Monday, September 22, 2008

Who's your neighbor?

Yesterday was Ike plus 14. I have been on island for eleven days. It has taken nine days of continuous work, sun up to sun down, to get the three buildings I am directly responsible for aired out and dry. On Sunday I had a day of rest, so I spent the day helping other people with their houses. I helped my neighbor get his roof tarped, and then I opened the Harrison's house and bleached out mold that had begun to creep up their walls.

Matthew has has come to Grand Turk to take care of his parents house which is next to our house here. They were here in the late 1990s for four years when his dad worked building roads and the electrical generators. Matthew was 16. His parents worked in several places in the Caribbean. He was born in the Caymen Islands. He went to a boarding school in England but spent his holidays in Grand Turk. He learned to dive here. Of all the places they had lived, they bought a home in Grand Turk so that they could eventually come back.

After dark Matthew came over for dinner. I was able to get fresh snapper yesterday and we had pan fried snapper with home made potato chips. We sat out on the porch (which is now cleaned off) and talked about life until midnight.

It is very windy today. We are beginning to feel the effects of a tropical depression that is coming across Puerto Rico. This is making me nervous as I an unsure whether I should be thinking about moving out the last of the stuff from the back bedrooms (which I think will loose their tarps in a large storm). The wind made it very hard to get a tarp on, but it made it very easy to sleep.

Photo Essay

My neighbors at Corktree Beach

Joseph, Lina, and Lina's siter helping me clean out

Pounder, the amazing survivor. He is one of two dogs, out of the seven that were at Corktree, to survive Hannah and Ike.

Music night at the Museum

Steak night at Allesio's

Be Content, But Make a Difference

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or living in want.” Philippians 4:12

I want to be a difference maker. At the end of my life I want people to say that my life made a difference. I fall so short on so many occasions. But I want to strive to be better.

Yesterday, I spent half of my day with my new friend Robert. He is really a friend of the museum. But he is also a difference maker to me. On the fourth day of his honeymoon, Robert and his wife left where they were and came to the TCI to help clean up one of the smaller cays where his family has had a home for many years. He brought the museum down a generator when he came and sent me several boxes of powdered Gatorade and some lights to pass out to people. Yesterday, he flew over for three hours to see Grand Turk and to bring me some relief. “What do you need?”

What do you need? This is a question that I always ask Joseph whenever I return to the states. The first time I asked the girls on my staff this question the answers were an Ipod, a laptop, and movies. These were the only things they will ever get from me. Joseph tells me what he needs. And I have never heard Joseph complain about anything, ever.

What we need is relative. It is relative to what we have become conditioned to expect. When I say we have lost all our clothes, what I mean is that I have had to do 40 loads of laundry to save 80% of our clothes. When Joseph says he lost all of his clothes he is holding two pair of pants that he saved and three of Martin's t-shirts that I gave him. Grand Turk is in a state where it is too hard for my family to be here, but our neighbors Rhoda and Rupert are living in the exact same condition with their 5 kids including a one-year-old baby.

“What do you need?” I need drinking water, cash, and something to lift peoples spirits. Robert brought me an emergency water filter pump. He brought more batteries. He brought parts to fix a broken generator. He brought 12 fresh steaks. He brought me a great deli sandwich and a cup of coffee. He also left me all the cash he had. To some this would be little. To some this would a lot. Yesterday it made a difference.

I have been operating on the trickle down theory of relief. What I get, I try and spread as far as I can. Robert and I tracked down Kenlove and gave him some money to make sure he and his young sisters were ready when school starts next week. We took the steaks over to Allesio and Jackie's house. They are planning a grill party for tonight. We filtered nine gallons of drinking water out of my catchment. Joseph took two gallons, he has had a problem getting water as well. I think he also provides for his cousin. When I share what I have with Joseph, I think he also shares his share with her.

