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Nature’s Fury

 

Juan was screaming and yelling. The fire chief tried to console her. “Send helicopters in there, send helicopters in there. My whole family is trapped in there” she yelled. The fire chief ushered her to safety. She needed to be evacuated. Mothers were crying, children were crying, men were out there trying to see if there was an iota of hope left. The air was stricken with grief, torment and it was like hell. The earth was angry. The earth had unleashed her fury to the residents of this little village of Escuintla.

There was no serious prior indication. The geologists picked up the waves and signals a little late and by the time warning was issued, disaster had already struck. There was no time to pack out of the community. That was the thing about nature, it could be so unpredictable and could deal such a foul blow sometimes.

The Volcano of Fire VoF hadn’t erupted in tens of years. It seemed like all this while, she was brewing the molten lava.  Suddenly it burst forth. The earth could not contain her anymore, the hot liquid found its way to the surface of the earth, travelling up to forty miles away and about 5000 metres above sea level. The villages worst hit were Los Lotes and El Rodeo. People were melted alive, being covered in hot fluid alive. What a drastic way to die. People scampered for safety.  Emergency services arrived. Not very much could be done because of poor visibility and the volcanic ash in the air. Planes could not land, copters could not fly. It was bad. Really bad.

There was a need to get the few people out of the village. Juan wouldn’t want to go. Her three children were in the inferno. Her husband was inside that hot liquid. Her mother and father were missing and her relatives had all disappeared. In a moment of the earth unleashing her fury, there has been a huge divide between her life filled with people, to sadness, emotion laden, sorrow, grief, uncertainty, fear and loneliness. This was what nature’s unleashing its terror did to the quiet village of Escuintla in Guatemala.

Juan had spent her whole life dreaming of when she will be eventually free and such a proud mother. Years of toiling and nursing her family seemed to dissolve right before her eyes. The nights she spent at the hospital with her daughter when she had to go through the medical procedure to correct the deformity in her bones. The times she spent in the United states for further surgeries and how she nurtured her daughter back to life again. She started school hobbling, being the centre of tease, and finally after all the surgeries, she began to stabilize, began to walk, began to run, ended up sprinting for her school and then graduated from primary school to high school in flying colours. Maria proceeded to high school and became a flyer, in both academics and sporting events. She was the cynosure of all eyes. Juan’s husband Esplendido worked in the sugar fields from morning till night six days a week to provide succour for the family.

Maria graduated amongst the best top ten in her high school and left for the States to study medicine. She was on a scholarship. She was like the light of the family. Considering how she was born deformed and all the medical journey the family had to go through to get her to walk, it was a miracle that, she did not only excel in academics but sports.

It was normal for her to visit her parents and siblings during her holidays. She loved spending time with her mum and siblings. Her physical presence always generated a lot of warmth and hope, not just to her immediate family but to those from the community. Her story was alive. Her presence generated hope to hopeless people because of her turn around in life. And then the cruel hands of disaster snatched her away. Juan could not take it. Where was Esplendido, he was missing. Juan’s aged parents could not make it out. They were frail and that’s why they had moved in to stay with the Esplendido’s so that they could be supported. When the few people saw the inferno rolling over, that hot liquid cascading down, they took off. Again nature played a trick on the physically challenged and it was so difficult to leave your loved ones behind. It was either you scampered for safety or you stayed back and got roasted with them.

In the pandemonium that broke out, people ran helter skelter. No one really took notice of who was with who. The key word was survival. The key word was flee. The key word was safety. It was until one reached a relative place of safety that family members were sought after and head count taken. That was when the reality dawned on folks that, the much dreaded thought of “were they trapped started playing on people’s minds?”

You would not want to in the slightest imagination think that your family has been melted by that dreary liquid or suffocated in the heat that accompanied the liquid. That death was too severe and harsh to contemplate, yet in the starkest reality, that was probably the scenario. Charred bodies and unidentifiable bodies. Of what use will a DNA testing do? Give the charred body a funeral? Be settled that, there is no hope or possibility that he or she could have been alive? Dread dread dread!!!

