Hurricane Matthew Consolidation:
I have not written a blog in a while, for that I apologize. Last Saturday we were consolidated to Kingston due to Hurricane Matthew being upgraded from a tropical storm to a category 2 hurricane. Peace Corps has a specific set of safety and security actions that happen. We are first put on Stand-fast, this means that we are not to travel from our host communities and we should be prepared to leave at a moments notice. In a stand-fast we are required to have a “go bag” packed and ready to grab on the way out the door. This should contain a list of our personal belongings at site to be shipped home and instructions on what to do with the rest of our stuff. We should have several sets of clothes in there for a few days and our passports, money and important documents. We “should” also have some emergency food rations and items to give us comfort, because after a while, a large group of people cooped up can start to get on each others nerves.
Since I had a site change two weeks ago my new consolidation point is not far from my new site. Instead of going to Kingston, I am now to go to a hotel on the North Coast to wait out a consolidation. HOWEVER, we were instructed to all go to one hotel in Kingston when Matthew upgraded to a Category 3 hurricane and it was looking like a direct hit was inevitable. They also asked us to secure our homes and ensure stuff was packed to ship home. I am in the middle of moving in, as I was moved from the first flat I was put into, to a new dorm on Friday last week. To my benefit I still had boxes and just needed to organize them. So I did! My bags are packed and I have come to terms with the things that I will let go of when I move back to the states. I have soooo much stuff!
A brief look back at evacuation:
I must pause here to release my frustrations and my worst fears. Having been through an actual evacuation my heart was breaking. I called Richard and let him know, and being Richard he said absolutely are you not coming home. We only have 8 months to go and if you come home now your 2 years starts over again. I really love this man. He knows exactly how to reach into my fears and make them look like little mole hills. This calms me down, but it does not create this wall around my emotions to keep myself together, that is my job, not his. I struggled with this the entire time.
Always the “boy scout”:
In all PC meetings and points where we have come together to spend time in a hotel, I have always brought a ton of food! I hate food waste more than anything. I tend to realize I cannot eat it all up, so I set myself up to bring it to share with others. They kind of joke about it, but when they are hungry and want something to eat they are not shy to ask for something. So when we consolidated they all looked at me and asked what I had brought, because they had no doubts. I brought a few canned items, tons of tomatoes and onions and cucumbers. I also made up a dip from what was left of my plain yogurt and sour cream. I brought some carrots and bought a few more along with splurging on broccoli and cauliflower. (These items were the things I miss from America the most, and I was happy to share them.) Other things that I brought aside from clothes and my laptop, iPad, and Kindle were two french presses, one for coffee and one for tea, which I also brought plenty of. I brought a cutting board and a knife, and everyone laughed at that until they realized that it was a pretty darn good thing to have! I brought few of my coloring books and markers/pencils. In the end I was prepared to keep myself as grounded as possible.
Overstimulation leads to self-isolation:
Over the course of the next few days we were not allowed off the hotel grounds. As with most group events a lot of drinking happens, because we all cope in our own ways. I eventually soured on the atmosphere of the group as my coping mechanism is much different. I spent a lot of time huddled into my room. I colored, I watched TV and I read. I talked in small groups but the overall large group stuff wears me down mentally and emotionally in a crisis situation. Again this is my own coping mechanisms, but I found my tribe! I was not the only one that was too over-stimulated and just wanted to find solace and quiet. Our room became a kind of sanctuary and a place where people sought out to find quiet and peace instead of noise and chaos.
People forever impact our lives:
Normally I embrace chaos and noise, but due to the somber situation I could not manage it. Being an evacuee brings a ton of emotional baggage with it. I began to have feelings of panic and fear as I knew that I would be safe but the people I have grown to love might not be. In fact Richard texted me concerned about a community member he met when he was here. “I am worried about poor D****! His little board house cannot withstand a hurricane, is he going to be ok?” I was so touched by his concern that I passed the message along to my previous supervisor. I was sent back a voice message from this man assuring me he was fine and appreciated our concern but he was seeking a safe shelter.
Recognizing my weakness and faults:
Emergency situations bring out the best and worst in all of us. You begin to see some of your own faults and strengths. I learned that I need to address the people who I am upset with directly. I did not realize that by avoiding the conflict it just allows the wound to fester. In other situations I am too direct, but for some reason I am not direct enough with other people that I have spent enough time building relationships with. I need to find a happy medium on how to keep myself grounded but addressing the issue as to get it out in the open and not let it build up. I might also be harsh to judge people’s actions or words, instead of trying to understand, I jump to the defensive and then I shut down. I need to work on this.
Understanding my place in the World:
As the consolidation continued we watched Hurricane Matthew get up to a Category 5 for a short while but remain as a Category 4 for the duration. Then when it was finally going to hit our little island it moved northeast and missed us and hit the eastern part of Cuba and Haiti got a direct blow. My heart goes out to these countries as I know the devastation of a Category 4 Hurricane will be immense. I am grateful we were spared, and as irritable as we all are at this point I know that PC made the correct call in keeping our safety a priority, it just feels so much like “American privilege” right up in your face. This is why I joined Peace Corps, to get away from my “American or White Privilege” but it is part of who I am, I cannot ever really escape it. I think this makes me saddest of all, equity is just a myth and no matter how hard I try life will never be equitable for everyone.