Sunday, August 21, 2011

We Were Hoping It Would Be HURRICANE Harvey

In the Peace Corps safety world, there are four status levels – All Clear, Alert, Stand Fast, and Consolidation. We have just returned from two days in Belmopan where all PCVs in the southern half of Belize were consolidated.

Steve and I had been planning a fun trip to Corozal Town – our first trip out of our site since we arrived! As a little background, during our preparations for deployment to Belize, a friend of mine from Zumba classes told me of her friend Rachel who served as a PCV in Belize 1999-2001. Rachel is a wonderful woman who now lives in Boston. She shared with us all her wisdom and advice via telephone and email. She also told us that she came back to Corozal Town, Belize, for about a month every year, and invited us up to meet her this August. As the weekend approached, Rachel coincidentally met several of the PCVs who went through training with us, who are posted to Corozal. We were planning lots of great visits with everybody, and some good getting acquainted time with Rachel.

Enter Tropical Storm Harvey. 

Thursday morning we were put on Alert, and Friday morning notified of Stand Fast status. That means Don’t Go Anywhere. We scooted around to make sure our Emergency Bag was packed, and sure enough, right after lunch we got a call that they were on their way to pick us up for consolidation. Now, most people had to get to Belmopan via bus, but we lucked out. Some might have considered it a little crowded – seven of us plus the driver in a PC SUV, including all the backpacks and other bags. Luckily, most everybody was pretty efficient with their packing.

On the way to Belmopan, Mr. Stanley, our driver, stopped so we could all get ice cream cones. You have no idea how special it was. A little luxury in the middle of some stress.

Once we arrived in Bpan, we went straight to the PC office. The bigwigs were in the conference room looking at the projected screen of several websites – all storm tracking sites. I think in addition to the ones that anyone can look at, they also have some subscription sites. That storm was headed smack dab for Dangriga. It was projected to hit about 4pm on Saturday with hurricane force winds.

So far, no real rain or wind. So once we got checked into – guess where? – the Garden City Hotel, we spent most of the time talking to everybody else and shopping at the Belize version of WalMart. Didn’t need anything (bought salt and pepper shakers), but it was something to do. We knew we’d be stuck in the room for a long time.

Once back from our shopping "spree," I spent a fair amount of time meeting and getting to know PCVs who started a year ago. They’ll be leaving next June 2012. I continue to be so impressed with the caliber of the people stationed here.

Friday night we fell asleep to cloudy skies, but no "weather."

Saturday morning was overcast and drizzly, but still calm. So we shopped some more, this time for food, in case we couldn't go out to eat.

We had a short status meeting at 10 o'clock Saturday morning, and I announced that if anyone was interested, we’d have a Zumba class. Luckily I had brought our little iPod speakers. I figured everybody would be going stir crazy. 

By then the rain and winds were getting pretty hard – and sideways. The storm arrived much sooner than originally forecast – about 12 noon. By 2:30 it was all over and just super muggy. We didn't get a picture of the heavy rain and wind. Here's one just after it passed. In fact, we thought it was the calm of the eye. The storm was a bust! Just a big inconvenience. 

View from the balcony of the Garden City Hotel

Zumba class at 4:30 was a big success – maybe 16 or so (including Steve!). Nobody had brought the right shoes, myself included, so we did the whole class barefooted on the carpet. A lot of the carpet was really soaked. Such enthusiasm and energy! and FUN! As the class wound toward the finish, people kept saying, “Let’s do one more.” Not surprising, since we all knew there was nothing to do afterward.

We're so lucky to have a place to do Zumba at the hotel!

Right at the end of class our “warden” came up to tell us that the storm had passed and that some of the people could go home first thing Sunday morning. Those of us from Dangriga and further south would have to wait for damage to be checked and to make sure that buses were travelling.

Steve and I went out for pizza.

So anyway, Tropical Storm Harvey turned out to be not much danger or excitement (I’m getting bored – as I often do with some of these blog entries – just writing about it), and it ruined our chance at a fun weekend with friends. AND, because it never got up enough umphhh to boost the winds to 75, we were deprived of an alliterative storm name.     :--(

OKAY, on to other topics. 

  • On August 11, the ladies from Vinegarville graduated from their training. The ceremony was first class, with speakers from Belize City and Belmopan and national TV coverage (Yes!). Thirty women received their completion certificates. Keep your fingers crossed that the enthusiasm that kept them coming for 12 weeks of training with carry through to make it a money-making cooperative. 

  • Steve continues to create educational fliers and pamphlets to help the people who are served by the Polyclinic.
  • He may have bottomed out on the weight loss. We hope so. Looks like he may have stabilized.
  • He has accumulated a tool or two, so he smiles more now. The beautiful built-in mahogany bar that you may have noticed in one of the apartment pictures is actually the tool shed. But there’s still a lot of empty space that needs to be filled with “useful” gadgets.
  • The Train the Trainer for the POWA women continues.
  • I also participated in training Youth for the Future kids in HIV outreach.
  • And I’m doing a session for a summer camp at the library. Six through 12-year-olds. Treasure Hunt to learn fun facts about fruits and vegetables (arghhh!), including TWO Zumba dances, some fun games, putting together the treasure map, the treasure hunt itself, AND making salsa. I just have to say, I don’t mind dreaming up some of this stuff, but I’d love to hand it over to somebody else to do. I KNOW I’m going to louse up the delivery/participation part with the kids. Oh, well, at least there’s food, so they might like that part.
  • Just watched The Big Lebowski again last weekend – on my little netbook with my earbuds. Couldn’t breathe, I was laughing so hard. It’s good to escape.

No comments: