Graham is “the keeper of the tube” and so far has performed his task admirably. The problem is, as he aptly describes, for most people in their everyday lives a tube is not common baggage – we are used to carrying backpacks, handbags and the like but not many people carry a tube daily. This out of the ordinary responsibility increases the risk of tube abandonment. As a Wellington resident, I have also experienced a similar dilemma with the Pacific Pearl courtesy umbrella. It has already spent a lonely half hour in the SamoaTel foyer while I forgot its very existence. Umbrellas are not standard baggage in Wellington due to the frequent “refreshing breezes” that prevail, so guardianship of the umbrella is proving just as challenging as 'tube duty'.
Today the formal meeting of the Disaster Advisory Committee (DAC) was held, during which our project was presented to CEOs and high level officials from many agencies who meet regularly to determine the strategic direction for disaster planning in Samoa. Nora and Graham from our team presented an overview of the Samoa evacuation zone project and similar work in New Zealand. This was followed by a brief explanation from Filomena Nelson of the Disaster Management Office outlining the recommendations her team had made with regards to pilot villages, timelines, consultation process and exercising and evaluation. We had already met some members of the committee in less formal meetings to discuss the project but an official endorsement from the DAC was always the desired outcome of the Inception Visit. After some brief discussion and declarations of support from several committee members, the meeting adjourned having agreed that the project was worthy and being conducted appropriately and agreement was also reached with the recommendations put forward by the DMO.
Wrap-up meetings are happening this afternoon and then the team will make our way across Upolu to the south coast. We will be based in Lalomanu, but visit other tsunami affected (and recovered/recovering) areas and on a more recreational note I will have my first ever attempt at snorkelling. I am a bit of a wildlife spotting enthusiast and so far have been limited to birds (rare) and lizards (plentiful) in the surrounds of Apia so the chance to check out the sea life is very exciting.
We have had nothing but assistance and support from all the people we have worked with here in Apia. Its great to be heading to the heartland and beautiful beaches, but Apia has treated us well and I look forward to returning during later stages of the project.
Note: the umbrella is now travelling with Willy, our taxi van driver, around Apia – thank goodness I am not in charge of the precious tube!