Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Adventures in Rain

I awoke this morning at 4 am to an enormous clap of thunder. I seriously thought we were having an earthquake and just about jumped out of my skin. (People who are not native to California don't realize how loud earthquakes actually are).

Then the downpour started. But downpours are common, though not really at this time of year. So after the adrenalin let off, I went back to sleep. The power had also gone off, so I slept in later than usual, knowing that I wouldn't be able to do anything in the dark.

By the time we all got up around 6:15, it had been pouring for hours. Pouring like a spilled bucket. Hard, hard rain. Our yard was already more full of rain than we had ever seen it. We also heard a pounding sound in the distance but ignored it.

At about 6:30, I hear a knocking at our gate. I run out in the rain, and it's our neighbor-to-the-left. He says, "I just want you to know, the neighbors in back of you are pounding a hole in your wall. Their yard is flooded and they are trying to get the water out. They wanted to put a hole in our wall but we wouldn't let them."

Hence the pounding we were hearing. (Note: Yards in Africa are surrounded by concrete walls).

So I start running to the back of our yard, screaming for Gil the entire time. The neighbors in back of us had already succeeded in pounding one hole in the wall connecting our yard with theirs, and were in the midst of pounding another one. Water was pouring into our yard.

"No!" I started screaming. "Stop! You'll flood our yard too!"

By this time, Gil had joined me in the yelling. He grabbed our ladder and tried to get up on it, but the mud was so thick that it kept sinking in. Finally he managed to get high enough to see over the wall. He yelled and screamed but they wouldn't stop. By the time they were done, they had put three holes in our wall and our yard was filling up fast.

"They are waist deep in water, Amy," he told me. "They are desperate."

By this point we had seen the road outside our house, which was a rushing river instead of a road. And the outside wall of the neighbors-to-the-right of us had completely collapsed. A tree had fallen into the road as well. It looked like a war zone. I ran back inside and called our principal, telling him Gil was not going to make it to school this morning.

So then we started a frenzied attempt to get the water out of our yard. We knew that if we didn't, our wall would collapse as well. Or the water would come into the house. Neither of which were very good options.

So Gil started hacking holes in our concrete wall that faces the road. The water started draining out but pooling on the other side of the wall. So then he dug a series of ditches to get the water to drain off the property.

All of this was done in the pouring rain. Thankfully, this is Africa and it wasn't cold. While all this was happening, I was trying to appease my hungry and frightened children in a very dark house. I gave Grace a box of cornflakes and she and Josiah finished it off (by eating and by playing with them) by the time we were all back inside.

At one point I decided to try to go over to our neighbors-to-the-right (who had the collapsed wall) and see if I could help out. I only succeeded in gashing up my foot rather badly and then hobbled home. Eventually the neighbors-to-the-back, who had made the holes in our wall and drained their yard into ours came over and apologized profusely. We forgave them but I'm not sure what our landlord will do!

So now it is noon. Gil finally left for school (I'm assuming he made it unless the car is stuck in the mud somewhere), the power finally came back on, my blood is cleaned up from all over the floor, my foot is all wrapped up, and the kids are napping. The rain has stopped and the frogs are all singing happy songs. Sigh. I am exhausted! But besides a few holes in our wall, we are no worse for wear. I know I have nothing to complain about, knowing that many houses in this city were flooded this morning, or worse.

For now, I am off to make cookies for the neighbors.

Update on Wednesday evening:

I did bring cookies to the neighbors, and in doing so realized that we really should be very grateful for how our house was spared. It seems as if there was a sort of flash flood that came through our neighborhood early this morning. Many of the houses near us lost walls and had their houses flooded. Our neighbors-to-the-right not only lost their front wall, but their back wall as well. The lady described it as a "tidal wave" that came through their yard from the back, knocking over the back wall, all the way through their house and then knocking over the front wall. The house on the right side of them had the same damage done. Yet our house emerged unscathed. Thank you, Lord, for your undeserved grace!

The following pictures were taken a couple hours after it stopped raining. So they don't really do justice to what it actually looked like at the worst.


The neighbors-at-the-back, the ones who put the holes in our wall.

The view from a hole.

One of the holes in our yard.


Part of our yard


Right outside our gate, looking towards the neighbors-to-the-right


Neighbors-to-the-right


The drainage ditch in front of our house that probably saved us from further destruction. Imagine this ditch filled to the brim, and the road looking like a river.


The road to the right


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