Now comes the hard part. The next months will be difficult. They will be difficult because the shops are empty and savings have been used up and we are tired. Jobs are scarce, few tourists are expected. Most people are still living under leaky tarps and there will be no mangoes, bananas, or citrus this season. Also the building materials, and the builders needed to withstand another force 7 hurricane, are way too expensive or simply not available.
For the weeks following Maria there was so much to do. We were overwhelmed. Just drying out was a big deal. Although the days were warm and sunny, every last thing was wet and getting moldy. Whatever Maria left for us was sodden, grimy, muddy, tattered and ugly. But that is what we had and it became treasured. Keeping clean was a challenge. I was constantly amazed at how well turned out, pretty and well presented the women were. How did they do it? I was always frumpy and dishevelled! Then there was the frantic scramble to communicate with family and friends, around the Island, in the other Islands, in the UK, USA, Europe and Canada. We managed that as best we could. Messages were sent with people leaving the Island.
|I have no home, but I am here|
15% of the population left quickly. Ross University evacuated 2000 people within 3 days. Hundreds of children have been sent to Antigua and Barbados to go to school .The Sister Islands were quick to respond. We had drinking water right away. Relief food packages began to arrive soon (distribution was so badly organized it was almost not worth the effort, here in the North). The international aide people were here, mostly medical personnel, I think. The Jamaican army and the Antiguan police were here as looting and malicious vandalism were rampant. Keep in mind that the local police also lost everything in the hurricane and were in no shape to do their jobs as they would have liked. They too had families, homes, aged parents to look after.
The memories I have of those days are of lines of drying clothes everywhere, helicopter noise over head, the Bar over loaded with drunken men, hard physical unending work, no music, what's for supper, worrying about those with no roof, staying safe and long lines everywhere. And it was ugly. My life became very small and preoccupied with work, cleaning and standing in line. However, not once did I lose heart because I knew Anthony was on it, organizing, trying to make contact, doing what needed doing, and I knew my friends were behind him, and out there behind me too.
Portsmouth found itself quite quickly. Clean up started right away. We had running water (not potable) and central Portsmouth had electricity by mid October. By early December we had internet! Portsmouth is busy and a happening place. It is not what it used to be, but it is in amazingly good shape all things considered. The small 'mom and pop' shops were (are) the sustaining force.
I rarely go into the old house that was once our pride and joy. The art gallery and gift shop were devastated, the house is gloomy, damp, dilapidated, smelly, leaking and now serves as storage for cases of empty beer bottles. It's just way too distressing. The patio has been cleared and I have managed a small garden. Spring and Doug sent some seeds and the tomatoes are growing in an old chest freezer! I see baby animals all around; the post-hurricane generation - baby iguanas, chicks, lizards of all varieties. The parrots, hummingbirds, banana quit (sikiye), bullfinch, and the ubiquitous brown pelican and the magnificent frigate birds are fishing. I saw a flock of egrets the other day. I haven't seen any moorhens. They tell me that the corals suffered but not as bad as it could have been. The ocean is still dirty, but certainly clearing up. I am continually surprised at what was left standing, what small thing was spared and what succumbed and was lost. The bouganvillaea, oleander and hibiscus are blooming! I can't find any poinsettia, but I am sure they are there. Among other things, we lost our sour sop tree, but the sour orange, right beside it, stood the battering, and even hung on to some fruit. Amazing.
Dominicans like to use the word 'resilient' to describe themselves. Absolutely no question: they are that in spades. But there is another dimension to this resilience and it is a bred- in -the -bone, quiet determination to survive. Dominicans will not succumb to hardship, devastation or evil forces.
By Christmas it will be 3 full months. Those who went through Hurricane David in 1979 say that Maria was worse, but recovery is faster.