Monthly Archives: May 2023

Post typhoon…

This pic was taken less than a week before the storm. I can’t upload more pics right now, my data is being a jerk, but I will when I can.

My coffee sipping sight this morning:  a rooster hightailing it into our portico; a few seconds later it’s a boonie dog zig zagging its scent.  In what used to be the jungle, a few chickens squawk while another boonie dog heads toward them.  There is nowhere to hide.  

A dog’s gotta eat.  But, there are so few of the chickens left.  A friend said maybe they’re in hiding somewhere, but me thinks only the lucky survived — now they just gotta keep surviving.  

It’s kind of where we are right now.  We’re happy to be here, but some of us have an advantage that others do not.  While I’m no boonie dog, I am living in a condo that has water and air (thanks to the building generator).  My friends a few floors higher do not have water (pump can’t push it up that high; something in it is damaged), so they built a tent around the pool shower.  Our pool is now a sludge of bacteria that we don’t even want to use to flush our toilets. I suspect a new species will emerge from it by next week. 

It’s been a week since the typhoon began tormenting our island.  School is now out for the rest of the school year, work is sort of done from home —- it’s kind of hard to do when you’re living off of spotty data (sometimes it works, mostly it doesn’t, but we’re so grateful when it does).

We’re in a heavy rainfall warning now.  Our streets are flooding, which they do when it rains, but now we’re saturated, have bald cliffs and clogged drains, so yay flash flood warnings.

Communication basically is a bitch.  Radio stations are finally back on air, which is so much better than hearing Poltergeist static.  People are working around the clock to restore water and power, but from the latest report I’ve been able to see basically most of us are still without.  It’s hard for any of us to know what we need to know because the posts on social media are slow, and we all have issues actually getting to social media.  At least now we can hear reports on radio. 

The updates I do get to see tell us trash is getting picked up —- we’re still waiting in my area —-and that there are landfills where we can dump our green waste.  It aint the shrubbery we need to get rid of.  Garbage bags are now sandbagging dumpsters, so no one needs to worry about dumpster flooding. 

The National Guard and police are escorting fuel trucks to gas stations; they are also directing traffic and monitoring the long lines at gas stations.  Cash is in high demand.  There are some stores and restaurants open, some even manage to take cards, but most tell you cash only.  I’m down to $6 and have mooched off of my neighbors. Everyone on this island is grateful to others who have helped them with something during this time — we have our uglies to report, but we also have our good.

Apparently some people are breaking into cars and siphoning gas; shit I guess I should check my car for that.  A few of the broken windows we see might be from looting, or people looking for a dry place to sleep.  There’s a bubble tea shop at the bottom of my street; I saw the owners sleeping in it when I took a morning walk.  Many mom and pop shops are doing this.  

The chickens aren’t the only ones who found refuge in the jungle, apparently there are more people living in abandoned structures than I knew.  There are four structures within feet of my place that also have abandoned cars.  People, including children, live there.  I see them now from my balcony.  According to Guam Homeless Coalition (can’t verify sources with this damned slow service) there are almost 800 homeless people on island, 92 households with children, and almost 53% of Chomorro, Mariana island natives (I need a better word because that one feels like it has negative connotations), are homeless.

Before, when I walked and met the few regulars I see on the beach, I just assumed they lived this life because of drugs or alcohol — and I’m sure many do —- but whatever the reason there’s impoverished living in rain and mud while listening to generators churn away the voltage that keeps some of our air conditioning going.  I don’t feel guilty for being where I am, I earned it, but I do feel something is very wrong with this balance. 

In essence the typhoon blew away our fairy tale of paradise.  Behind the plumeria and palms hid some of our inhumane truths.  I can no longer unsee it, so I’ll do my entitled bits of good here and there, but damn.  Mama hugs to all of us; the wet, the dry, the greedy and the giving.  May we find the strength to do better. 

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Mawar Mayhem

Our beautiful beach a week before the storm

I just came in from sitting outside watching the violent waves pummel my bay.  The beautiful beach I walk on daily has turned from a tropical paradise with plumeria, coconuts and jungle right up to the turquoise water to a barren vat of debris, rocks and shredded fauna.  The water is still blue but it’s tainted with black silt and mutilated tree and building bits viciously torn from their foundation.  The jungle that is everywhere on this island is shredded to a scene from the apocalypse.   Our paradise has been plucked bare and is as sad and ugly as a featherless bird.  The chickens are still in hiding; I hope they made it.

