Sunday, Apr 24, 2016

Damage to house across from Torresol

Damage to house across from Torresol

We went into Bahia today to secure Torresol, remove the tv/dvd, clean the refrigerator, etc. As we were doing this the house across the street was being torn down. It suffered considerable damage during the quake and was not safe left standing. There was a grandmother at this house who would sit each morning on a sofa on her second floor balcony reading the newspaper. We would sit each morning on our balcony and drink our coffee. I guess in some ways she was part of our daily routine. Now, her house is gone, and thankfully she isn’t.

While Don, Donna, Easton, and I were doing the final stuff in our condo, Heidi stayed on the street with the truck filled with the things we brought out. A motorcycle with 3 men on it drove by very slowly looking at what was in the truck and looking at Heidi. They drove by her and went around the corner.

The three men then appeared back in her sight on foot. One man stood on the corner behind her, another on the corner to her front and side, and the third man walked past her. Then he turned back toward her from behind, trying to get Heidi’s attention and have her turn with her back to the truck.

Luckily our concierge and friend, David, was at the park still keeping an eye on the building. Heidi started pointing to David and calling his name as she looked at the man approaching her. This caught David’s attention and he quickly walked over toward Heidi. As he did this, the two men on the corners began walking away.

Heidi with the truck. David seen on right, Jim on left

Heidi with the truck. David seen on right, Jim on left

David began yelling at the guy approaching Heidi. The guy quickly walked away too, and then David patted Heidi on the shoulder to let her know everything was ok. Were they planning on stealing our things in broad daylight, with people around? We don’t know but they were definitely up to no good…and I believe this behavior may become the norm instead of the exception in the days to come.

When we finished securing the items in Torresol, I handed Don my keys and said my final goodbye to our little place by the ocean. Easton headed to Henry’s, and Heidi and I walked to the mall to use the internet. Jim had been dropped off at the mall before we arrived, so now we were sitting with him as we tried to get onto the internet. We tried to connect for 90 minutes, with no success.

It appears they do not have the internet available on Sunday. Really? This is still a disaster area and Sunday doesn’t change that. It’s time for us to begin making our arrangements to get to Cuenca, and at least for now it will have to wait.

When we finally realized there was not going to be internet today, I tried calling Easton. Cell phones are still unable to complete a call and I couldn’t reach him. So Heidi stayed with Jim while I walked to Henry’s to find Easton.

As I’m walking down the riverfront toward H bar it hits me how non-working communication technology is a real impediment to efficient and coordinated actions following a disaster. Now why did I sell my long-range walkie talkies before moving to Ecuador? Oh yeah, I had them for 15 years and never needed them.

When I got to Henry’s I found out Easton had left H Bar to help David with a motor he was trying to fix. My friend Maik however was here having a cold draft beer so I sat down and had one with him. He and I began talking and I told him about needing to find a driver to take us to Cuenca.

Life is interesting in its serendipities. Maik has a good friend in Cuenca who absolutely would be able to come and get us. I just need to say when and Maik will arrange it for us. So today is Sunday, and I now know we will leave Bahia de Caraquez for Cuenca on Wednesday. Amazing how things work out just that fast.

As I was finishing my beer with Maik, Henry said he was headed to his 4th floor condo to move things out. This will be the first time Henry will be in his place since the earthquake hit. I thanked Maik for his help, said goodbye and headed with Henry and some other men to help move him.

Henry looked a bit stunned at first looking around his place and trying to figure out where to start. This is probably the fourth condo I have been in helping someone move their things out. Since I had been moving things out of condos for days, I felt like a professional. I had a good idea of what things to start grabbing.

Loading up Henry’s things

All cell phones, chargers, and extension cords are a must. All his TVs and electronics needed to go so they aren’t left for looters. I walked up and down those flights of stairs multiple times bringing sacks and bags filled with Henry’s and his family’s belongings to the truck waiting on the street. We moved his furniture out over his balcony, using a rope with two men hanging onto it, and lowering the items to the street below.

I really like Henry. He is a big muscled man in stature who carries inside him a big heart for the people of Bahia. He shared with me how important it is to him to help our Bahia community get working again. He wants his business to stay open to keep the people working at H Bar, have them getting paid, and not remain dependent on the government assistance pouring in right now.

He has to weigh this need with the needs of his wife and daughter who are currently in Quito. The aftershocks are still occurring, and his family is safest in Quito right now. Of course they miss him and want Henry with them. Right now this is what he has to balance…the needs of his family vs the needs of the community.

I liked our conversation because it shed light on a couple universal tensions in a crisis. How much do you take care of yourself vs how much do you help others? How long do you continue to help others? In what ways does helping become enabling, or does it? How much and for how long do you sacrifice your own life’s routines and relationships for the needs of the community? Obviously, these are questions I am asking myself.

I believe the answers vary by individual and circumstance. It strikes me that no one can judge what someone else is or is not doing in these extreme disaster situations. From what I have witnessed so far, external resources like access to food, water, shelter, and safety vary a lot between individuals. Compound that with differences in the internal resources people possess such as survival knowledge, emotional ability to deal with uncertainty, and the confidence to manage oneself in the midst of chaos and confusion, and you can quickly see how all of this that creates one’s behavioral response in a disaster.

Demolition of pieces of Bahia de Caraquez

Demolition of areas of Bahia de Caraquez

Bahia de Caraquez post quake 4-24-2016

Bahia de Caraquez post quake 4-24-2016

As I look around it is obvious this earthquake has created a heavy burden to deal with no matter who you are.

After helping Henry, I met up with Easton and we went back to the mall. Heidi and Jim were waiting for us and the four of us grabbed a cab and headed for the farm.