Babies crying, the stench of grief in the air, the emergency services overwhelmed with balancing professional work and stabilizing emotionally those who made it out. It was tough! This has been the most violent eruption in more than a century. It waited till Maria had entered her final year in medical school. It waited till it was the season for Maria to come visiting, before it unleashed its fury. What a cruelty! Juan did not lose hope. The very hopeless situation in Maria’s life that was transformed into a life of expectations made Juan hopeful. It reminded Juan of Maria’s favourite book – Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. Maria survived a hopeless childhood and turned out to be amongst the best. Juan held hope, Juan encouraged herself that, Maria somehow will be safe and those around her will be safe too. She represented that hope. She was that symbol of transcending the barriers of hopelessness. “Maria is fine, she has been a survivor. She will survive this. I will see her again and all those with her will make it”- Juan consoled herself as she got nudged into the truck.

 

Uwem Mbot Umana©2018

 

 

 

8 Comments

  1. So….what happened? You got me really really worked up. Like a movie, this should have another episode(s). I hope that by some kind of how, Juan’s undying hope comes true. I cant even begin to imagine such horrifying tragedy…no…I do hope that she even wakes up and this turns out to be only a bad dream.

  2. Is it a sad tragic story or a story that intimates us on the strong love that binds mother to child?
    Nature’s fury written by Uwem Mbot Umana is a short tragic story set predominantly in the little village of Escuintla as a natural disasters ravages the village. It is a literary fiction that really fills its readers with intriguing thoughts and questions.
    Personally, I wouldn’t say that I love the story and definitely wouldn’t say that I dislike it. Perhaps, to me, the story is somewhere in between. I like the story because it has lessons to teach it’s readers, the lessons shall be revealed in the course of this review. I also dislike the story because the plot is not well structured, the characters are not well developed and the book doesn’t capture its readers.
    Nature’s fury is chiefly about a mother, Juan, who has gone through a lot in fighting for her daughter’s chance to live a normal life. Juan’s daughter, Maria was born deformed and had to undergo a lot of medications and surgeries. Maria had also suffered ‘teasing’ from her peers.
    The interesting thing is this, Despite all these, Maria survives and becomes strong and excellent in both her academics and sports. She even wins a scholarship to study abroad to the great joy of her mother, family and village. Maria visits home periodically during holidays. It is one of such visits home that disaster strikes.
    We are drawn into the story as a volcano erupts and the lives of Juan and the village of Escuintla seem to crash before their eyes. Juan is devastated, the disaster doesn’t just destroy her home bit threatens to wreck to pieces her life and family, it threatens to steal the very essence of her life. What can Juan do in the face of this overwhelming fear?
    The story actually gives readers a lot of lessons to learn and things to ponder upon, I like it for that. Hidden among the few words are gems to be discovered. This story teaches is about the unpredictability of life. It teaches that we cannot direct what happens to us in life but can only direct our preparations or reactions to them. As the volcano erupts in Escuintla and the nearby villages, think about the plans and life that are shattered, think about the homes that are wrecked. We must learn to be prepared physically, spiritually and emotionally at all times. The people of Escuintla are suffering because they were unprepared, the geologist too were unprepared. They had allowed themselves to be taken unaware. The story reminds me of Half of a yellow sun by Ngozi Chimamanda Adichie, the characters in Half of a yellow sun are unprepared as they are taken by surprise by the sudden outbreak of the civil war. Their world comes crashing just like the world’s of Juan and other denizens of the villages affected by the eruption.
    Also the story educates us on the great love that binds mother to child, especially, a mother who has gone through a lot of difficulties with her child. In Nature’s fury, Juan is such mother and Maria is such child. The safety and well-being of Maria is a very fragile egg buried deep in Juan’s breast. The love and attachment of Juan to Maria is magnified by what they had passed through. Here again, I am reminded of Purple Hibiscus by Ngozi Chimamanda Adichie in which love binds Beatrice to her children, Jaja and Kambili in the midst of domestic violence.
    Very importantly, The story teaches us about hope. Great hope is portrayed in the story. Despite how bad and hopeless the situation seems, Juan doesn’t allow herself to be broken, she doesn’t allow her hope to die, she hopes against great odds. That is a very important lesson for all to learn. The Greek mythology about the Pandora’s box teaches us that hope will never leave us unless we let it go. Juan’s hope helps her to put herself in control. Her great hope helps her not to get hysterical. Her hope gives her calm and strength.
    Again, this story teaches us about resilience, doggedness, and the will to survive. Despite all that Maria passed through, she clings tenaciously to life, and she not only lives but lives and succeeds excellently. Many of us, at times feel that we were not destined to be great because we are affected by a problem that threatens to disable us physically or mentally. Maria reminds of us most great men, many of them were handicapped in one way. Bunyan wrote Pilgrim’s Progress from prison, Louis Pasteur was semi paralysed and under constant menace from apoplexy, Abraham Lincoln was raised in abject poverty, Franklin D. Roosevelt had infantile paralysis. All these are great men who rose above their difficulties.
    I believe that the purpose of this story is to intimate us on the effects ( both physical and psychological ) of natural disasters. The author does not fully achieve this purpose.
    I must say that the characters are not well developed. The readers are not drawn strongly into the emotions, feelings and personality of the characters. For example, Juan’s love for her daughter is not well described.
    Also, the magnitude of the disaster is not well described. We know that there was a volcanic eruption that affected village, yes, but how bad was it? How many people were killed? How many houses were destroyed? I think the writer should improve the power of his description so as to ‘ put ‘ the readers into the events.
    The plot is not well structured. The author, for example, should have told us what Juan had been doing when the volcano erupted, what was the first intimation of danger she had gotten? What thought came to her mind when she first saw the volcano? What had she done? Etc. This things are of course not “compulsory” but I think they would make the story more interesting. The events do not unfold fluidly and there is no strong climax.
    The story is very suspenseful and, should I say, unpredictable. The readers are also treated with suspense and an unexpected twist at the ending. The author also enriched the novel with literary devices especially personification, simile and others.
    I really think it is worth while reading and would recommend it to anyone who wishes to learn a few lessons and enjoy the never ending sweetness of literature.

  3. “Maria is fine… I will see her again”,Juan consoled herself.

    The story Nature’s fury by Uwem Umana is an adult, tragic literary fiction that displays the unflinching and dauntless hope and courage of a woman, Juan, who is faced with life’s sudden disasters.

    This story recounts and describes the cataclysmic turn out of events as a little village, Escuintla is unexpectedly, with ‘little or no warning’, hit by a violent eruption and captures Juan, a wife and mother drawn battling between running for her dear life or going upfront and fighting for the one thing that matters to her.

    Though the story is a sad, horrifying and devastating tale of life’s natural disasters and tragedies, especially one not previously predicted or expected as seen in the sudden volcanic eruption, its themes can be applied into everyday’s life conditions people gave and how they can draw strength and courage from Juan’s hope despite how devastating the situations they may be in.

    It is worthy of note to say that despite the fact that the story is saddening , disheartening and one people , not even myself would want to reckon with or be in, it still reflects the chaos of life that happens to people almost on a daily basis.

    It is also notable to like the fact that this story not only shows how life can be smooth and lull this minute and the next minute, in utter abandonment and destruction but buttresses the point that hope is needed in our day-to-day activities and that though situations may cause great wrecks in our lives, it shouldn’t make us give room to total despair. It is a reminder to today’s world where a little delay, frustration, disappointment or death make us give up so easily in life leaving us depressed and in most cases committing suicide.

    The main purpose of this story by the author is not only to portray hope in difficult and untimely situations but to also describe and showcase the series of devastating and catastrophic activities that takes place in the event of a natural disaster such as the one seen in the story, thus why the story was titled ‘nature’s fury’. It was to point out the chaos that occurred when places are struck with natural disasters— the disheveled movements, pains, tragedies etc but I would love to say that though this story was in the direction of the author purpose, it didn’t totally fulfill the purpose as there wasn’t an in-depth detail of the nature’s fury the story was to portray.

    Escuintla is a little village whose inhabitants suffers the terrible unleash of the nature’s fury and face destruction, catastrophe and cataclysm. It is true that the village was hit by a violent volcanic eruption but there’s no were no detailed account of the speed at which the molten magma covered things and people. There was no details of the direction and pattern of the flow of the hot liquid—did its flow start east of the village as it escalated to the west or central? What about the trees, how were they engulfed? I suppose they shouldn’t have gone down so easily without hitting an electric pole resulting to fire which would raze down homes and buildings.

