Thursday, Apr 21, 2016

I cannot believe it has been five days since the Quake. Every day has been filled with mental, emotional, and physical activity…hard activity.

Remember my boot camp work outs? I am happy to say I have not slacked since our group hasn’t been meeting. I have run up and down more broken-up stairwells, packed and sacked more bags of food, lifted more sacks of bottled water than I care to count right now. And it felt great too!!

I was talking with Easton and saying how blessed I feel that we are unhurt and healthy so we can help. As we have been driving through town so many people are camped along the sides of the road. Easton and I are always sitting in the bed of the truck so we get an up-close view of what is going on. They are asking for water

Many people have asked for water as we have driven by, so today we bought flats of individual water bottles to pass out as we make our way into town. We are headed to the Aid Center that the military and local government has set up at a one story, multipurpose type building in the center of Bahia. It has a large parking lot for trucks to bring aid in from Quito, Cuenca, and Guayaquil.

As we pull up to the facility there are a number of people from town standing in line hoping to receive something.

People lined up outside aid center

People lined up outside aid center

I hopped out of the back of the truck with some bottles of water and ran them one block to the home of a woman we had passed the day before who was asking for water as we drove by. We didn’t have any to give her then.

When I came back I found my wife sitting on the corner with several people standing around her. She had seen Tjaard and Gabriella, our Spanish teachers, for the first time since the quake. In her excitement to get Easton’s attention she didn’t see a large chunk of concrete that had fallen from a building and she tripped over it. Face plant.

I grabbed the first aid kit and cleaned her bleeding face, shoulder, and knee as best I could. Covered the worst parts with gauze and bandaids, and then we headed into the aid center. 20160421_104026 (2)My wife is a very strong woman and despite being in considerable pain, she continued to help the entire time.

When the supply trucks arrive they are unloaded, and the contents of the bags and boxes they brought are sorted by other volunteers.20160421_09320220160421_093458 20160421_094018Flour, rice, beans, tuna, salt, oil, crackers, cookies, juice, milk, diapers, bleach, toothpaste, toilet paper, paper plates, plastic cups and utensils are all separated into their own individual boxes. A large black plastic bag is then passed from person to person, each one putting an item from the box in front of them into the bag.


Donna cutting plastic off cases of water bottles


Heidi and Don loading water jugs into sacks


Heidi and Easton loading bagging cleaning products

This becomes the aid bag that will be delivered to a person, waiting with many others, at various places in and outside of town. As the bags are filled, they are tied closed, and handed from one person to another making its way out of the sorting area and into a delivery truck.

For a large part of the day I was one of two guys who were tying these bags as they got placed in front of me after being filled. Remember Lucy and Ethel wrapping chocolates as they passed in front of them on the conveyor belt? Remember how the chocolates started passing by them faster and faster, requiring them to wrap quicker and quicker? Well this is what it was like where I was.

The bags started to come faster and faster. I needed to tie them closed quicker and quicker. The problem was, it was so incredibly hot and humid in this room I was dripping sweat like a wide open faucet. My shirt was soaked, my shorts were soaked, and I was making the plastic bags wet as sweat dripped from me as I hovered over the bag. This made my hands slip and be unable to grip the bag adequately to tie it shut. Honestly I understood why Lucy started putting those chocolates in her shirt to look like she was keeping up.

I of course couldn’t stuff a 40 pound sack in my shirt, so I had to just deal with it. Deal with the guys waiting downline for the sack saying “Rapido! Rapido!” to me. It was actually comical. Five guys standing around me saying “Rapido!” instead of helping tie the bags closed. The other guy tying the bags, by the way, took off.

In this process I did meet one of the Ecuadorian Marines, Alejandro. He was a hard worker carrying bag after bag out the door. He was also in charge of what was going on today. I think he appreciated my hard work because he gave me his email address and his facebook info. I in turn asked for a picture with him.

Me and Alejandro

Me and Alejandro

I’ve mentioned this before, and I will say it again. Ecuadorians don’t seem to smile in pictures…and especially if you are a marine. I was happy to meet Alejandro and I plan on staying in contact with him. He has a huge job ahead of him in Bahia.

While I was trying to keep up with the “chocolates”, Heidi, Easton, Don, Donna, and Jim had their own projects going on in the room. As well as filling bags, Heidi and Donna worked on organizing some of the areas too. The water area and the cleaning supplies area are two places they exerted their organizational skills and helped the volunteers get ready for the next wave of bag filling and water hauling into the aid trucks.

At one point in the day, all the trucks with supplies had come in, all the trucks packed with aid had gone out, and we were exhausted from our efforts. It was time to go grab something to eat and catch our breath.

After we rested a bit, Heidi, Easton, and I went to Torresol and removed more of our remaining items. A feeling of sadness passed through me as I gathered my things. I came to like our little condo. We had made it a home and it felt comfortable.20160424_103747

This is an ending. Not of the whole book, but of this chapter…living here, enjoying the view of sunsets from our balcony, the view of sleepy Bahia each morning, and our little kitchen where my wife became a cook. I know that endings are just one turned page from a beginning, and that’s what I am holding onto now.

As we pulled away with most of our things Heidi realized we will have to go back once more because the peace-heart her sister Chris gave her hanging on the light over the kitchen table was still there. I realized that will be our opportunity to remove everything of ours from the condo and truly be out.

After shocks are still occurring and being felt in Bahia. At the farm we haven’t felt them. The numbers of dead being found in the collapse of cities along the coast continues to rise. A friend of ours in Quito contacted me and told me his friend with the US Embassy is on his way to Bahia with medical aid, and food supplies. They were looking for a base camp that would be safe for them and their supplies, and wanted to know if they could use the farm. Don and Donna agreed without hesitation.

The US Embassy convoy was supposed to arrive at the farm tonight, but as they passed through Canoa they saw so much devastation in this little surfing village, and realized how much help was needed, that they decided to camp there. The last count I heard was 170 dead and still recovering bodies. All the aid workers, volunteers, and medical staff in Canoa are very busy just trying to stabilize the community.

It has been a long day for all of us. We returned to the farm exhausted and happy that we could help.