Watching and Waiting: Part 2

The continuing saga of Hurricane Matthew in Jacksonville

Friday: It was a restless night. We kept hearing the noise of the wind and rain messing with the tarp on our roof. The logs holding it down kept rolling around, thumping, and we wondered when the leaking would start. When it was light enough, Julie decided to move her vet van out to the other side of the electric gate, in case the power would go out and leave her trapped.  She thought it would be good to move my car out as well so it wouldn’t get stuck in the mud.  I never had noticed all the power lines overhead, but now that it was time to avoid them, there they were.

The barn owner came over in his golf cart and suggested better placement of our vehicles, so out we went again, looking for high ground away from trees. The weather was not particularly scary so we decided to eat a good breakfast before leaving. The cats were going to stay put in the barn apartment so we fed them too. The horses, backs to the wind, heads down, were still grazing out in the field pond.  Water, water everywhere and more coming down all the time.

We relocated to the main house around 11 and took up residence with Cliff, Monica and their kids, “hunkering down” as hurricane people call it in their solid, block house which Cliff assured us was going to be super safe in spite of being surrounded by huge trees.  For several hours we cooked, watched tv, and did all those electric things that one takes for granted, until the power went out at 3 pm.  The party spirit was not dampened in the slightest since the generator went on and powered lights and fans, tv and internet quite adequately.  Out on the dining room table a four hour (agonizing) game of Risk took place at decibel levels that I’m sure were damaging to the ears. I blogged and caught up on my Solitaire challenges.

Somewhere in its progression Matthew took an eastward jog which newscasters credited with saving most of Jacksonville. The reports showed the devastation of the beach towns which were flooded, but even there the damage could have been much worse.  Piers were washed away, people reported sharks in their front yards, trees were snapped off, all the routine hurricane stuff… Just sayin’…

It seemed like the wind was dying down where we were as well and I wanted to get out of the house and check on our things in the apartment before darkness was upon us. Julie and I set out in the golf cart during a lull, but before we got halfway to the barn the wind picked up again and, well, really impressed us, I’d have to say. It wasn’t a fearful moment, but definitely exhilarating to be aware of the power of the wind and driving rain, to have to wade through a foot of water to open the gate, and to arrive drenched in spite of rain gear.

The expected leak had begun but the buckets were catching most of it. The cats were fine. We grabbed some food to take back and braved the elements again going back to the house. More eating, waiting, watching tv until bedtime. We decided to sleep at the house where there were lights and fans and good company if we needed it. Still raining, but we were glad to hear the promise of better weather for the morning.

Saturday: From a west coast friend “it’s hard for me to understand why people choose to live where they have to prepare for possibly devastating weather. Every year.” I guess I would answer that I didn’t really choose Florida for its weather at all – I loved Wisconsin where I came from (although some people can’t understand choosing to live there either…). Sometimes the more pressing matter is where you have a job that will support your family. And I have to say that most of the year Florida weather is pretty desirable, judging by the crowd we get down here. Florida has been our home for 30 years and this is only the second time I have “hunkered down” during a hurricane. I do appreciate that we are given ample time to prepare and make decisions, even leave the path if we desire.

Today’s waiting is for the power to be restored and the water to run off. Most of us are a little stir crazy. I’ve been out to check the apartment, sweep debris and pile up fallen branches. We are still on generator power and it doesn’t run the AC so it’s getting a little damp and warm in the house, but overall, still comfortable. Although we have internet, my pictures will not upload so I will have to add them later. Check back if you wish. Thanks to everyone who cared about our welfare, and thanks to God for protection and comfort in the midst of the storm.




Watching and Waiting: Part 1

Watching and waiting for Matthew…

The worst thing about this hurricane, so far, has been making the decisions about where to go, whether to evacuate, where is the safest place if we stay? The decisions develop and change with time as there is always something new to consider. Second guessing is a constant temptation.

Tuesday:  I arrived a bit before noon and met Dr. Julia on her rounds. She had the dog with her so I had to share the passenger seat with a black lab.  We made a stop at the office and at the stable to drop off the dog. It seems that a lot of people don’t think about updating the vaccinations and Coggins on their horses until they have to consider evacuating them out of state. She has numerous emergency visits just to do health certificates.

Nearly all of Julia’s belongings are stored in a large metal storage unit. She goes down a couple times a week to look for something she needs and today she needs canned goods. We are more than a little upset to find out that a leak we reported two weeks ago is still leaking. I drive up to the office to let them know and return with their solution – a 50 gallon garbage can to collect the water.

