Aug 27, 2007

Our story

Well this month has been a bit muddled up. Usually August is party month because both Maya and Colette have birthdays, but this year we got blown away, literally. Since we have kept you all visually stimulated with tons of pictures, we are now going to tell you our hurricane story. We have received so many emails from friends, loved ones and a few we're not sure about how they got our email address, but never mind - that we wanted to write a little bit more than 'we're fine' and tell you about the experience.

So, we'll start by setting the scene. Colette had not had a birthday because our life was chaos. On the day of her birthday, we ordered pizza and had some wine. We sat under scaffolding in our new livinig room where the builders were coming every day to put in a new ceiling. Now don't get us wrong, we are grateful for a new ceiling as it means insulation and coolness but two dogs (one of which hates all builders), us, scaffolding and up to 3 or 4 men in a small, very hot space is hardly conducive to having a party feeling. Our friends all think we are miserable bores, but the living conditions we are currently in mean that we lay low. We can't cook, so we eat out every single day. Sounds decadent? Well, Colette thinks she might be growing a second set of boobs from all the steroids in the cheap chicken she's eating. Chicken beans and rice, Chicken rice and beans, Chicken with white rice, Fried Chicken, BBQ Chicken and Chicken soup. Before we moved here, some friends who live on the mainland said 'The Mennonites(who produce most of the poultry in Belize) won't even eat the chicken they sell because of all the steroids and chemicals'. We have no idea if it is true, but it makes you wonder.

So in the midst of this, Hurricane Dean starts looming. At first we all joke nervously, and as the days pass, the joking becomes planning, shopping for a hurricane kit, trying to get information, wondering if you've got enough and for how long it will last you. We needn't tell you that the hurricane kit for the dogs had been prepared months ago. Ours wasn't bad but we still needed lots of extra stuff.

We are very fortunate that we have a lovely friend, the wonderful Capt Jeff, who allowed us to use his condo in case of a hurricane. This was the time to take him up on it. Capt Jeff's place was boarded up properly and in a complex that was built to withstand serious hurricanes. Even better is that the local head of the national emergency services is a neighbour (and hero). Even better than that, he built this complex. Even better than that, he was staying and that indicated to us that we would be as safe as we could be.

It is hard to explain the way you feel when there is the possibility of impending doom. Life threatening situations, fortunately, are not common to us and there is no doubt that this was potentially very life threatening. Particularly if you were listening to CNN, who dubbed the Yucatan Penninsula 'THE KILL ZONE'. The funniest thing is that while we were watching the news updates on the Hurricane, we were wondering how many of our friends know that we live on the tip of the Yucatan Penninsula. This must have been very confusing, because if you listened to the newscasts, Belize pretty much did not exist. They hardly mentioned Belize during all the news items we saw. They were very interested in Cancun though. Can't imagine why?

What was amazing was how everyone in our neighbourhood worked together to make sure that everyone who could be protected, was protected. Our little wooden rental house was boarded up safely. We were appalled though that the hardware shops had doubled the price of plywood in the few days leading up to the storm. Now when a hurricane is coming and you live in a little wooden house and all your furniture is brand new, you do not leave anything in there that you care about. So we had to move out our sofa and our new mattress. We reckoned that the hardwood bed would survive anything and piled everything we could in the loft and onto the bed. Everything else was moved out.

Then to Capt Jeff's. Now his place is a truly luxurious hurricane shelter. It even has a jacuzzi and we were glad of this because we filled it up with water to ensure we had enough water for washing and flushing. In fact, the whole condo was filled with buckets and bottles of water. Colette tried a bit of the cheese from our hurricane kit (it has never been near a cow) and announced that she will have to be starving before she can eat it again. Our great friend JohnnyB had all our fish stashed away from our last big fishing trip with el Capitano. So, we invite all our friends to share fish and chips at Banana Beach. Their restaurant do a great job battering and frying up the fish for us. Everyone was tired and emotional and drinking. This made for an entertaining evening, especially as we had an uninvited gate crasher turn up. So while we were much too cowardly too ask this person to leave, our drunkeness meant our inhibitions were down and sarcasm was the rule of the evening. Very entertaining for us if for no one else. Tee hee.

No matter how luxurious the insides are, it is tough when you are completely boarded in. No natural light. Makes you a bit crazy. So, we're in, we have as much hurricane kit as we can muster. Neighbours who are evacuating come round and bring us their flashlights and other useful stuff. By this time we are wired on adrenaline and exhausted.

Capt Jeff has some icecream in the freezer. Knowing the power will go off, we distribute the icecream to our neighbours, make a few social calls and then go home to batten down the hatches. We've been warned the storm will start at about 8pm.

We had power for most of the night and we watched with horror, trepidation and poop in our pants fear as the record size Hurricane Dean headed our way. One little bump north or south would make all the difference. The forecasts on the television were horrendous. People were telling stories about 50 foot waves, someone mentioned 195mph winds, they said the barrier islands (us we presumed) were going to be wiped out and we were sitting up here genuinely wondering if we were going to die. We did have life jackets and ropes, but we only had one dog life jacket, so we were even trying to work out how to strap the other dog to us. All sounds crazy now, but when you have been exposed to all the tsunami and Katrina footage, nothing seems unbelievable. This storm was as big as or bigger than Katrina. We are on a tiny pile of sand, twenty odd miles off the coast.

So, we keep waiting for the storm to hit. Colette decides that there are so many people on message boards trying to get information about the place and their loved ones that she would stay up as long as possible and pass on info. Maya keeps sneaking out to take pictures and video. It gets windy and the waves lap at the steps. Suddenly the pressure dropped. Both of ears popped and it felt very strange. You could feel it all over our body. Other friends have reported opening bottles of Coke at that time and have them explode. Hurricanes are very low pressure. The power goes out and we both fall asleep, to be woken at 4:30 am by Colette''s mother phoning asking if we are OK. We presumed we were, but hadn't been out, so we went out straight away. Damage, but not devastation. Not for us anyway. North of the island got hit much worse, as did North Belize and some small villages on Mexico's coast. No one died here thankfully. Our house didn't float away.

Would we stick it out if another Category 5 storm came, would we stay? Hell yes. This is how much we love San Pedro.


Anonymous said...

Dear Ones:
That was a great blog. You managed to put me right there with you as you prepared for the Massive storm bareing down on you both.I stayed up with you and all the people of SanPedro throughout the entire evening.
My mind was at peace when the daylight came and the reports were . Dammage minimal, no deaths or injuries.

When we see you both in november it will be hugs all around.

Fondest Regards
Bill & Becky

seancorfield said...

Great to read your story - very few of us have to live through a hurricane (very few of us want to!) so we don't know what it's like!

I see people interviewed in America all the time who rebuild their house every year on the East / South coasts and I just don't get it - give me earthquake country every time...

But I guess if you love your home, you'll stay there regardless (and lots of people think I'm crazy for living on the Hayward fault which is - apparently - the next one to go big time within the next few decades!).

Nerf said...

I was down in Ft. Lauderdale 2 years ago when we were hit dead on with hurricane Wilma. It's really not that bad, as long as you have good shelter.

For Sean, the same people are not rebuilding their houses every year. Generally, the hurricanes are bad in an area that hasn't been hit hard in a while. Yes, sometimes there are bad years, but most often they aren't so bad.