Last night we opened the museum wet lab for a musician's jam. We have one of the few buildings not really affected by the storm. It was not advertised, but as word of mouth got around about 30 people showed up to listen and drink rum. This was the first time some people have played since Hannah more than three weeks ago. We played from 8:00 until 1:00am. It was a good night for everyone. A night surrounded by people where I felt very alone.

I hope that in the end it makes a difference that I am here. I miss my family. They are what I need. But, I am content in this situation.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

I Have Returned

It has been five days since Ike hit Grand Turk. The eye wall came across the islands as a category 5 hurricane with sustained winds of 160 miles an hour and tornadoes in the eye clocked at 265 miles an hour. I left on the first flight I could get out of Columbus on Thursday morning. I arrived in Grand Turk at 6:30PM with just enough light to stop by the museum then the house. The house is a disaster. I ate dinner with Allesio and Jackie and slept on their couch.

Day 1

I was up today at 5:30. I am sick this morning. I had to leave Allesio's so I could throw up outside. I am sweating so bad. I think the stress of yesterday has caught up to me today.

I went to the house and then to the museum to assess priorities. I found Joseph working at the museum. He has already cleaned up most of the areas around the museum properties. We walked through the Guinep House. It sustained no water infiltration. The science building and offices has standing water on the floor of the wood shop and smells like water soaked the carpets.

Joseph and I spent the rest of the day beginning cleanup at the house and getting the blue tarps that I brought down on the roof. 80% of our roof blew off, all of the ceilings fell. Everything in the house is soaked with water. We are working in triage mode, pulling things out that have a chance to be saved. Martin's room took the brunt of the storm. This is unfortunate because this is also where all of our music gear was. We took clothes and bedding and placed them in large plastic storage containers filled with bleach water. From 3:00 to 6:30 we quickly tarped the house.

I am overheated to almost passing out. I have a bad sunburn. It was so hot today. All of the shade is gone. I am so tired. There is not enough time to cry.

I had dinner with Allesio and Jackie again tonight. A wonderful spaghetti dinner by candlelight. This would have been an amazingly cool meal if circumstances were different. I spent the night on the couch on the porch.

Day 2

There are concerns on Grand Turk that tropical storm Kyle might come this way. I was up at 5:30 today. I have camping gear at the house and can make coffee. This is good.

Yesterday, I chased people away who were coming into Corktree taking our old roofing materials. Today, I spent the morning collecting metal roofing sheets from the bush and I dragged them to the house. By noon I was able to get old roofing panels back on the roof all the way across the living room. I now have at least the living room and dining room protected from a storm producing 30-40 mile an hour winds. The second half of the day Joseph and I opened the science building and began airing it out. There is minimal work to do here, but we will need to rip out the carpets and repair a few windows.

I had dinner at Chinese Joan's tonight with Allesio and Jackie. We had loads of shrimp and chicken. She is cleaning out the restaurant freezer. I have not eaten at all today, I did not realize how hungry I am.

Day 3

Up at 6:00 today. Today, Joseph and I spent the whole day cleaning out the house. We also got a small generator today. Joseph cleaned out wet drywall. I did laundry all day. Some stores opened and you can now get juice and water and beer. Others have opened as well. I bought more bleach. Joseph and I worked in the house until dark. We still are not finished cleaning stuff out. Things are starting to smell. After the sun went down I went for a short swim. Swimming would be relaxing, but I have to pull out metal roofing before I can swim. I also set up the camp shower in the tub. Deneen thought it was ridiculous that I brought this last year. Now it feels like a shower for a king. I made dinner on the camp stove of canned chicken and beans over rice. Miracles of miracles, the TV still works. Joseph and I ate dinner and watched Transformers sitting in the living room with all of our stuff piled around us.

I am so sore. My toes are blistered. I have a bad cut on my finger. My back hurts like you can't believe. I am having a great time and loving every minute if it.

Day 4 and 5 run together.