We stop at Moe’s to buy dinner for ourselves and a friend and then return to the stable where nervous horse girls are painting phone numbers on their horse’s sides.  Our friend Doug eats burritos with us and says he’s not worried about the hurricane.  He seems to be very confident.

Wednesday night: After riding around seeing clients for most of the day, Dr. Julia started thinking about and questioning her employer as to her obligation to answer emergency calls during hurricane weather. After all, as she reasoned, she isn’t a government employee, doesn’t have fancy lights and sirens on her vehicle, might encounter impassable roads, might not be able to find fuel after the first tank, and doesn’t even have health or life insurance. She cancelled her Thursday appointments and will be talking people through their emergencies if they can reach her by phone. No one has complained. Evidently people have better things to do right now.

The husband has been texting us often, as he thinks of things we should be doing. He has suggested several places for us to evacuate to, and for some reason that I can’t fathom, is worried about us getting our laundry done.

I made a trip to the gas station to fill up the tank and find out why my tire pressure monitor was misbehaving. It was busy there. The Publix next door was doing good business too – every cash register was manned, the bottled water was gone, as was the bread.

Thursday:  We slept pretty good Wednesday night, knowing we had until sometime Friday to figure out what to do. We are in a small apartment in a stable, next to the feed room. Across the aisle from us are several stalls with horses. The barn cats are guarding the door. Inside the one room abode, Julia houses herself, her dog and two cats.  The barn is about fifty years old and has weathered one hurricane pretty well. It is open on each end which allows the wind to go through unimpeded. It has a metal roof and as far as anyone knows, there is only one leak above the apartment which is covered with a tarp weighted down with huge chunks of log. To me, the place feels pretty sturdy. There aren’t any big trees around to fall on it. I would consider riding out the storm here, even though the tarp will probably blow off and we might have some leaks. We have buckets.

Julia has joined a gym close to the barn partly for exercise, and definitely so that she can have a place to shower. That is her first mission for the day. We split up and I go to the post office for her and to Sam’s Club. I need to buy Half n Half because we can’t stand the thought of several days in storm confinement without cream for our coffee.

Another trip to the storage room, and there is good news. A repair has been made and the roof is no longer leaking in that spot. The bad news is that Julia discovers a new leak and we try to figure out how to move her bookcase to safety. We have come for hurricane supplies – a transistor radio and batteries, candles, toilet paper and vodka.

Today we spend quite a bit of time watching tv.  We check in on the hurricane but most of the time we   watch HGTV, Flip or Flop. We are both a little short on rest and can hardly stay awake.  The hurricane has not reached us yet but it has been raining almost constantly, sometimes very hard, with wind. I check on the horses who are standing, soaked in rain, grazing as if nothing is happening.   We have decided that it’s best to leave the horses loose in the pasture as a herd.  I finally go out to help feed them and have to wade through a sea of rainwater. Their feed turns into mash in the trough.

We are getting offers of shelter. The people who own the stable have invited us over.  Their house is surrounded by huge trees. In fact, the last time I visited during a storm, a big limb fell off one of their trees and trapped our vehicle in their back field. We also have an offer from a friend who has a nice new house, right on the marsh of the river. He’s in zone A for evacuation. HE SHOULD BE LEAVING so what’s with that?! Dr. Julia doesn’t want to leave her own animals, even though she knows the priorities of the situation.  The husband is still texting us that we should leave. He is reminding me of a Cat 1 storm that devastated a nearby town years ago, and this is a Cat 3 scheduled to go right over us.  We consider again and pray about it, knowing that it still seems best to stay where we are. We ask God to change our minds if he needs us to do something different. And we ask for peace for our family and ourselves.

Before we turn in for the night, we pull our vehicles into the barn and load some things in them. In the morning we’ll head over to Cliff and Monica’s to spend the day and night during the worst part of the storm.  We fall asleep watching the weather report.

How to Feed Horses

wpid-20150911_081915.jpgI often visit Dr. Julia in Jacksonville and have adventures as Vet Ma, helping with horse chores and riding truck with her as she does her rounds.  The area has had more rain this season than it has in 40 years according to the older generation. The pasture where she keeps her four horses is a sea of mud.

 !. Arrive at pasture.  Try not to get truck stuck in the mud.

2. Squeeze size 9.5 feet into daughter’s size 8 boots.

3. Wade to feed room. Fill two buckets with grain.

4. Wade to pasture.  Approach small herd of excited, rowdy horses eagerly waiting to be fed. Try not to be anxious.

5. Put halter on old lady horse so she can be fed by herself outside the pasture.  Try not to let her drag you through gate. Try to stay clean. Try not to be anxious.  Try to shut gate.

