Friday, December 21, 2012

Cyclone Evan- Back to Work

Cyclone Evan- Back to Work
On the 5th day without electricity and water (that is how I count my days now) I returned back to work.  I had passed by my office several times and had a glimpse inside it, and was aware of the damage due to flooding and mud, but didn’t expect it to be as completely bad as it was.  We experienced a total loss of everything inside.
The Samoa Victim Support Office is located at the police station, and above us is where the police band practices.  Their roof flew off and part of their building was destroyed, so apart from the ocean that surrounded our office for a block in all directions, we also received damage from above as the ceiling was leaking horrible stuff everywhere.   I knew it had the potential to be worse than the Peace Corps Office, which is much larger, and had the potential to hold more mud.
I arrived on Monday, ready for the challenge.  There were several shovels so I grabbed one and immediately got to work shoveling the deep mud on the sidewalk in front of our office.  However, my blisters that I received on Saturday from sweeping muddy water began to ache horribly.
While I was helping out, there was one causality, as my shoes drowned in the mud and were never seen again.  
As it was apparent all of the furniture had to be removed from the building, I was given a new task.  I was in charge of a few volunteers and the unloading and sorting of office materials and equipment from the truck to our homeschool.  We had to sort muddy items, from soaked items, and even managed to salvage a few dry items. As much as we tried to clean, the mud was everywhere and you could not avoid it.  Being without water made it extremely difficult to clean anything.
We did have help, plenty of volunteers came by to help us clean and move everything.  Two of the groups that came were the US Embassy and the Peace Corps.  It was nice to see my fellow Americans helping out when duty called.
Not to mention being without water took away our ability to go to the toilet.  The only toilet I could use was a 20 minute hike to my house and I was able to use the ground water I collected to flush the toilet.  This meant that there would be no drinking water during the work day until further notice.
Each muddy day we went in the back of a pick up truck to bathe in the ocean.   At first it disgusted me how dirty the ocean was because of all the pollution, but then I realized, water is water.  I need water to survive and it doesn’t always matter what it looks like.
Being without drinking water, and doing physically demanding work, makes you extremely exhausted, and grumpy….So I am sorry for the people that had to put up with me because of it!
During the week, we continued to work on cleaning our office, trying to salvage files by putting them in the sun to dry.  It shouldn’t have been as hard of work as it felt it was.
The rest of my office had divided into teams.  Donations were coming in, and like the Red Cross, we too were going to the community to help each other.  Volunteers were assembled to help clean houses and hand out food, bottled water, linen and clothing donations.  It was beautiful to see all the smiles on the faces of the people realizing they were just about to receive relief from it all.
I know the relief effort is ongoing and we are going to be busy with it probably until after I end my Peace Corps Service at the end of January.  I am just glad that I get to help out now.  It is weird in a way, I began my service right after the tsunami in 2009, and helped a little with the relief there, and I will be ending my service after hurricane Evan crushed Samoa.  I can only hope that nothing else happens along the way…
The police station missing some of their roof and walls.

Our kitchen at work.

All of our office furniture outside ready to go to the school.

There is a mud line on the door as to how high the water got to in our office.

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