I felt so strongly for the people who needed help, so I organized volunteers from the U.S. to go to Sumatra and to work with a local NGO and help with the people.

LauraB's picture

very powerful

you were in a very intense and powerful storm that impacted your life forever.
thank you for sharing.

beverlyxo7's picture

The Flood Inside

Thanks for sharing that you read my story! I wrote it kind of in the moment, so I can fine tune it and add but for now I'm glad I got some of it out.

Beverly

Rashmila Prajapati's picture

You are lucky

You are really lucky enough to survive that flood and thank you so much for sharing your story. I was just wondering what happened to the boy who tried to help you that night.
Love
Rashmila

Kathmandu, Nepal

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