Day 96 Ecuador- Earthquake! Bahia de Caraquez

Saturday, Apr 16, 2016

I love the weekends! No bootcamp and no Spanish classes. I can just relax.

I got up made coffee and read my book. I like this time of the morning; it’s so slow and easy. No rush, and I can drink as much coffee as I want. On bootcamp days I don’t drink any coffee until after working out. It invariably makes me have to pee, and so not only do the usual skeletal muscles get a workout, but I end up working out some urethral muscles also to stop from peeing in my shorts before the workout is over. (I know, TMI but hey this is my blog). I only had that experience once. I learned. Bottom line…drinking coffee before a work out makes for a more than normally miserable workout.

Heidi and I decided to walk through town to her friend Louisa’s place. Heidi and her girlfriends met there last night for book club and Heidi left her Hydroflask water bottle. I can’t believe how hot it is today. In the middle of town where Louisa lives, I cannot feel any breeze at all.

It’s time for lunch so Heidi and I decide to go find a new place to try their almuerzo. We walked toward the river and walked up the business side of the street across from the malecon. We passed one little local hole in the wall that had air conditioning! I didn’t realize any restaurants along here had AC. Unfortunately the place was packed, so we needed to find somewhere else to eat.

We decided to eat at a place that had open air tables facing the river. As we sat down the air was still and I was sweating like crazy. An almuerzo lunch begins with soup. Oh boy, hot soup right now sounds just great…not! Anyway, this almuerzo was soup, fish, rice and beans. The fish didn’t have much flavor at all. I don’t think I will be back to visit this restaurant again.

Fika’s, our friend Linsley’s place, was right next door so we decided to grab a coffee and some dessert. Ok, I admit I am a coffee addict. I will gladly drink hot lattes regardless of how much I am sweating.  As we walked in, Roy and Melody were just getting ready to leave. Roy was telling me how great his BLT with a fried egg on top was that Linsley made for him. I told Roy I blew it by going the almuerzo route today.

We visited with Roy and Melody for a bit while Heidi and I drank our coffee. When they left, our friend Miriam stopped in so we stayed a while longer and chatted with her. We got caught up on what she and Dave have been up to since we spoke last.

Walking home, we were going by the H Bar Cafe where Dave and Victoria, and Henry would be working. I decided Heidi and I should drop in for a beer because now I am really thirsty. We said hi to everyone and ordered our beer. I text Easton to have him come hang out with us.

I love the weekends! They are so chill. While we were at H Bar Melody called Heidi and invited us to swim at their pool at Dos Hemisferios. We said we would stop by later. We enjoyed talking with Victoria and Dave, and after the beer was gone and Easton finished his lunch, we headed home.

According to Easton, he, Linsley, Dave and Victoria, and Roy and Melody are all going to watch movies and hang out at Roy and Melody’s place after swimming. When we got back to our condo we rested a bit from our hard afternoon. Seriously, it takes energy to visit all day long!

We all walked over to Dos Hemisferios to hang out at the pool. When we got there Don and Donna were enjoying the day. They had already been swimming and looked comfortable for it being so hot. Glenys was there too and I asked her to call Norbert down to join us.

Dave and Victoria, and Linsley showed up. They got in the pool with Easton, everyone was enjoying themselves while the rest of us sat around the table and chatted. It looked like it was going to be a great sunset. I commented how I love Sunday’s. My favorite day of the week because I can just relax and chill.

Glenys pointed out that today is Saturday. What? I totally believed today is Sunday. After a moment’s thought I just said, “Every day is Sunday in Bahia!”, to which we all agreed that we live in a special place and have a nice life here. The sun was heading down and the group in the pool dried off and headed over to Melody and Roy’s .

Norbert and Glenys, Don and Donna, Heidi and I continued to chat, and as the sun made way to plunge itself into the Pacific we moved for a better view. I never get tired watching this firey-orb try and cool itself each evening. Another spectacular gift for us mere humans to watch.

 

Norbert and Glenys went up to their condo after watching the sunset. Don, Donna, Heidi, and I talked a bit longer, and now approaching 7 o’clock, we all decided to call it an evening and go home and feed ourselves. Victoria had left her water bottle on the table, so Heidi picked it up and the four of us left the pool area. Don and Donna headed to the elevator to take them back up to their penthouse, and Heidi and I walked up the tiled steps leading away from the pool area, crossed the large open terrace and entered the 3rd floor solarium toward Roy and Melody’s place to give Victoria her water bottle.

