We have a large mango tree in the garden. I am patiently watching the small mangoes as they grow and looking forward to them ripening. I wish they would hurry up!
Mangoes are one of my favourite fruits and the thought of a mango supply at my doorstep is quite delightful, particularly as I completely missed mango season last year. Mangoes taste delicious, and feel to me like a symbol for life in this part of the world in many ways.
So it feels as my mango world is being shaken a bit at the moment.
I still feel a mix of emotions following the earthquake triggered disasters in Japan. It brought memories and emotions from 2004 flooding to the surface for many of us. I feel a bit unsettled with these memories. The level of preparedness in Japan demonstrates clearly how critical this is and what a difference it can make, even in the face of such unimaginable devastation.
I am being shaken in another way too as we approach the next phase of my work. There are uncertainties which are difficult to live with in any situation, but when lived through the breast cancer lens become highly stressful and even frightening. I know this is a storm I have to ride, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t scary hanging on as it gathers pace.
Captain Paranoia has also taken up residence, with the approach of my next set of checks. All of this has not been helped by an episode of dizziness one night. Of course that immediately convinced me that cancer beast is doing things with my brain. It is messing around psychologically for sure, but my mind was convinced that there was something sinister. This has been a one-off and I will bring my appointments forward if it happens again. I will ask Dr W2 about it when I see him.
There have been a few administrative hiccups recently which again, are not huge in the big scheme of things, but which are more difficult when the overall situation is fragile. I have learned this week of uncertainties regarding my health care which is incredibly frightening.
And then on Thursday evening there was another kind of shake. In fact I was sound asleep when the phone rang. I had no idea what time it was and struggled to waken enough to totter over and answer it. So I persuaded hubby J to do the honours. Being overseas, a night time call is always alarming as you always fear that it means bad news. And sure enough this was a call from home. I braced myself as I was asked “are you all right”?
“I’m fine”, I replied. “I was asleep”. I added intelligently, in an attempt to explain why I was neither coherent not chatty
“We heard there was an earthquake in Myanmar”.
I woke up somewhat!
Let me explain that I have an earthquake history. During the years I lived in Kathmandu I became increasingly concerned about the likelihood of an earthquake and a general lack of preparedness. I experienced my first earthquake in 2001 when I was in southern Nepal and the Gujurat earthquake was clearly felt. Only a few weeks later there was a shallow and very rattley 5.9 earthquake in Kathmandu late one night. I realised that I had no clue what to do and lay in my bed as I tried to decide whether to shelter under the bed, the table, run outside or any other course of action. I was still wittering and dithering when I realised that it had stopped – and I had done nothing! It galvanised me into action and I became rather vocal and active around the issue of preparedness.
It made a huge difference when we were in the Big One in December 2004. I knew exactly what to do, and where to shelter even though we were in a hotel. That is a very long other story, but suffice to say that the experience and the nightmares stayed with us for a long time, and was a factor in moving house in Kathmandu and even in our eventual departure from the city. It caused great nervousness for our families and is something which has never really disappeared. I have experienced another 2 earthquakes since then, one smaller one in the Andamans ironically, the day I returned there after over 2 years later, and a bigger one when I was visiting Banda Aceh. The latter surprised me in how much it brought the fear back instantly and I started to have earthquake nightmares again. It came in the early hours of the morning and roused me from sleep by the familiar grinding noise. Before I could rationalise what was happening, I was out of bed, had my glasses on and had immediately established that I was in a safe space.
When we moved to Yangon, we made a very deliberate housing choice to live in a single story building. I even have a coconut shell hanging in the bedroom. This is a simple yet effective earthquake alarm as it rattles as soon as there is any movement in the earth.
So given my sensitivity to earthquakes, it came as a bit of s surprise to hear, from the UK, that there had been one while I was sleeping! I tried to gather my thoughts. I could see that there were lights outside so power had not been cut. That told me that it was unlikely that there had been a strong earthquake. I could not hear any sounds of alarm or people outside, which also told me that things in the city were calm and therefore any quake was either not severe or not nearby. I guessed that it might have been quite a distance from us.
So we were able to reassure that we were absolutely fine, and quite literally in the dark regarding any details of the quake. We switched on the news but there were no reports and we eventually went back to bed wondering what was happening.
In the morning I again watched the news before my sunrise swim, and again there was no mention. I looked out into the lane and my next door neighbour was, as usual, standing at her gate beside a small table with rice and food on it. A long line of monks was walking barefoot towards her, so many that I could not see the end of the line. Clearly things were fairly normal. So I headed to the pool. There were three other colleagues from my own and other agencies also in the pool and I quickly found that the earthquake was topic number 1 of conversation. I learned that the earthquake had been further north on the Laos and Thai borders and that there was little information yet due to the remoteness of the areas affected. It was a quite the most surreal briefing I have ever had!
Apparently a number of colleagues and friends felt the earthquake, here in Yangon and also as far as Bangkok. However, despite my hyper sensitivity and fixation, I was completely unaware! Details are still coming in of death, injury and destruction and our community is assessing the most appropriate response.
So the world around and within me is being shaken in so many different ways, and I am trying to hold on and trust that the shaking calms down and we can all move forward.
Mango shake I can deal with. I am not sure if I can handle mango crumble.