6. Don’t let old lady horse knock over pail and eat grain meant for other horses. Scoop up spilled grain. Grab her and get her to her own pail.

7. Catch other three horses who have gone through open gate while you were catching old lady horse. Try not to panic.  Try to keep them from eating grain meant for old horse.

8. Make a big deal about grain you still have left in pail. Wade out in pasture to feeding trough and hope horses follow.  Dump grain in trough, make lots of noise doing it.  Try to keep clean.  Try to remain calm.

9. Get out of way when horses stampede to feeding trough. Try to remain upright in mud.  Forget about clean.

10. Forget about feeding old lady horse by herself.  She’s eatiing. Take halter off.  Get back to gate, shut it.

11. Return pails to feed room. Remove muddy boots. Breathe sigh of relief.

Take off muddy boots
Take off muddy boots
Try not to get stuck
Try not to get stuck

Traveling Home: The Cambodia Saga

This is the last post of The Cambodia Saga

We arrived back in Phnom Penh and did a temporary camp out in Green Pastures Inn. It was only a few hours until the Hamilton’s flight but it was adequate to make another trip to the Russian Market. On the way we stopped at Alma Cafe for lunch. Alma is Mexican fare and the tortilla soup I had was spicy good.

The Russian market was cooler this day. What were people looking for? An odd assortment of aged cow bells, cassava flour, cashews, peppercorns, T-shirts, and a Go Pro selfie stick were just a few of the items. Every trip I learn a bunch of new things. This time I got educated on durian, which you’ve already heard about, and peppercorns. Both are major crops in the province we visited and I was curious to have some of the pepper. I guess I also learned about the selfie stick (which I might never want to have, yeah, probably never). We walked back to the guest house and I had fun taking pictures of Street 450 where we stayed.

And to think that I saw it on 450 Street...
And to think that I saw it on 450 Street… (notice the wiring)
and the protected construction site, complete with signage…
Behind each gate a private world exists...
Behind each gate a private world exists…
for those wealthy enough to have a  house and a car...
for those wealthy enough to have a house and a car…
Make it beautiful if you can...
Make it beautiful if you can…
but don't worry about it if you can't.
but don’t worry about it if you can’t.
throw in a cell tower once in a while...
throw in a cell tower once in a while…
Supposedly, the more privileged live as high above the street as they can get.
Supposedly, the more privileged live as high above the street as they can get.
Our walk ends here...
Our walk ends here…
On our last evening we finally get a look at this one who has been making a lot of noise.
On our last evening we finally get a look at this one who has been making a lot of noise.

After Hamiltons left we still had hours before our flight at 11:00 pm so we tuk tukked to Sorya Mall to tour a grocery store and look for the selfie stick again. Julie had curiosity about the grocery store and how it compared to stores in the U.S. The Lucky Grocery in the mall is not where the average Cambodian shops for food but it was pretty busy this time. Other years the prices have been wickedly high and there have been empty shelves, but this time it was quite well stocked, clean, and attractive. The prices were noticeably lower than other years and lower than at home.

After getting back from shopping we had time to take a quick shower and say goodbyes to a group of the dorm students who stopped by. Some of them followed us to the airport to say goodbye again. Goodbye is a pretty big ritual in these trips. Many of the kids and houseparents from PE 4 and PE 5 were there to see us off and there was much hugging and picture taking, and a fair amount of tears. It takes place outside the main entryway from the parking lot. Although this is a very dear time for us, we have often thought it might be easier for all concerned if it were shorter. It is always a late departure time and some always come by tuk tuk and moto – we worry about them. It is also exhausting and emotional. That can’t be helped. We were somewhat relieved to find out that everyone left when we entered the building instead of waiting another half hour to watch us go up the elevator to the departure level. Good move.

A literal layover in Seoul, Incheon airport.
A literal layover in Seoul, Incheon airport.
St. Johns River and Jacksonville's harbor in sight as we circled, and circled, and circled...
St. Johns River and Jacksonville’s harbor in sight as we circled, and circled, and circled…

The flight home was pretty much a backward replay of the flight over. The long section was only 13 hours instead of 14 because of a different trajectory across the Atlantic. We slept, we ate, we slept and ate again. We walked what seemed like miles to get to Customs in Atlanta. Our last flight to Jacksonville kept us in the air longer than expected due to a storm over the airport. We finally landed after doing circles over the ocean for half an hour. How good it is to be back in this country. In some ways I can understand the things people say about Americans, because there are differences in the people that give a different flavor to our country. Not all of that flavor is good, but most of it is. There is a craziness and a casual acceptance of unusual behavior that is fun to watch. Glad to be here.