The last two days have seen some very heavy rain; surface flooding was common along the coastal road, which is still rutted and lumpy from Cyclone Wilma’s nearby passing a couple of weeks ago. Road maintenance in a tropical climate is clearly a tricky process, but we arrived at the Pacific Pearl in comfort despite the shaky drive. What can I say about the Pacific Pearl Hotel? Graham by luck of the draw has the biggest and best room (the former bachelor pad of a previous owner), but the rest of us have no reason to complain. Sisters Adoniah and Odessa are consummate hosts. I t quickly becomes clear why Michele stays here whenever she works in Samoa. Adoniah is the font of all important knowledge on taxi prices, rental cars, restaurants, local history and much more. All preparations for transport, eating and even after work beer run like clockwork. And the coffee is excellent. Why did I think I needed to lug my coffee and brewing pot across the Pacific?
Today we began the inception visit by meeting with representatives from the Samoa Disaster Management Office (DMO), NZ Aid Programme, the NZ High Commission and the Samoa Maps and Survey department. This is very much a partnership project so we will be guided by local knowledge as we prepare the more in-depth plan of this week’s meetings and activities, including determining the pilot villages for the project and other details such as which map formats are most appropriate for village consultation. It’s the first step but a critical one in ensuring the evacuation planning succeeds for all involved. Without drilling down into too much detail, the inception visit has begun well. Local support and interest is high. We have great accommodation, some excellent contacts and a full and (if expectations are met) highly productive week ahead. We are building on years of work already undertaken by the DMO here in public education and village consultation. Our work must integrate to succeed.
Those of us who have not worked in Samoan villages before are reminded that September 2009 was not that long ago and for many people in professional roles and the villages our work will evoke strong and sometimes very painful memories, particularly when we come to exercising the evacuation plans. This is a project I’m proud to be part of, but in all honesty, it’s a little emotionally daunting too.
In other news…Graham is now, as I became on a previous visit to Samoa, a Vailima convert. Those who know me well know I am a beer drinker but not a lager fan. Vailima has changed all that nonsense, a German-influenced, truly Samoan beer, Vailima is the perfect end to a work day in beautiful, warm, Samoa. We finish the day with good food and a cool drink in our bellies and anticipation of tomorrow’s work.