It rained yesterday and it was raining this morning when I work up. It doesn’t typically rain in the mornings here, usually in the afternoons and evenings. I rolled out of bed and got ready to go to school as usual. But when I arrived at school I was surprised to see that there weren’t very many students. My first hour class had 12 students and my second hour class only 10. My third hour had 18 students, the fourth hour teacher didn’t show up so there was no class, and my final hour class had 2 students who both left before it was time for me to teach. Several teachers didn’t show up at all. When I asked why, the teachers and students told me it was because it was raining. I was a little confused at first. It rains all the time here during the rainy season. I didn’t understand why the rain this morning would hinder the kids from coming to school.
Then I went to my second hour class. I sat down and the teacher, Milagro, and social worker, Marta, started telling me all about rain and Berlín. It turns out that Berlín is one of the cities in El Salvador most at risk for landslides (I remember reading that before somewhere). The area has been hit with landslides and flooding several times in the past. They talked about 1998 when Hurricane Mitch hit Central America. A majority of the damage to Berlín came on October 31, which is Berlín’s birthday. They told me people were also beginning to prepare to celebrate the Day of the Dead that day.
On that day a ton of rain fell and water suddenly came rushing down from the hill southwest of the city. The river of water brought with it lots of debris, including large boulders, one of which still stands in Berlín on the road to Alegría. Milagro and Marta told me that the high school was completely flooded. All of the documents at the high school, including documents from when they were both in school, were destroyed. “Gracias a Dios” (Thank God) Milagro said, that it was a Saturday and there were no classes, no students.
Later at home I read that there was $400 million worth of damage to El Salvador and 240 people were killed due to the hurricane. “While drifting through El Salvador, the hurricane dropped immense amounts of precipitation, resulting in flash flooding and mudslides through the country. Multiple rivers, including the Río Grande de San Miguel and the Lempa River overflowed, contributing to overall damage. The flooding damaged more than 10,000 houses, leaving around 84,000 homeless and forcing 500,000 to evacuate. Crop damage was severe, with serious flooding occurring on 386 square miles of pasture or crop land. The flooding destroyed 37% of the bean production, 19% of the corn production, and 20% losses in sugar canes. There were heavy losses in livestock as well, including the deaths of 10,000 cattle. Total agricultural and livestock damaged amounted to $154 million.” (Wikipedia).
We also talked about a landslide in May of 2007 that affected Berlín. It was the middle of the night when thunderstorms and heavy rains caused flooding and landslides which resulted in the deaths of 5 people and the destruction of the community, Brisas del Sol, which is a part of Berlín. People in the community took shelter at the Catholic Church. The community has since been rebuilt in a different area.
I left school feeling sad and wondering what might await people across the country. Starting this morning we are supposedly going to have rain for 48 hours. Maybe more. Parts of the country are on yellow alert and others on orange alert because of the rain. Cecilia told me that if the rain continued there would be no classes tomorrow. Then the rest my day continued as usual. We had a meeting this afternoon which lasted three hours. In the middle of the meeting the power went off which is nothing new. However, the lights hadn’t come back on after a couple hours. With all the rain and no power I was starting to get antsy. I decided to go get french fries at one of the local street vendors for everyone. It was pouring, but I was hungry and french fries sounded really good. It was a tasty pre-dinner snack.
Soon it got dark out, around 5:30pm. With lots of rain, no power, and complete darkness there’s not much to do. Thankfully the stove here, like many in El Salvador, runs off gas. So we were able to cook ourselves dinner later and heat up water for tea and coffee. I decided it was the perfect opportunity to open the bottle of wine that’s been sitting in the kitchen for several months. We sat around the table talking by candlelight until 8pm. Then it was an early bedtime for all.
Listening to the radio
Wine and candles
Showing off a spiffy flashlight ring
Mmmm, tortillas con queso
Around the table talking