I wish I could say Hurricane Isaac was a non-event. Many of my volunteer friends in other areas are talking about what a joke it was. True, at the eleventh hour it turned south away from the Dominican Republic. But I happen to live in the South of the country, and the storm hurled quite a bit of wind and water our way. I went to sleep in a drizzle feeling pretty good about the state of the storm. But I wouldn’t sleep for long. Gentle rain on a zinc roof? Calming. Driving rain on a zinc roof? That’ll jolt awake even the heaviest sleeper. A calm breeze in the afternoon? Refreshing. A violent wind threatening to rip the sheets of metal off the top of your house? Horrifying. These exciting extreme weather conditions kept me up for the better part of the night. At one point I grabbed my flashlight and looked around the ground, expecting to see a sheet of water with my possessions bobbing along on top of it. Thankfully, I illuminated a dry floor. That helped me sleep soundly—at least until the next bout of rain came pounding down on my roof.
This morning I woke up and groggily inspected my house. There were puddles where I expected them—in front of the door and under the table, where water has previously entered during rainstorms. So I got back in bed and watched some episodes of The Legend of Korra (nerd alert) on my computer. During that time another wave of rain and wind bore down on my house. When I emerged from my mosquito net to cook breakfast, I was met with a really disappointing sight. The previous spots were newly full of water, and a small trickle was extending out from under the bed. I got to my knees, curious, and looked under the bed. A shimmering pool of water looked back at me.
I decided the best move would be to make breakfast and pretend there was NOT a huge puddle of rainwater sitting under my bed. I sautéed some veggies, threw them together with eggs and siracha, and put that all on a sandwich to be enjoyed with way too much coffee. Then it was time to get to work cleaning. First I tackled the puddles out in the open, mopping them up and squeezing the brown water into a bucket. Then I moved under the bed. I had to awkwardly reach under the bed and slosh the water out towards the door with the mop. After about ten mop swipes, the floor was moderately dry. I went and proudly told Margot that I had cleaned up all the water in my house. She just looked at me knowingly and said, “It’s going to rain a LOT more today.”
She was right.
The wind and rain have picked up again. I’m sitting on my bed—the only dry place in my house—writing up this post. Every now and then I poke my head out from under the mosquito net to check the progress of the rain. Little fingers of water are slowly reaching across my floor, looking for any dry piece of concrete that they have not yet conquered. My computer battery is almost dead, and I am upset by the amount of cleaning that lies ahead of me.
You win, Isaac. You win.
Fast forward to night time. Isaac wasn’t done with us yet. Our latrine had been sinking slowly for the past couple of days, but today it sped up its rate of descent thanks to the rain softening the ground. Instead of letting nature run its course, my host family decided to tear down the latrine. Off came the roof, out came the hammers, and in just over an hour the squat structure was reduced to a pile of rubble. Because of that, I didn’t bathe today. But I think hygiene can take a break for a hurricane. I spent most of my time hanging out with my host family in their bigger, dryer house, watching for news of the storm’s progress. I actually dug out a hoodie because it got cold. In the afternoon I retreated to my bed and spent roughly four hours under the covers moping and attempting to nap. In that time I also sent the following text to our safety and security coordinator:
“Hey it’s Brendan. It’s been pouring all day and the water’s seeping into my house. Also our latrine sank into the ground so they knocked it down. Just FYI.”
Fast forward to the next afternoon. It’s still raining, and it has been all day. I woke up with a stomach-ache and a headache. The former from not pooping, the latter probably from dehydration. Margot offered me boiled bananas and an avocado, but I just could not fit anything else in my stomach. I eventually wandered over to my host sister Fior’s house. She, too, offered me a huge breakfast and I told her I wasn’t hungry. She paused, and then said, accusingly, “I hope it’s not because you haven’t pooped. Is that why you’re not eating?” I nodded, and she said, “Come on, we’re going to Manolo’s. They have a toilet!” I grabbed my towel and soap and followed Fior through the rain to my host brother Manolo’s house. I was quickly escorted through the house and into the backyard and shown the toilet and place to shower. The water was freezing and the toilet didn’t have a seat, but I was pleased to be empty and clean again.
Since then I’ve bummed around, eaten lunch, and tried to nap. My other host sister Nena came by just now and found me mopping. She grabbed the mop and finished cleaning up all the water for me. But it’s started raining again, and I’m sure the floor will fill up with water again in a few hours. I’m ready for Isaac to pass, for the sun to come out, and to be able to put my house back together.
Oh, and a new latrine would be nice.
Fast forward to Monday. Last night the rain stopped for about two hours, luring us into a false sense of security and happiness, then struck again around 9:00pm. Upsetting. I went to bed with little hope in my heart of ever seeing the sun again. But this morning I woke up to a bright, hot, wonderful sun. Margot answered my typical “Cómo está?” with a cheery smile, “I’m rich today, because God sent the sun to us!” Everyone was happy. I went to the school and led a long-awaited workshop with the teachers about classroom management. Everything was great. The electricity got repaired, which is why I can upload this blog post right now. And then the rain came. Again. It’s stopped for now, but I’ve stopped trusting the sky. And apparently another storm is coming on Tuesday. For now, I’ll soak up as much sun as I can and enjoy walking on a dry floor.