Thursday, December 2, 2010


Surveying The Water Levels
Colegio Students Out For A Swim

Rain, Rain, Go Away...

December has brought with it more rain than our community's numerous drainage ditches and lazy rivers and streams can handle.  While most volunteers experienced flooding during November we had come through the effects of Tropical Storm Tomas with little more than an occasional shower interrupting our normally sunny skies.  That is being made up for now.

Yesterday (Wednesday) as we were going to the kitchen to eat breakfast María, our host mom, told us that Rafa, our host dad, had called to say that he couldn't make it to the Colegio and was on his way home.  When Rafa got back he told us that the water had been over the bridge by the Colegio and María encouraged us to go out and check it out.

We pulled on our rubber boots and raincoats and opened up our umbrellas and stepped out into a wet, wet world.  We started out in the direction of the Colegio and soon saw that the road that we would need to take was indeed under water.  We decided to try an alternate route, but didn't have any better luck.  

The Road Through Company Housing
We turned back to the main road through the company housing and were cut off by a couple of guys from the Colegio who were excited about the opportunity to go for a swim in the street.  The water reached mid-thigh on most of them and one student tried riding his bike through, but had to stop when the water covered his tires.  We laughed and took some pictures, and then followed a group of students on their walk to the school (even though classes had been cancelled).  

Needless to say, our rubber boots were no longer effective by the time the water had reached our thighs.  We made a few stops along the way, talking to students and a couple of families whose kids we regularly play with.  We asked questions about how often floods like this occur [note: we had asked these same questions upon our arrival in the community and were told that there are never floods, or at least nothing that can't be handled by donning your rubber boots] and were told a variety of things: never, every once in a while, not since my daughter was a baby (she's 10 now), last year it was worse - they brought boats in and everything.       
The Road Out Of Town

We pondered these responses and why we had heard differently six months ago and can only figure that people didn't want us to worry.  We had even asked in the local police station if there were any environmental concerns or natural disasters that have occurred in the area - everyone said no.  Well, we know now that flooding does happen.

Walter In His Raingear
We had also asked if an emergency committee existed in town, and were told that no, we don't have emergencies.  Someone did mention that the Junta (town council) takes care of things like that if need be.  On our walk though town we witnessed the president of the Junta opening up the church to be used for emergency shelter.  He then opened up the school cafeteria so that food could be made for those who would be without the comforts of home for the night.  María later told us that he was also the president of the Emergency Committee.  It's amazing what you can learn once you are actually integrated into your community.

We spent some time with our neighbors who wanted to show us the flooded farmland behind their house.  We ended up staying at their house for a while so that they could take pictures.  Then we went out to the road in front of our house to check water levels.  The water had covered the road, and we couldn't see dry land in front of us.  They took a couple more photos, including the one below of people after they made the journey through the flooded road so that they would have a dry place to spend the night.  We played some games until dark at which point we were left to be entertained by our endless supply of podcasts.  Due to the lack of power we also had a romantic candle-lit dinner!
Our Neighbors Standing At The Water's Edge
After Crossing To The "Dry" Part Of Town

When we went to bed the rain still hadn't stopped so we were hoping for sunny skies in the morning.  Instead we woke to the sound of more rain.  We had a couple of moments today when we thought that the sun might come out to play, but in reality we've spent another day under a storm cloud.  

There has been some slight improvement in conditions, water levels have lowered despite the continued rains.  The power has come back and we only lost water for a couple of hours this morning.  Unfortunately, for those who live in lower areas of town they will be spending another night on the floor of the church and will have a dinner of donated food prepared in the school cafeteria.  One wonderful thing that we have been able to see in all of this is how the community has come together so naturally to help one another.

We are thankful that we live on a hill [don't worry family and friends - we're safe] and that aside from our few walks through town we have been able to remain dry when so many have not had this luxury.  We're keeping our hopes up for sunshine tomorrow, or at least for the rain to stop falling.  

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