By Land or By Sea

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All I can do to keep calm is to write, so this will be a long entry.

Today began as a pretty normal day since the rainy season began: incessant rain from night to morning and plenty of animal chirps to accompany the cacophony of sleep-depriving noise. Unfortunately this morning, I had no idea how serious things would get, or I’d have braved myself against the rain for a bite to eat. It was decided before that I’d be picked up for work later than usual (I usually leave at 8am), assuming the rain would stop about noon. Around noon, however, rather than a call from my co-worker, I was being woken up by a fist pounding on my door demanding to know whether I was inside. I answered, but the pounding continued. I was not dressed so I rushed to pull on a lapa and shirt and opened the door to the grounds manager, Thant, who had a concerned look on his face. “Is your room flooded?” he asked, but before I could answer he was already inside the room, checking under the bed. There was no water, but that did not seem to be satisfactory for him because the next thing he said was “you need to pack all your stuff and move to a new room.” Though I’m not a particular fan of my rather small room, I was also not expecting to move, so I went to see what all the commotion was about. To my surprise, the entire grounds are flooded. The garden, behind my window, looked normal so I had no idea how bad things had gotten. I geared up in a rain suit, packed my stuff and put on my toughest tennis shoes. Then I noticed everyone else was barefoot because the currents of the water were so strong wearing shoes would get me stuck and make it even more difficult to carry my 3 bags out of harm’s way. I removed my shoes and braced myself for the water. Everything was fine for a while and then I stepped on a spot where there was some sort of grass rather than concrete. With no idea what I was stepping in or on top of, I was frightened because some of my skin is broken from the many mosquito bites I have already endured and I do NOT want to get sick, again.

I managed to get across the way and moved into a new room. To my surprise it is a deluxe room meant for two with a huge bed and significantly more space. I now have a TV and my own balcony with three chairs! This is great, but there is also a bigger insect issue here because the mosquitos and millipedes have all tried to get to higher ground and the windows of this room were fair ground. I used my Tesco-bought bug spray to fight them off, including a particularly brave cockroach which presented itself on my porch. It was finally taken care of by a housekeeper who also told me I cannot cook anything because the kitchen is flooded. This meant I can’t eat anything because the stores are closed and I have no rain boots anyway. And to make matters worse…the rain still hasn’t stopped!

I prayed everything will return to normal soon. I wanted to order a pizza or something but the internet is out and something tells me I should know what to order before trying to call the number. After consulting with my neighbors who were too afraid to leave, but also hungry, I decided to venture into the floods figuring it would be better to do it now (3pm) than later, since natural light was the only light we had. It started off pretty bad, the small street that connects the guesthouses to the main road was especially flooded because there are two walls on either side making the water level higher than usual. I made it out relatively unscathed, though I still try not to think of all the things that may have brushed against my legs, but the next part of the journey proved even more dangerous. The water was rushing from east to west at a fast pace. I tried to step into it carefully and almost got swept away. I held onto a pole and began making my way. Fortunately I was going with the current, but unfortunately my beloved flip flops liked the current a little too much and decided to ditch my foot for the water. Prior to this I had contemplated turning around, but of course I had to chase my shoe. 🙂

After about 10 minutes of hope it went into the courtyard of someone’s house and there was too much garbage back there for me to even consider trying to hunt it down. So I continued with one shoe and finally gave the other one away by choice. No point in having one shoe. As my second shoe drifted in front of me I heard laughter coming from some people at a sports equipment shop. I turned to them to see why they were laughing…and of course, it was because of me. I ignored them and continued until I saw a shop with its doors open. A vegetarian ‘chinese’ restaurant that had meat and Thai food on the menu was the pick for today 🙂 When I first arrived, I tried to ask whether I could come in (since I had no shoes) but the woman took pity on me and said yes, and gave me a free plate of pad see eew. She also brought me tea and I ordered egg rolls. As I sat there I saw many trucks coming by full of young men wearing life jackets. I guess they were the rescue team. There were also rescue boats with distraught looking people riding around. With the help of the shopkeeper and a few others, a young man lifted his motorcycle out of the water and into the safer realm of the stairs where it wouldn’t get too wet. The water goes up to the thighs and it is still raining! As I started heading back, I struggled against the current. I met a couple who also seemed to be foreign who told me they lived even further up the road than I. Finally, like a dream, a black pick up truck pulled over and told us to get on the back. They dropped me back off at my guesthouse and though I still had to wade through the cesspool between the two walls, I came out of the ordeal with a delicious meal, something to take home, and a new broom that had been floating by before I caught it 🙂

I have food and water, so I will probably be staying in my nice new room for the next day. The rain still continues to fall, but I pray it will stop soon. Around 8:40 pm now and electricity has returned (though it’s still raining a little) so I can share my story!

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