We passed through the large double glass doors into the solarium, a beautiful space with floor to ceiling glass windows bordering both sides of the room. It is a large space filled with a couple wicker chairs and a ping pong table at each end for people to relax and enjoy themselves.  The large ceramic tiles covering the floor allow for any sound to bounce through the room like a laughing toddler running this way and that from his parents.

I thought I lost my balance for a second and wondered why I would? I hadn’t been drinking. I heard an escalating vibration of sound all around me. We were trying to walk toward Roy’s door, 20 feet away, and we couldn’t make a forward motion. Suddenly I heard a huge cacophony of snare drums, a rapid, frenetic beat, then the sound and echo of a bowling ball dropped hard roaring down the lane, sound magnified and growing times 10…100…1000, a thunderous deafening sound.

The building was shaking, the ground was moving. I looked at Roy’s door and knew that was the only way out for them. Easton was on the other side and I expected him and the others to come running out any second. I grabbed Heidi and said we have got to get out of here. She broke away from me and said, “No! I’m not going without Easton!”

Boom. Boom! BOOM! BOOM!

I yelled above the roar, “We have to protect ourselves!”

At this point I felt terror…not fear, not scared…terror. I believed we were going to die. The only thing I didn’t know was exactly when and how much it might hurt. I could only think that the other 7 floors above us were part of the booming and thunderous Armageddon roar in my ears; floors pancaking downward toward us, and we would be smashed any second.

The only furniture near us was a flimsy ping pong table. I looked toward the double glass doors we entered from and saw debris falling onto the terrace area outside. I expected slabs of concrete to be coming down. Walking out there could kill us too.

The roaring sound was deafening. There was no protection from the concrete floors above us; floors that I believed were giving way. There was no good option. I grabbed Heidi and we stood pressed against a supporting pillar near the door we entered.

We stood holding each other against the pillar. Then I really don’t know what happened next except that we were on the floor. Glass was shattering around us, tile was buckling and popping, sharp ceramic shards underneath us. We crawled under the ping pong table, or maybe the ground heaved us there. Everything was moving violently . It was a 50 second quake, an eternity with this huge building swaying above us, then suddenly it all stopped.

We started yelling Easton’s name and ran to Roy and Melody’s door. It was dark and I couldn’t find the latch on the door. I was afraid the door would be jammed with debris on the other side and I wouldn’t be able to get in. No sounds were coming from the other side. I found the latch and opened the door. Still calling out Easton’s name when we opened the door, we heard, “I’m here”.

I could see Dave and Victoria coming toward me and the door. It was dark but someone had a light from their phone or something, because as they passed and I stepped further into the room, I could see glass shards reflecting everywhere on the floor.

In Roy and Melody’s apartment there was a large mirror that hung on the wall in the entry way. It was now hundreds of glass daggers on the floor. Their coffee tables, end tables, hall tables are all glass but now are nothing more than sharp skewers of glass strewn throughout the place. Most everyone in the apartment was barefoot.

Melody wasn’t able to find her shoes and couldn’t walk across the sharp floor. I carried Melody out to the open area of the solarium. Roy and Linsley followed. I went back in and Easton was looking for his shoes.

I was panicked that the building might still come down. I waited for him to get his shoes on and then we got out. Outside of Dos Hemisferios people began gathering. Last we saw Don and Donna, they were headed to the elevator and we knew they were on the way to the top floor when the quake hit. Heidi was choking back tears worrying where they were, and fearing the worst.

Standing out on the street I looked over to our building. It was still standing. Keeper was in there and I assumed she was ok at the moment. Don and Donna emerged from the building. What a relief!

They were in the elevator when the quake hit. The power went out and the elevator had stopped between the 4th and 5th floors. Don couldn’t get the doors open from the inside. Tito, the building concierge, heard them yelling for help and he went up to the 4th floor and with his key was able to open the elevator door so Don and Donna could jump down and get out.

Thinking about it, Tito was a hero for us because we didn’t have anything to pry that door open. Finding something that would work and forcing it open would have taken some time. As it was, Don and Donna emerged quickly and unharmed from the building. After the fact I learned Tito also knew Jim was in his 3rd floor condo alone and went there to help him out safely.

After Don and Donna were out, Easton and I ran over to our condo to get Keeper. One side of the security wall had collapsed. The wall with our gate entrance was intact so we tried our key to get in. The gate was tweaked too much and we couldn’t get it open, so we walked around the corner and crawled over the collapsed wall.

Climbing over the rubble we could see chunks of concrete laying all around the pool area. We made our way to the stairwell and began going up. There is rubble on all the narrow steps that circle upward. It’s dark as we make our way up. We made it to our 5th floor condo, unlocked the door, and there was Keeper…scared and confused as I reached to pick her up.