Yesterday was Monday. Three of my museum staff showed up for work. The museum will not open for weeks. I can not keep anyone except Joseph on staff. There is no power. There are no visitors. How do you tell that to people who have just lost everything else. We have been opening and airing our the museum buildings everyday. Monday we removed all of the computers and office furniture and took up the carpet. I also had museum business to attend to. Joseph and I came back to the house in the late afternoon and cleaned and did laundry until past dark.

Today was Tuesday. Spent the whole day working on the house with Joseph, Lina, and Lina's sister. I have done so much laundry in the past three days it is crazy. About half of our clothes and bedding can be saved. A pickup came by today with relief aid including fresh vegetables and fruit. It is unbelievable how good and sweet a cold orange tastes. You take them for granted. Don't.

I have realized today that my body can go for four days in emergency crises mode. I am absolutely exhausted and can not get rest. I do have help and much support here. That is not the problem. There are people who need the relief and available supplies more than I do. I was in a store yesterday and someone gave me a huge plate of food that they were giving out to their staff. This came at the exact time I was looking for lunch for Joseph and Arristad, who were cutting out the carpet. I had actually gone to the store to get jelly to make sandwiches, but we were able to split a hot meal. This is what the last 5 days have been like, the trickle down theory of hurricane relief.

The house is still trashed. We have managed to save one bed. I get to sleep on it tonight.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Goodbye to Ohio

I will be leaving in the morning to fly back to Grand Turk. Reports are that there will not be electricity for six weeks. We have lost the roof of our house and friends have told me the house is a disaster. I am packing food for a couple of weeks, tarps for the roof, a small cook stove, and a bunch of diapers for our neighbor.

Deneen and the boys will be staying in Columbus for the near and possibly long future. We enrolled Martin back in high school. Lucas and Davis will continue to home school on the outside chance we may have a house by the beginning of next year.

With no electricity or internet, it may be a while before I can write a blog. Images of Grand Turk are awful. The best ones so far are on youtube:

The first blog I wrote one year ago was called "Starting from Scratch." I have a feeling that I will be re-starting from scratch this next year. The whole month of August I replaced the bathrooms and part of the kitchen in the house. Last week Deneen and I bought the final few things to make the house perfect. Yesterday we took this stuff back and bought emergency supplies.

In November, when the whole family moved to Grand Turk we gave away or threw away everything we had in Columbus. We have now probably lost everything we had in Grand Turk. They have a comfortable place to stay in Ohio, but until yesterday Deneen did not even have a pair of jeans here.

We will see what the rest of this year will bring. At the museum we were on a roll with new programs, new tours, and thoughts of new exhibits. We will have to change modes from building bigger to re-building.

If you pray, please pray for us. We moved to Grand Turk to be together more. Spending what will now be nine months apart was not the plan. If you are a donor to the Turks and Caicos National Museum, this would be a good time to make a donation. We will be needing lots of additional funds in the very near future. You can always send donations the the US friends organization:

Friends of the Turks and Caicos National Museum
Corpus Christi Museum
1900 N Chaparral
Corpus Christi, TX 78401

I will let you know more as soon as I can get back online.


Monday, September 8, 2008

Update on TCI and Hurricanes

I left Grand Turk on August 28 to come home and get Deneen and the boys and to attend a family wedding. While gone, Grand Turk was hit by a category 1 hurricane, Hannah. This Hurricane moved at four miles an hour and criss-crossed the Turks and Caicos for four days. The next weekend on Saturday, September 6, a category 4 hurricane, Ike, struck Grand Turk directly. Reports from Grand Turk are that 95% of the homes have been destroyed or damaged.

We were on our way to Florida, traveling back to the Turks and Caicos, when this happened. We lost the entire roof of our home, as did everyone in our development. The museum appears to have come through intact. There will be no electricity for four weeks and very little food.

We have returned home. My family will stay in Columbus for the next few weeks or longer. I am desperately trying to get back to see about things. We are safe as are all of our friends on the island. We appreciate your calls and emails. As time allows I will keep in touch through the blog.