Life Abroad – Hurricane Matthew
I haven’t talked a lot on here about the specifics of life in Haiti. I wrote a lot about things when I was first in country, and over time things just became more normal. That said, there are definitely times where I’m reminded that life here is anything but.
For instance, hurricanes. Natural disasters. Every summer we get excited when there’s a storm brewing in the Atlantic, because it might mean a couple days of overcast weather and rain, dropping the summer’s scorching temps and high humidity. In the 11 years that I’ve been living here full time we’ve had some very active hurricane seasons, and others where we found ourselves in a drought.
Last week we started watching the weather websites that we like. There was a storm brewing south east of Hispaniola, the island that Haiti shares with the Dominican Republic. It gradually became a hurricane as it moved west along the south coasts of the island, but still too far away to bring any weather.
Over the weekend things changed. Suddenly it was up to a category 3 storm, and starting to shift north. And the in one night it went up to a category 4, then category 5, and back down to a category 4 and it kept heading north. It was in a direct path to Haiti and the country I’ve come to call home started bracing itself.
This was the low down on my/our particular situation:
~ We were in a new location after our organization had been located on the coast for 14 years, so we weren’t sure what to anticipate with the storm in general.
~ Haiti hasn’t had a category 4 hurricane blast through in over sixty years, so many wouldn’t even remember the damage it can cause.
~ My husband left for the states last Wednesday for two weeks. Yeah.
~ We had friends arrive back in country last Tuesday after a year absence, and they were staying with us while they got their house cleaned up and livable again.
I’m thankful to report that we came through just fine. Our facilities had some damage, actually the most in our area, but it’s nothing we can’t fix. In fact, the guys got at it today and got a ton done. I’m in awe, actually.
Here’s what I want to tell you, all the things that have been running through my brain for the past 5 days.
~ The stress of waiting for this sucker was horrible. Gut wrenching. It was supposed to start dropping weather on us on Sunday. But it slowed right down to a crawl and we didn’t see that weather until early Tuesday morning. Those two days… ugh.
~ I tried to make the best of the situation with my kids. Our friends were using the kids beds in one room, and our kids were sleeping on foamies on the floor in another. I pulled those into our room and told them we were having a sleep over. In reality, I was afraid of the unknown. I didn’t want them waking up in the middle of the night to whipping wind and rattling windows and freaking right out. The weather hit during the day, and our kids were oblivious because the lounged on said foamies and watched movies from morning until night.
~ I was thankful for our friends being here just to have the diversion. They decided they would rather be here than anywhere else because they helped build our house and knew that it was probably one of the most structurally sound in Haiti.
~ Two families in a house for several days when you can’t go outside because of the weather leads to twitchy people. That said, I think we all did amazingly well, especially the kids.
~ I cracked when talking to Chris on Tuesday morning as the weather was moving in. It’s hard single parenting on a good day. It’s harder to do it when a natural disaster is headed your way and your favorite person/best friend/support system isn’t there with you. A few minutes later I got to tell him that our work yard roof just collapsed, so there was that too…
~ After the storm finally moved on it’s way I felt, and still feel exhausted. The let down after several days of waiting and wondering and stressing is exhausting.
And now? Now we rest. Our friends went to their much loved house today for the first night since being back. Our kids have their rooms all sorted and back and were super excited to sleep in their own beds tonight. I am going to put myself to sleep shortly, and forced myself to get off Facebook where all the reports and conversations of what’s going on here have been taking place between fellow expats and missionaries. I just need to be done for my own sanity.
There are so many things that I’m thankful for too, and I think gratitude is a healthy thing, so here’s my list…
~ I’m so thankful that Matthew veered. The damage is devastating, but there is a collective agreement here that it could have been so much worse.
~ I’m thankful for development. Most don’t see what we see in the day to day here, and many say Haiti isn’t developing, but it is. I know it is because in 48 hours a variety of networks pushed out the message that the storm was coming and tried to prepare people as much as possible. Yes, there has been an incredibly loss of physical structures, livestock and agriculture, but the death toll is less than 300. Compare that to the last category 4 hurricane that came through in the 50’s where the death toll was 8,000. Or the earthquake where the death toll was in the hundreds of thousands. Haiti is advancing, and I’m so grateful for that.
~ I’m thankful for our staff. They are amazing. While I was worrying about them, they checked in on me to see how we fared. When they came to work today for the first time and saw the damage, they were eager to get to work and fix stuff and salvage things and get things back to normal. It’s inspiring and challenging.
~ I’m thankful to be part of a beautiful network of missionaries and expats here who are working to support each other. It’s such a beautiful thing.
~ I’m thankful that we know our place as an organization. We’re focused on development, and we aren’t close enough to the areas that were hardest hit to be of any use there. And we’re okay with that. As we communicated with our supporters in the past few days we told them flat out that we couldn’t contribute to the relief work, because we know that’s not where we’re strong. I love that and am thankful for that transparency and freedom to not feel like we need to be everything to everyone.
And now I’m thankful for rest. It’s time to shut down and step back and take a bit of time away from the world wide web.