    The story also told very little about the people that were consumed,both victims and survivors—what were they doing when this disaster struck? If we say home, Is it possible that all were at home when the disaster struck?What if they were in Church, on the road or something? I am also of the opinion that if these descriptions were added, it wouldn’t only give more life to the story but would make the setting look like a real life village where people are doing different things, at different places within the same place and at the same time.

    The fact that the Emergency rescue service unit came right during the crises is a good pointer to not just good governance but the love of people unlike in Nigeria, where the police comes to a place after armed robbers have finished parading or after severe damage has been done. I love the fact that these rescue officers were committed to their oath to save lives despite how unfortunate the situation may be— I hope to see this in my country.

    Is it also possible that the magma just melted people without leaving any trace of struggle. I suppose there should be places within this story that had ‘molten sculptures’, a result of people that tried to escape but were overwhelmed — maybe a hand held up but it’s body covered in magma or a complete man fixed by the magma as he tries to run. All I’m trying to buttress is the fury of this unleash wasn’t really described.

    Apart from the secondary characters in the story; babies, mothers, children, men etc who were basically in the background of the story, I would like to say that the main character, Juan, did a great job in controlling herself despite the grief she felt; the fact that even though she didn’t want to just stand there and watch her home burn, she knew she had to atleast live and be safe in order for her legacy to survive. She knew she had to live for the others who didn’t have the opportunity bti survive the disaster.

    This ‘rhema’ really changed my usual African perspective, it taught me that control is always needed especially in crises against the normal African way, where the survivor or affected tries to.or jumps right into the disaster or fire in a bid to save others forgetting that he/she is putting himself at the risk of more danger possibly no survival this time.

    It also changed my perspective of expressing too much fright during a disaster, I am fascinated by the level of control the villagers had, that they didn’t cause a stampede which would have caused more deaths unlike the African way.

    This scenario reminds me of a time, several years ago in Nigeria, where there was a bomblast or so in the Federal Capital Territory then in Lagos. This disaster was said to have happened in the night, of course there was panic, people were fleeing even without knowing where they were going.

    It was so bad that a large population of people trooped in the same direction for safety, there was stampede-people died. What about the people that were running towards a particular direction- it was said that they ran to take safety in a lagoon which swallowed more people than even the bomblast. If only, they just had a little control to check where they were actually running to, maybe they wouldn’t have ended in the lagoon that killed more people than the blast.

    The plot of this story didn’t have a climax. It was neither captivating nor intriguing. The flow of the events were too direct, simple and plain like everyday normal crises, nothing really spectacular. The transcending path course of the story ran too quickly and the events were predictable with no suspense and no ‘unusual’ heroic action of the character especially the main character, Juan.

    It is interesting to note that the story not only spoke a loud message of being hopeful despite the outcomes of events but embedded with it were life teaching lessons, such that buttresses the facts that life is too short, doom can happen suddenly to anyone, so it’s important we appreciate this gift of life and show love and care to people that really matter because they may be no more tomorrow. There was also the lesson that bad things still happen in life despite plans and preparations, they could just abruptly happen without a cause.

    It also taught us the need for us to appreciate the Rescue and Emergency Officers who come to the rescue of others in danger. It showed that they are humans and they could get tired, thus why they deserve appreciation.

    I also appreciate the fact that author left the story at a ‘twist’ where readers would have to depict the end of the story according to their life beliefs and precepts.

    In this way, the readers would have to conclude if Juan’s hope was really worthwhile or if it wasn’t.
    They would decide if the one she’s hoping for would really scale through it not. I must say it could be a good topic of debate between readers if different school of thoughts. I would like to liken the twist at which the author to the movie Acrimony where the writer left it at a point that caused great, interesting and intriguing debate among its viewers.

    The story Nature’s fury is not only filled with life’s lesson but also teaches literally as the author describes the events using literary devices such as personification and simile.

