camino de la finka on saturday at noon...
last i left off, mila, corey and i were about to head out into a sunny day to collect our things from my house. as the camino de la finka was not passable, we opted to walk to my house along the lake shore. we joined the mass exodus of people circumventing the main road via la playa, only to encounter a vast plain of mud, heavily littered with the remains of the houses that had been wiped out by the mudslide. we slowly navigated the distance to my house, pausing to chat with some locals, who informed us that the search was on for a nine year old girl who had been pulled from her mother's arms and swept away by the mudslide the previous night. traversing the short distance took us nearly an hour, as each misstep resulted in sinking knee deep into the still tenuous mire.
being led down the road by a helpful local
knowing we couldnt stay at my house, lest more rain strand us there, we collected the rest of mila and corey's things, as well as about half of my belongings.
after seeing my friends off the next morning, i loaded my empty backpack with bottled water and gatorade, which i gave out to relief workers en route to mi casa. seeing the destruction (as well as the amount of hard labor necessary to get things back to semi-normal) firthand, lit a fire in me. and so with collectng the rest of my belongings and paying the portion of rent that i owed, i shifted from being an isolated writer into being a member of san pedro's community. i teamed up with sharon mcdonnell and becky tait, two girls i had become friendly with, along with ramon, the director of the spanish school i was studying at.
we made it to the other side
an online donation fund was created and 3 benefit concerts were scheduled, and within two days, we found ourselves with enough money to do SOMETHING. we then met with the comittee de solidadidad, a group of men who have been spearheading aid campaigns during times of crisis for the past 30 years. the meeting was held in a small room in casa bilson, in the pueblo's center. i sat in the corner of the room, which contained myself, sharon, becky, ramon, minor (manager of becky's spanish school) and about nine local bad-ass looking dudes, and i tried to follow the dialogue and cross fire, all in spanish... i felt like i was smack in the middle of a dream sequence in a david lynch film.
the meeting resulted in the solidadidades producing a list of the 22 families who lost either their homes or everything in their homes during agatha's wrath, along with a list of what food stuffs were needed to sustain them.
the following day...
pounds of corn, sugar, rice and beans were bought, to be doled out on friday morning. one of our benefit concerts took place the night before...it had been a fun, late, cuba libre fueled event, and i awoke friday at 7:30 am with a heavy head. i joined the rest of our crew at casa bilson, where 22 bags of supplies were divvied up according to family size. and off we went in two pick-up trucks, one carting the food bags, the solidadidades, beck and i - the other hosting the handful of travellers/spanish students that had showed up to lend a hand. as we made our way to the first temporary residence, i looked at the other truck full of camera pointing gringos and it kind of reminded me of one of those double decker tour buses that i often see loading and unloading at the empire state building.
gradually, throughout the course of the day, we split up into small groups to deliver aid to each of the displaced families. the first few visits felt a little awkward...descending with shiny, bleeding heart optimism on people whose worlds had just been shattered. but the families received us with warmth and gratitude, and the amount of hugs and kisses and thank you's i received infused my mood with a 'lucky to be alive' brand of gratitude. when our work was done, the group of us gathered at the basketball court in the town center, stood in a circle, held hands and prayed. it was moving. humbling. empowering.
since that day, ample funds have rolled into the various collection sources. some local business owners have chosen to work independently.
for example, paul, owner of 'the clover,' chose to pay directly for the medical expenses of the woman who lost her daughter during the storm. though she was badly injured, her shock and loss usurped her need for medical attention. paul convinced her to go to (and stay at) a hospital in the nearby city of solola, where her arm, broken in several places, will be repaired with a metal plate. another local gringo business owner, daniel, will be funneling his collection into the construction of a few houses. and matt purvis, a geologist who has been living in san pedro for five years, will lend his expertise both to identifying safe places to relocate the families and a contingency plan for future emergencies. as for the online donations that san pedro spanish school and collectiva spanish schools are overseeing, a system of checks and balaces are in place to ensure that 100% of the money will go to food, medicine and basic furnishings for the families that were most effected by la tormenta.
to donate via credit card, log onto www.sanpedrospanishschool.com/calltoaction-agatha