Coming to Terms, Only the Beginning
Trip Start Jun 28, 2013
62Trip End Aug 25, 2014
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The day after the storm was like an extension of the afternoon prior. We awoke with the sun, and surveyed the damage that encompassed us from every direction. We began a list of 80 employees and started checking off the people we could and debating the possibilities for the rest. I tried my best to keep Cangumbang out of my mind, all the children, stranded, hungry, cold, homeless, sick, afraid, hopeless, in despair, or worse yet...I couldn't let myself think those thoughts or my emotions would over whelm me. Instead I absorbed myself in the tasks to be done around me, in the things I could successfully complete. We tried to be realistic but also sensitive to the situation, we tried to plan for the future and make important decisions, but we had to force ourselves to think in the short term. Next week was years away and tonight was our focus. How would we get food tonight? How would be find our coworkers and friends? How would secure our building?
I thank god that I was surrounded by some amazing coworkers and friends at that point in time, individuals all capable of, for the time being, putting our heads together and doing what needed to be done
We spent the day searching, for food, for people. Exploring. But most of all salvaging our belongings at least what was left of them. My roommates and I set off for our apartment, physically not looking forward to the task at hand. We strategically climbed over trees and under downed power lines the whole way, effortlessly, anticipating the struggle that was to come with our belongings on the way home.
When we arrived the first floor has clearly flooded again overnight, though the water had gone down again. Either that or the rain had just flowed like a waterfall yet again, cascading down our stairs. Each of us tried to hang up all our wet clothing, though the rain was periodic and we were grabbing our clothes off the line and putting them back up for a few hours. It was difficult to decide what was worth salvaging, the clothes wadded up on the floor caught in the chaos or the oatmeal sitting in the cupboard or the rug I'd bought at the market. The clothes on the floor bloodied by the wounds of the people we saved and the dishes that sat soiled in our sink from the meal we share with everyone, no water or soap to clean them, those items were clearly easy to leave behind. But the photo album of my family's recent cruise trip or the scrapbook album I but together for my best friend Randi on her graduation day, though they were soaked, I couldn't leave them behind.
We all worked at a lethargic pace, periodically bringing things to the family who had survived the storm in our house who were now living in a jeepney parked outside our complex. A pair of little boy's shoes given to me as a donation for the kids in Cangumbang from a coworker, a men's jacket left behind at our house, left over rice from the "lunch" we cooked for ourselves.
The three of us sat on our couch in disbelief, munching on rice with soy sauce and chili sauce on it. All we could say was "this is our life, can you believe it," and many other variations of the same. We contemplated where our family's were at that moment, if they were trying to find us..worried sick. And sometimes we found ourselves silent, folding clothes trying to decide what to stuff in our suitcases, reflecting on the day before as our eyes scanned the room pausing over remnants of the past days disaster.
It was almost 2 pm by the time we left our apartment, quite late considering we woke up with the sun around 5 am. We waited out a rain storm before we began the journey back to our office which had now become our home for the time being. I managed to drag and carry my medium suitcase the whole way, along with a little help from my roommate during long portion of flooding.
Half my clothes were dry and clean, half were dry and smelly. Of course my dress clothes for work were not the latter, so I had one pair of shorts and a pair of jeans to make do with for those first few days. Luckily we found our stash of uniform t-shirts at work so I had something to wear most days. We hung our clothes out on the balcony when we got back to be washed in the rain, our only option at that point, and there was plenty of it on Saturday and Sunday. We were happy to see more employees filtering in to the office, and hear of others who had stopped by or been seen by others. Our list was shortening, from 80 total to 50 found.
As darkness neared we became more concerned for our limited food source. The number of people at the office was growing while our food supply had no growth in sight. We began strategizing, beginning with me making an inventory of all our food so we could begin rationing. Our plan was to use the food as if it was all we had for two weeks time. As I was putting food away the guys came in with backpacks full. Apparently it paid off being small business owners across the street from each other for years, the grocery store across the street had made a deal with my boss. I inventoried all our food, storing it carefully since there were rumors of looters out and about searching for food. I couldn't blame them. The streets were full of people, and the stores were destroyed. Many people had prepared stocks of food, but the majority had been destroyed in the storm, or at the very least washed out.
We settled in for the night, yet our minds were not all that settled. There were still no army or police officers around the city, and civilizations were getting anxious fending for themselves. That night there were five of us in one room. And probably 10 or 15 in another, 6 in the final room. Still, there were handfuls of employees and their families downstairs, perched on tables since the bottom floor was still partially flooded.
In the middle of the night we heard a man's voice yelling, I thought I heard him say "guard?" But regardless, we all jumped out of bed. I stayed in the room and locked the door with Carter, while the other guys ran downstairs. False alarm, only our employee's father shouting "Karl?: looking for his son. We all tried to settle in, but again it was not a deep sleep and I awoke frequently. It was a blessing when the sun came those first few mornings. I was happy to have the light again, yet also unsure of what the following day would have in store.