There are times when my life settles into such a smooth routine that I run out of interesting things to write about…and then there are days that are so extraordinary that I don’t know where to begin!
We started the 15th of January with a power cut, sitting in our tiny, wifi and a/c free office, thinking that this would be the low point of our day. Within an hour we had packed up our van to evacuate the House to escape to higher ground, discovered that we were too late to make our escape, and were in our one upstairs room piling up everything important that we could save from the flood waters filling our ground floor.
This was my first natural disaster, and if I’m quite honest, I hope it was my last.
Thirteen of us spent the day watching the water levels rising in utter disbelief. We watched as our (thankfully) empty rabbit hutch began to rise, as items from our office, kitchen and bedrooms began to float to freedom over our 7ft gates. We watched as cars turned into amphibious vehicles coasting driverless down our street before finally piling up outside our house.
We watched boats full of men drive up and down looking for people more vulnerable than ourselves to rescue. We watched one of our former security guys make his way through 8ft of water to climb up the remaining foot of dry wall, clambering onto the balcony like the man from the Milk Tray ads, (but sadly without the chocolates). We made plans to escape onto the neighbours roof if the water reached a certain mark on the wall. We felt relief for the things we had thought to bring up with us and regret at the things we had forgotten. We mourned for our security guard whose house we knew was destroyed. We rejoiced with those secure in the knowledge that their houses and families were safe and dry on higher ground. We tried to remember how high the ceilings were on the ground floor of the place where we lived, taking bets on which stair the water might have reached. We told flood jokes and ate energy drinks powders and twiglets. We experienced the full spectrum of emotions in shifts, taking it it turns to feel strong and just to look strong
Finally we watched as the tide mark appeared on the outside wall, and the 4th step reappeared, then the 5th, then the 6th…We sent the guys out to see if there was a safe route out, like Noah releasing the raven and the dove. At 2.30am we got the call to say that two of our security staff had made it to within safe walking distance of our place. We took what we had come to work with that morning, and the girls in our care with overnight bags, and headed out, single file, through the inches of mud and debris, mostly in flip flops. It felt, and probably looked, like a scene from a movie as we were joined by our neighbours, all venturing out, overwhelmed and exhausted.
It will be a long time for some before they are able to return to normal life. In the mean time, I am encouraged daily by the truck loads of volunteers driving to the worst affected areas, by the communities pulling together to clean up their streets and homes, to distribute food, water and clothes, by fancy cars slowing down to give donations to people standing in the street with boxes asking for help. I know I’ve said this before, but I love this place, I love these people…even on its worst day there is no where else I would rather be.