Wow. What a week.
What was already supposed to be an exciting and emotional week due to our Close of Service conference was completely waylaid by the eruption of a local volcano, Gunung Kelud.
Prior to our conference in Batu (the area where we had training at the beginning of our service, about two hours from our site), Gunung Kelud had been rumbling and the warning levels had been increased to the second highest level. At the conference, a number of our friends that also live in the area were comparing notes about what we had heard so far. One friend shared this picture that he had received from someone in his town, showing the action that had started at the volcano.
On Thursday night, during a late-night game of cards, we noticed that the room was getting foggy, started smelling of sulfur and we could hear what sounded like thunder. We went outside and it looked like a snowstorm with falling ash. At about 1:30 in the morning, our Safety and Security Officer sent us a text message letting us know that Kelud had, in fact, erupted. They had to have been relieved that our group was at least safe and sound in one hotel already.
The next morning, Peace Corps sent us all early morning text messages asking us to cover our mouths and noses with scarves to prevent inhaling the ash. When we opened the door and walked outside, it looked like a fresh blanket of snow across the paths, trees and rooftops. The fact that we were at a mountain resort added to ski resort vibe.
Late morning, our Peace Corps doctors arrived, as they were scheduled to lead a session about after-service health care. They doled out green face masks for us to wear.
Unfortunately, due to the amount of ash in the air, the conference was ended before the last session and we were evacuated to another hotel in a city further away from the volcano. Peace Corps staff then called people at our sites to assess the amount of ash in the air and then had the Volunteers in dangerous areas stay an extra night in Surabaya. This was the first time Peace Corps Indonesia has had to consolidate Volunteers and the staff performed incredibly throughout the whole week and made sure that everything was safe before we headed back.
We got back to our site today and the evidence of the eruption is still around. The sides of the streets still have ash piled up and, in talking to our friends here, we learned that there were several inches of ash on Friday. Even wilder, our site had reports of gravel raining from the sky since we are only about 20 miles from Gunung Kelud. Unsurprisingly, all of the stores are out of face masks.
Even though a volcano eruption is a really serious thing, it was an incredibly interesting experience. Volcanos are a real part of the history and landscape of Indonesia, and we got to experience one just before our time here comes to an end.
Enjoy more pictures below.