What do you grab when you don’t know if another quake could happen any second and you are on the 5th floor of a damaged building? Easton grabbed our water bottles and filled them. I picked up Keeper, and headed to the bedroom to grab shoes for me and Heidi. Easton grabbed his shoes and we were out of there. Neither of us wanted to be there any longer. Heidi was outside waiting for us, and the three of us headed back to Dos.

As we gathered outside Dos we kept asking who was here and who wasn’t. Who it was we knew were in the building and who we knew were not. Miriam and Dave were sitting outside. Norbert, Glenys, and Rylan and their two dogs were there. Melody and Roy were there, along with Don and Donna. We didn’t see Jim, who lives on the 3rd floor, so Roy went to go find him.

There were some other people outside. One group included a man, Diego, his wife and small child, and their friend. They had come down from Quito the day before for a vacation. They had been on the 8th floor.

Everyone in Bahia was headed to the top of the large hill in the center of the city. We did not know if a tsunami was imminent. Don and Donna got their truck; Norbert and Glenys grabbed their car. We all started piling in, including Diego’s family from Quito.

As we drove to the top of the hill we passed several homes that were demolished. People and cars lined the snake shaped street as we made our way up. As we got to the top people on the street started yelling at us to stop. The road was out and not passable beyond this point. We parked the vehicles along the side of the road and waited.

People who had phones began texting and trying to reach out to loved ones to let them know they were alive and ok. Reception was spotty. It came and went but we Whatsapp’d and fb messaged reaching out to mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters of many people on top of the hill.

In the age of phone contact lists and drop and drag mouse clicks, no one knows a phone number or even an email address anymore. In some instances people had to take a second to think of their loved ones contact info. I was able to Whatsapp my son Chase in Guyana the email addresses of several people that he then could send messages to let those people know their loved ones were ok.

It was a hopscotch of communication across the world…and it worked. Everyone had a part they could play, whether in the disaster zone itself, or thousands of miles away, people came together and we were helping each other.

The information we were getting on the hill was inconsistent and variable. There was a tsunami warning, and then there was not, and then there was. Through information I could get from my family in the States, it didn’t seem like we were in danger. It had been two and half hours on the hill.

We began to leave the hill and head back down to our condos to try and get supplies, risking we wouldn’t be caught in the inevitable aftershock we knew was coming. As we began to leave, we were stopped by an Ecuadorian man who told us that the news from Quito was that the Tsunami warning was still in effect.

The info I got from my family was that the expected waves were only 1-3 feet, which isn’t higher than our high tide. Still, we waited another 30 minutes before we left. It was 3 hours post quake when we went back down the hill.

We drove down to our condo buildings and everyone quickly ran back into their buildings to get some supplies to take to Don and Donna’s farm. Don went back up to the penthouse to get Monte, their dog. It was a scary climb up those steps to the top of the building for him. Roy and Melody went in their condo for a box filled with blankets and sheets to bring. We went in our condo and changed our clothes; we still had bathing suits on. I grabbed our passports and cash, Heidi threw whatever ready to eat food we had into a bag, and we hauled an extra 5 gallon water bottle out with us.

In Norbert’s small car was Norbert, Glenys, Melody, Roy, Jim, Rylan, and their two dogs. Rylan had to fit in the hatchback part laying on top of the supplies they loaded. He looked like one of those Garfield cats stuck to the glass with suction cups. In Don’s truck was Don and Donna, Miriam and Dave, Heidi, Easton, me, Diego, his wife, daughter, and their friend. We were sitting in the bed of the truck on and around what we grabbed to take with us to the farm. It was one packed convoy.

Driving out of Bahia looked like a war zone. The power was out so the headlights of the vehicles just reflected off the piles of rubble and the downed power lines in the streets. There wasn’t anyone in the streets. It was oddly, eerily quiet. Most people were still on high ground fearing a tsunami.

It was raining pretty hard now and we were getting soaked in the bed of the pick up. The farm is a 20 minute drive from Bahia. When we arrived we were greeted at the gate by Walter, the man who lives and works on the farm. We all piled in on the front porch and tried to figure out how we would bed down for the night.

In Don and Donna’s cab slept Diego, his wife and daughter, and their friend. In Norbert and Glenys’ car was Norbert, Glenys, Rylan and their dogs. In Walters bedroom was Miriam and Dave. On the porch was me, Heidi, Easton, Jim, Don and Donna, and Roy and Melody. We all found a spot on or near the porch to lay down.

The rain continued to fall as we ourselves tried to fall asleep.

Chau.

14 Comments

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