We saw a drowned rat in the debris, so the animals fared as poorly as the plants.

I don’t know when I’ll get to post this (internet, along with everything else, is down), but we are in our third day of wind and rain from Ms. Mawar the super typhoon.   Her outer bands reached us on Tuesday, but it was Wednesday that was the worst.  Today it’s still gray with rain and wind gusts that previously I would have called ‘big ones.’  Now, I know they are nothing compared to Mother Nature’s fury when she’s on a roll.

Our building rocked and swayed while she punched and whipped it with her 140 plus MPH winds.  And she did this for about 8 hours.  Prior to the 140 she bitch slapped our little island all day long with constant wind and powerful gusts.  The rain, oh my goodness the rain, was horizontal, and it bore right through our sealed windows and doors. 

There’s a lot of buzz that surrounds the whole idea of a typhoon heading your way.  For those of us who have never lived through this kind of storm, it’s exciting.  We run out to the store, stock up our adult bevies and food —- and drinking water, lots of drinking water.  We fill up our bathtubs because seasoned folk tell us to, and we button down the hatches —- learning that those metal typhoon shutters we normally ignore are not so easy to close and lock in place. 

In my case, since my husband is out of town, I buddied up with my neighbors on the 7th floor.  We have a lot of fun together and never hesitate to turn anything into a party.  So whoop whoop Typhoon party time.  Tuesday night we ate a feast (that we spent Tuesday making) played games and drank enough to sleep through the pesky outer band winds and rain.  We also packed up a goody bag to bring to the weather station, since one of us works there and he was going to be there until today.  We giggled at how wild and crazy we were taking a field trip during a typhoon —- the outer bands, my friends, are not a proper typhoon.  They are the fun but non memorable aperitif.

And then on the drive home, we heard the report of just how monstrous our reason for a party was going to be.  It didn’t damper our mood, but we each snuck off to send our loved ones the messages you send when you’re not so sure you know what you’re in for —- and then we continued to do what we do best.

Wednesday we made fun typhoon-themed cocktails and sat outside (in a concrete corner that protected us from the winds) to cheer on branches snapping off (in hindsight we were the gladiator spectators, but we didn’t know it at the time).   And, we witnessed this (my fellow species isn’t the brightest on the planet)…

Keep in mind we were having gusts up to 75 mph at this point lol and then he swept his balcony off. Sadly the drainage pipe to the left of him did not make it.

We got to toast other neighbors (above is in another complex) also stepping outside to feel the wind, and, overall, we had ourselves a great time.  When the winds and rain got too strong, we went inside and watched Twister because is there a better movie to watch during the ultimate twister (and our generator was working great at that point)?

The winds got stronger; the noise was unbearable, feeling the floor sway beneath us was unsettling, but we kept each other in good spirits.  Each of us had our doubts and secretly prayed the building would hold, but we did not fail our companions by focusing on what could happen. We told our stories and embraced our moments of quiet.   When our generator went out, we lit candles and enjoyed the ambience despite the banshee pounding on the shutters, and the loud bangs of things falling apart.  We went to bed early —- really just hoping to sleep the storm away —- but Mawar made sure we heard her tantrums.   The news told us the eye wall finally returned to sea around 2:30 a.m. but the winds were feisty long past that —- we’re still getting gusts of it now.

You can google to see better pics; I just don’t have great cell service right now. One day I’ll post more.

And, now we sit in the aftermath.  My neighbors and I are incredibly lucky.  Our building is built the way a building in the Ring of Fire and Typhoon Alley should be built —- it’s tough and while I don’t like it swaying, I do know that’s what I want it to do.  It’s built to move so that it doesn’t break.  I like this. We also have a generator that keeps us and our food chilled.  Our apartments got wet (I lost two rugs), and one of my friends lost an entire railing from her balcony, but we are unscathed.   Those are minor things that will be replaced. Our cars also made it without injury.  Too many on this island will not be as lucky.  And, while, we will all pull together to rebuild and help each other, it will take us weeks, maybe months, to repair what one three-day storm has done.  

I want to end with something pithy, but all I can come up with is, pay attention people.  Mother Nature is a bad-ass bitch and we are all but fleas on her back.  Embrace the good she gives and do your best to keep out of her wrath.  And thank all the powers that be for the friends we make in this world —- they help make the ugly beautiful.  

p.s. it’s Friday and I hotspotted my phone. screw my data plan… please forgive any typos, since I copy and pasted and uploaded as quickly as I could.

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