Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Roof Makes a House Better

I got a roof on our house today. It is not the finished roof, but it is now covered with plywood, glued and screwed, with a complete layer of peel-and-stick ice guard. We are, as the term implies, “dried in.”

Living with tarps for a roof does have its advantages. The quality of light in the house has been amazing. Its like having one giant sun roof. Yes, as the term implies, a “sun roof”.

I tried to tell Joseph that I want to take the roof back off because it is too dark in the house now, and there is no breeze. This led to a 15 minute discussion of the idea of “joking.”

How do you explain the word “joke.” It really is a concept, not a word. And it is a concept that does not necessarily translate culturally.

“Joseph, why did the chicken cross the road?”

“Chicken cross?” “What means 'chicken cross'?”

Ok, I have him turn around so I can tap him on the opposite shoulder. This only really works with more than two people. And it is complicated by the fact that in the high school here the joke would be that when you turned around I hit you on the head with a rock. Now, thats funny.

Ok, “funny” did it. Evidently most people understand the concept of “funny.”

“Yes, Joseph, I am funny. I am very funny all the time but you never laugh.” How many times in my life must I explain this to people.

“I am 'joking,' making a 'joke,'” I say. “When I say we should take the roof off, you are suppose to say no.”

“No, I think a roof makes a house better.”

I could not agree more.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Bikes and Tires

Things get better here everyday. Though it has been six weeks and I still don't have electricity at the museum and I don't have an insurance settlement at the house. I have been going to Provo every week for meetings. Last week I was there for four days. In Provo I have electricity, water, air conditioning, and I go out to eat a lot. But I don't have any of the comforts of feeling at home and no friends that you just hang out with. One of the good things about going to Provo, however, is that I am able to bring fresh meat back with me. This means that when I am on Grand Turk there is usually a BBQ party or something going on.

Last night I ate at Allsio's. He made island-style BBQ chicken. There was so much chicken I thought there would be several people at dinner. It was just Allesio, Jackie, and me, but we ate five pounds of chicken thighs. After dinner we went down to the SandBar, which is not open yet, and jammed with Mitch and several other guys playing.

Tonight, I am having a couple people over for an American BBQ with more chicken thighs. I was also invited to two other BBQs tonight.

Everyday there is still a story that is unbelievable. This blog allows me to reflect and see things outside of my life. I am no longer amazed by this. But I am beginning to think that we would all have outstanding stories if we would just look at the life that is around us.

Here is my story for today. It is a story that is either about preparedness or providence. That determination can be up to the reader.

Elaine has gone off island for two weeks. Her sister, Louise has come from Canada to look after the dog shelter and other animals that Elaine cares for. I spoke to Louise the other day, though she is French Canadian and speaks little English. I did understand that she thought Grand Turk was difficult before, but now it is almost impossible for her to accomplish simple tasks, like getting groceries or water.

I have been charging phones for Elaine. I picked up a phone from Louis when I helped her take water to the pound yesterday. Last evening Louis called to come get the phone. Later she called to say she had a flat near the hospital. A couple weeks ago I had to deal with flat tires on Elaine's truck and this is what I was expecting.

When I got over to Hospital Road, however, Louise was pushing a bicycle down the road. She does not drive. Like a ton of bricks, I was immediately hit with the responsibility that comes with understanding the purpose of prior events. These are the things we do that we often do not understand the reason or significance at the time. Like when you choose to take the long way home, and then find out there was an accident on the other road.

When I came back to Grand Turk after the hurricanes, I brought several things I thought might be important. Food was one. Diapers was another. I also brought back an assortment of a dozen bike tires and tools to fix bicycles. I can't even tell you why I though this was important. They were just really cheap at Walmart. When Dave was here, we unpacked them and took them to the museum. We fixed our family bikes and then organized a bike repair station on the tool wall.

There have been few people I have ever helped who were more appreciative than Louise was today. In less than fifteen minutes I had her old tire off, her new tire in, both tires aired up, and her chain oiled. I truly think she had thought that on Grand Turk the flat was the end of her bike. Her only transportation.

I can't take her thanks. In the end, I had nothing to do with this. It was a good day today because for a small minute I understood my purpose. This is fleeting though, because like everyone, I immediately began to focus on all the other little day to day things I have to do, which more often than not have no purpose at all in the end.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Elevated To Ultimate Best Friend Status

Dave Horn officially gets elevated to Ultimate Best Friend status. This week he made his third visit to Grand Turk within twelve months. Dave had been here two weeks before Ike. We shared some really fun experiences and I think he had a great vacation. This week was very different.

A couple weeks ago Dave emailed to ask what I needed. What I needed was a friend to come spend some time here. I had not realized how important that actually would be. Two days later Dave called to say he would be here on Saturday.

