Monday, August 27, 2012

After the Storm

I've lived in Port-au-Prince for sixteen years, and Isaac is the worst storm I have ever experienced. There have been many storms that have done more damage to the country as a whole, but never any that battered Port-au-Prince quite this savagely. My husband and I were awake almost all night on Friday as the gusts of wind grew stronger and stronger. It wasn't as bad as an earthquake, but it was still pretty bad.

On Saturday my husband and kids cleaned up fallen branches from our courtyard and we eyed our solar panels dubiously; they didn't look good, but there wasn't any sun, so we couldn't check on whether they were working.

On Sunday afternoon we had a little bit of sun, enough to find out that the solar panels were still working. We also went over to our school campus to get online, since our internet at home is still down. I talked to the man who cleans my classroom, who was moonlighting as a gate guard. I told him that we were surprised by how bad the storm was, and he agreed that he was, too. I said, "They always say hurricanes are coming, and it's never anything," and he nodded. He said it was the worst he'd ever lived through, too.

I asked him how he and his family had fared and he said they were fine, but their roof blew off. They went next door and spent the rest of the night with their neighbors, and then in the morning he bought a tarp, which will serve as a roof until he can get his replaced. I asked if any other school employees had had damage to their homes. He said he only knew of one, who hadn't had a roof to start with, just a tarp. And of course, his tarp blew away. There may be others, he said. He'll find out when they come to work on Monday.

Before the earthquake I didn't even know the Kreyol word for tarp, prela, but now it's very much a part of my vocabulary. Many people continue to live under tarps or tents, two and half years after goudou goudou shook our city. There was money donated to help our employees, and all of their residences were surveyed; those who had earthquake damage received money for repairs. I don't know if the employee still living under a tarp chose to use the money for something else which he needed more, or if he lost his roof since then, or if he just feels safer sleeping under a lightweight tarp after seeing how many people were crushed under concrete roofs on January 12th, 2010.

You'd have to be a lot dumber than I am to miss the the contrast between the post-hurricane concerns at my house and those of my janitor. While I fret about internet access and solar panels, he drapes his home, containing all his possessions, with a tarp, and prays that this hurricane season won't bring any more unpleasant surprises.

1 comment:

Linda at teacherdance said...

I'm so glad you posted Ruth. Since hearing that Haiti was hit hard, I've thought about you. I am glad you & the house is okay, but understand (a little) of what you say. We think we need a new pair of shoes, & someone else has only one pair, or none at all! Best wishes to all there.