Sunday, May 14, 2006

Today I traveled to an evacuation camp for people who have fled the waking dragon. First, I’d like to tell you how that kind of thing happens. I SMS’d another freelancer here, we’ll call him Mike, who has been filing print stories about Merapi from Jogjakarta. I met him during my last visit here, and we ended up working on our interviews together. I tell him I want to go find a refugee camp, and go check my email for updates on my pitches and then email editors about what I plan to do. A Very Big Public Radio Network tells me they want a spot or two about the evacuation, and Mike calls me back to tell me A Very Big Christian Science Magazine wants 700 words.

Off we go.

I ask around for the location of a camp – just security guards and people at the check-in desk near the language school I’ve been attending. No one knows. Go to Kaliurang, they say. Mike finds a translator through the school and rents a motorbike. All the rental places are closed, so I ask an ojek guy if I can hire him for the day. Ten dollars. He’s beside of himself with joy. We go very fast between moving vehicles to meet Mike and get directions to a camp. I take a breath and tighten the eggshell of a helmet he’s provided. Off to the evacuation headquarters first to get an interview about the situation. There’s a logistics post that seems more like a logic puzzle. They’re pretty used to getting hounded by media now, since the alert level’s been high for several weeks. Reporters love alerts. The evacuation leaders let us wear orange armbands, too.

Off to camp.

Stay tuned for a post about it soon. Here’s some audio to appetize.
I was up until nearly dawn filing a spot about the evacuation for a Very Big Public Radio Network. Walking back to my homestay in the early hours, I noticed a reddish glow aura coming from the western horizon which could have been a sunset but for the time. A false sun called Merapi. The plume of smoke drifted out of its triangular profile toward the north, lit from the inside by a flow of lava now more than a mile down its slope. The moon was full, Jupiter to its flank, and the elements framed by palm tree fronds. Primordial, astronomical, and troubling.