* Zoe Raymond's continuing quest through Asia, part III. See Index Here
By: Zoe Raymond
Standing on my rooftop, I peered beyond the palm trees lining my home. Thick black smoke ascended in the distance. I rushed downstairs and did some research. Mount Agung’s eruption was imminent. As this was my first natural disaster, I was unsure of what to do. Making a list of supplies and food to survive what was to come, I rode my moped to the nearest market. Loading my backpack and the front of my moped with enough food and supplies to last, there was no room for my feet for the ride home. Balancing my feet outside my moped, my heart felt like it was beating out of my chest.
Sealing the windows with black trash bags and masking tape, the house looked more like a bunker than a home. The mason jar filled with daisies on my nightstand was replaced with a pollution mask. A backpack filled with things needed, if fleeing was the only option, waited for me by the door. The sun refused to shine through my newly set up bunker.
Pretending to appear calm, I proceeded to check off my daily tasks. I walked into the musty gym that incessantly reeked of cat food and sweat. It appeared to be empty. Grateful to not have to que for a treadmill, I leaped around the gym and danced in the mirror. With no one around, I had the freedom to do as I pleased. Initially grateful for my stroke of luck, it occurred to me that people may have been locking themselves indoors with fear for what was to come. This unsettling thought was forced to that back of my mind for the day had just begun.
Humming some tunes on my drive to get caffeinated and crank out some school work, the once chaotic two-laned roads were quiet. The coffee shop was bustling as usual. Even during a natural disaster, people’s dependence on caffeine prevailed. Everyone seemed to be well, but sitting down I overheard someone talking about the news. Tuning in, it was as if it was the only topic of conversation in the entire coffee shop.
Looking up, the grey skies could be cut with a knife. Ash fell from the sky as fumes blew from the neighboring volcano. Running my finger across the seat of my moped, there was a line where the dust once covered. I was informed to be home before dark, chasing down the sunset, I began to cough as if I was a chronic smoker. Quickly putting my pollution mask on, I felt myself struggling to breath. I was unsure if it was my new industrial accessory covering my mouth and nose, or if it was the sense of urgency regarding the ash-spitting volcano. The reality of this event
only grew with time.
As days progressed the once busy town was empty, as if I was in the wild west in a ghost town. The economy in Ubud thrives on the tourism industry, without that the locals began to suffer. Buying a coconut water at a nearby stand, the vendor appeared to be smiling but there was dismay in her eyes.
The news only forced people to panic. Tourists no longer came flooding into town like flocks of birds. There were merely a few whom resided here and had no option to leave.
A thundering sound rattled me, the volcano had erupted. Spewing clouds of ash and hot lava poured over surrounding villages. I was not in the direct line of fire, but the polluted air still attempted to seep into my home. My hands trembled, and the sound of my heartbeat overpowered my ability to think rationally. Everything just felt so surreal, as if I would wake up at any moment.
The airports were closed thanks to the generous amount of ash caking the runways. My mom and I brainstormed an exit strategy assuming the airports would offer us their humble services when we needed them most. Having the perfect excuse to fly to Cambodia, we booked two one-way tickets.
Unsure if we would have a home to come back to, I dumped all of my belongings into my sole suitcase. Sitting on top of it to zip it, I dismissed the notion of neatly packing. Over time, I discovered I had developed a sense of unattachment to my home, my room, and my art. They were all things and there is more to life than things.
Once the airports reopened, we waited a day to allow for the most frantic of travelers to flee to their hometowns. There is nothing worse during a natural disaster than a family pushing you while waiting in line, or maybe the volcano itself was worse, but that's beside the point. Nearly missing our flight due to lines that awaited us at security, we jumped on our one-way flight to Cambodia.