Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Wilma 14

With no electricity, our internal clocks were getting screwed up. We felt like pioneers, or maybe it was cavemen? We were in bed soon after dark because it was just too difficult to do anything by candlelight. And then it was up at dawn to make as much use as daylight as we could. I wondered how long we were going to have to live like this. Water had still not been restored to the island so we were heavy into conservation, even though we really had plenty of water. We have two water tanks on our roof and one on the cabana. All three of these were full for now so we could flush our toilet and take showers with no problem. But better safe than sorry. What if took weeks to get water restored?

We employed all kinds of water saving measures. We would fill a bowl with dishwater, wash the dishes and set them aside, unrinsed. When everything had been washed, this water was dumped out and fresh water was used to rinse everything. There was no tap to leave running since the water coming from the street was not working. This all had to be done by pouring water out of our bottles of water we had stored before Wilma hit.
the main street on the bay side. invisible under the sand

Showers were quick little things. The water for the shower comes directly from the tanks on top of the house. We waited until late afternoon to shower because the sun had by then heated the tank and we at least had a little warm water. Even so, to my taste, it was still way too cold for human comfort! We were fortunate that we did not have to pour water into the toilet for flushing. Our toilet tank was also hooked directly to the tanks overhead and filled automatically. Much to our disgust, but out of sheer necessity and fear, we had to adopt and live by that old adage, “If it’s yellow, let it mellow…..”, you know the rest! L took it upon himself to become the keeper of the toilet water. He filled the toilet tank with stones from the beach to displace water. He did this until only just enough water needed for a good flush was available in the tank. No wasting of water just swirling around in the bowl doing nothing!

L and I decided at some point to take a little tour around the island on my motor scooter and take some pictures of the damage. It was an interesting tour. We started by heading south from our house, toward the “gringo” end of the island. We saw more of the same type of damage as everywhere else. Downed utility poles, power lines just lying everywhere. Roof top tiles had been ripped off these expensive homes at this end of the island. Windows had imploded or just blown out. Debris and garbage blown everywhere and stuck to the bushes and cacti. We continued on around the island, picking our way at times very carefully around fallen trees, branches and poles. Crews of volunteers were everywhere, already starting to clean up.
notice the cell phone tower lying on the house. also the denuded trees
the road that goes by the lake in the center of the island. the lake is normally about 5 feet below the lower road

Then we entered into the colonias, the neighborhoods in the center of the island where most of the local people live. Some streets were totally impassable. They were either blocked by debris and/or still covered with water. We had a double purpose on this trip of course. We were also stopping at every little neighborhood store that was open to see what provisions we could find. There was not a lot available. We had just gotten back onto the motor scooter and headed down the street when my scooter felt like I was driving it through mud and it started to slip sideways. What now? I stopped and L got off the back. We both looked with dismay at my now flat rear tire. I had evidently driven over a nail, screw or some other piece of debris and had now incapacitated our only form of transportation available to us! I was very angry and upset. Remember, our car was still in a parking lot in Cancun where I had put it for safe keeping until the car ferry returned to service.

L decided to continue scouring the neighborhood on foot and make his own way back home. We both could not be on the bike at the same time now anyway. I was going to very slowly and carefully drive the bike to a repair shop and see if, by some miracle, they might be able to fix it.
I slipped and slid my way along the streets, driving on a flat tire and hoping that I was not damaging the rim. My bike was just too heavy and I am just too old and weak to have pushed it anywhere. I had to take the chance. I got to the repair shop and it was closed! Rats. Now what to do? I was so disgusted at this point, I decided to just drive it home. (or maybe shove it off the cliff into the ocean!) But, once again, our Mexican friends were to come to my rescue. I don’t remember what we were doing at the time, but our friend Luis and his family showed up to see how we were doing.

We were very glad to see them. We had not seen them since our return to the island and we were very curious as to what may have happened to them. They live in the center of the island in a small, one room, cement block building. The roof is made out of those pressed cardboard panels. They took refuge in one of the island shelters during the storm, knowing that their house would probably not be safe. And they were right! At some point during the storm, the roof of their house was totally blown away. This allowed the wind and rain to get in and blow out their door. They lost everything they owned. Everything. Not a stitch of clothing left except what they were wearing during the storm or had been able to pack to take with them. What few personal belongings they had, gone. They were looking at having to start their life over from scratch. It made our situation look rosy and I felt guilty for feeling sorry for myself and the “hardships” we were going through. We had really lost nothing and we at least had money to restock our food and water supplies, should any become available. Luis asked us where our car was and I told him. He then asked if we could do him a favor when we went to Cancun to fetch the car back. Expecting to hear a long list of requests for things they needed, B and I said of course we would get him whatever he needed. We were stunned and amazed when the only thing he asked for was toothbrushes! There were none to be found anywhere on the island. This family had nothing and all he wanted was toothbrushes and seemed embarrassed to even ask for that. He didn’t want us to have to spend to much money or go to too much bother for them. I couldn’t believe that was all he wanted, but it was. Amazing. (of course we loaded them down with as much food as we thought we could spare before they left. We really had plenty of provisions for this disaster and didn’t mind sharing at all)

As they were leaving, he noticed the flat tire on the bike. He asked and I told him what had happened. He said he knew another mechanic that was open and working and he would go talk to them. I thanked him and he left. He returned a short time later and told me that somebody from the shop would stop by and pick up the bike and take it too the shop to fix. Evidently, he had a flat tire on his bike also and they were fixing that too. I thanked him profusely and he went on his way.

Several hours later, somebody from the shop did arrive and I watched as they pushed my bike down the street. Taking it to I don’t where. I had no choice but to trust them and to trust that I would again see my scooter. And, since I trust Luis implicitly, I really didn’t see a problem.

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