    In conclusion, this story is a good source of hope and courage and it also reminds us that no matter the conditions, we should never give up. It also reinforced the proverb that’s goes ‘when there is hope, there is life’, so no matter what the situation is, ‘hope maketh alive’ and yes, I would recommend it to people especially those that may have lost hold of hope.

  4. *Nature’s Fury*
    Nature’s Fury is a story that will take you through a whirlwind of emotions; sadness, anger, pain and finally, hope.

    Juan’s audacity to possess hope after beholding the horrific aftereffects of Nature’s Fury is nothing short of staggering and a source of inspiration to all those who are faced with challenges and obstacles that seem insurmountable and impossible. Having witnessed a gargantuan beast claim the lives of numerous people, burning people beyond recognition, and still convincing herself that there is still hope for her loved ones, that they will some way, somehow, escape the belly of the fiery beast unscathed, shows an astounding level of hope that is nigh unseen hitherto.

    Taking a minute peek into her thought processes, experiences and emotions that  led her to an awful, dark day not just for her dearly beloved, but also for the people of the little village of Escuintla, Guatemala only serves to make us experience ever-changing, complex waves of emotions; we are moved with wonder and amazement at the mental fortitude Maria possessed to shrug of her bone deformity, surviving several surgeries and ridicule from schoolmates to be able not just to walk, not just to run, but to be able to end up running in an athletic capacity competitively, years after being barely able to move from Point A to point B ; we are filled with love at the thought of Esplendido, Juan’s husband, toiling day and night on the sugar fields, striving to provide for his family; we are bridled with Juan’s motherly pride, watching her once deformed, scorned daughter become a beacon of hope for her community, all who have been in contact with her and all who have heard her barely imaginable feel-good story; we are filled with awe of Juan herself, dedicating time and resources immeasurable, all geared towards making her beloved Maria walk again. To know all she has faced and encountered in life and watch her have a stubborn, steely resolve in the face of the behemoth Volcano of Fire Vof is a lesson to us all. Juan could easily have adopted a negative mindset, questioning and cursing God for her unrelenting series of unfortunate events. She could have giving up hope on finding her beloved husband and child. But crucially, she didn’t. Like the story said, “She was that symbol of transcending the barriers of hopelessness.” The accuracy of the above words cannot be overemphasized in this story.

    There are a lot of questions that will come forth after Nature’s Fury has been sated. Why didn’t the geologists see this coming on time? How will all affected communities come back from such a devastating occurrence? Will Juan every get to hold her beloved, Maria and Esplendido in her arms again? These questions will be tabled and debated, dissected piece by piece, ruminated mentally over and over for years to come. But for now, these unfortunate communities must contend against death. They are going to war with Nature’s Fury.

    A lovely and insightful read. Have a blessed day everyone!

  5. To live or to die? This was the battle in the minds of the citizens of Escuintla. No-one gets to decide who would be a victim at the hands of death. Life just happens and we have no control over it.
    Juan had lived a life of toils and tears, she had dreamed of the day she’d be free. Coupled with supporting her aged parents, from the moment Maria was born, it was one surgery after another but she never gave up on hope and things turned around. Maria defied death, succeeded in all she did and became a light of hope and inspiration to all those around her.

    Nature unleashing it’s fury was another bomb dropping in the life of Juan, which affected the entire community of Escuintla.

    The story portrayed what typically happens in a state of emergency. To live or to die? Either run for your life or stay behind to help those who can’t help themselves. Everyone runs towards safety not taking into account who or what they might be leaving behind, all they can think of is safety. When you finally get to a safe place, your senses kick in and then you remember that you have someone who might have been left behind.
    This was the case in Guatemala. But Juan wouldn’t leave. Her daughter, her husband and her parents were nowhere to be found but that didn’t throw her off.

    The hope that kept her through the toughest times during Maria’s childhood, carried her once again. She believed that wherever her daughter was, she would be safe. Whoever was with her, would be safe as well.

    Indeed, she was a mother. She wouldn’t accept her child was gone til she saw it. So she held on, hoping that she would get to see her again.

    Don’t let life’s problems weigh you down. If you have can survive once, be sure you will survive again. Hope against hope that there would be better days ahead.

    I wish the writer could have given a bit of background to the story.

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