Dave brought down eighteen days worth of tuna and rice. He brought a guitar case, surprised me with a mandolin case, brought guitar strings, batteries, and some flavored tea mix packs to put in bottled water. Not the least significant, he brought a speaker diaphram and we were able to fix one of my water-logged, not working Mackie 450s. This was cooler than almost anything. Dave also brought some relief supplies for my museum employees, one of whom lost everything he owned in the storm.

Though the nights were too hot to sleep, Dave's visit was not filled with canned tuna over a camp stove. The first night we were on Provo we went to get sushi and then later hot wings. Our first night on Grand Turk we went to the BBQ at the Osprey. This was the first place to get electricity back a couple weeks ago. It is also where all the line crews are staying. On Monday we had excellent BBQ chicken with the new dive guys that have come to work for Mitch. We had bought frozen chicken thighs in Provo to keep the steak cool on the flight over and these did not go to waste. On Tuesday we had steak at Allesio and Jackie's house. On Wednesday we had some of the best Fillet Mignon that I have ever had when Bion and his son came from Maryland to check on their house. Ok, on Thursday we had canned tuna and pasta. But on Friday we went to Margaritaville, which has just reopened, and had hamburgers and fries. Dave said it would be hard to explain to people about his hurricane relief work and to convince them of how hard life was here.

But what Dave brought and allowed was some sense of normalcy and comfort for me and many other people around us. This was his relief work. Dave was a big help providing an extra set of working hands, but more than that, having him here really helped me. I had not realized how easy it is for mild depression to set in in conditions like are here. It sneaks up on you. I have spent 21 days eating canned food. This week, however, has been very refreshing.

A few more friends and acquaintances have left the island during the past week. One couple I really liked came back to rebuild their restaurant, but after three weeks of frustration they chose to not renew their lease and have left. Our favorite restaurant is now just sitting vacant on a trash littered beach. Another couple who was running excursions on the island have also been frustrated with the lack of support they were receiving to revive their tourist business. This led to stress and health problems. Our conversation about this that was filled with hints of depression. They have left.

This has all happened this week. For some people, this week, one month after Ike, has been the defining moment when they have given up. This week, one month after Ike, I have been very grateful for fellowship, companionship, and the comfort brought by a good friend. You could say a best friend.

Michelangelo's Big Toe

October 7, 2008

Suffering is a lot about the loss of comfort. Suffering is also conditioned by our past experience. I spent the weekend in Provo trying to get some business and banking done. I slept in a bed, in an air conditioned room, and I took a long, hot shower. This was nice, though it was also a reminder of what is missing from Grand Turk at the moment and was not satisfying.

Dave Horn flew into Provo on Saturday, before we left for Grand Turk we stopped at the supermarket and bought 13 steaks and some expensive cheeses. Though you think someone has everything they need, sometimes it is the little things that provide relief or comfort. I thought Allesio would appreciate the cheese. I was correct.

Tonight was exactly four weeks since Ike came across Grand Turk. We ate steak at Allesio's and the dinner ended with a fine selection of cheese. The six of us at dinner ate a lot of cheese.

Allesio is Italian. Dinner is his church. He says this often. During dinner Allesio is also often philosophical about life. Tonight he was particularly poignant. He waxed very poetically about the big toe of Michelangelo's sculpture of Moses, which is in the Santa Maria Novella in Florence. The statue is roped off, but it is situated in a way that you can see the big toe up very close. When you study the big toe, what you see is the unbelievably exquisite detail that went into this one small part of the sculpture. The folds of the cloth, the details in the face, all perfect. But what masterful work went into crafting even the big toe. What you realize is that many of us will never rise to the genius of Michelangelo's big toe. Let alone the entire sculpture.

“Let your creation express divinity,“ was Allesio's big message. Let what you do rise above who you are. Strive for beauty in your everyday actions. If you make great cheese, let making cheese be your religion.

I have seen the big toe of Moses in the Santa Maria Novella. With God all things are possible, but sometimes our individual efforts need a little more effort than we are normally willing to give.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Changing Tires

Alright, I can do anything. I can live in third world conditions without water or sanitation. I can sleep in the heat of the night under mosquito netting. I have proved this to myself. I could also leave here. And certainly this option has been presented. But that would seem like running away. Why should I expect my condition be any different that those around me. But 22 days of tuna and minute rice has become monotonous. The days have moved from constant work and constant exhaustion to frustration at the slowness of getting museum business completed. I am now back to the priority list that I had prior to Ike. But everything is slower.

I received the generator for the museum today. This sounds like it would be great. But it requires that the museum office be put back together. I have had a small generator at the house. I have mainly used it to do laundry. Since last week, I use it to watch TV in the evening. Both my flat screen and my satellite are working. But the news out of New York does not look pretty. I do like watching football.

Today, I spent all morning trying to change a flat tire on Elaine's van. This would be no big deal many places. But there is only one mechanic open, and he is working by himself. Elaine has been afraid of getting a flat all week. I changed one tire for her last week.

Elaine takes care of dogs on the island. She runs a shelter and does a yearly spade and neuter clinic at the museum. Elaine's helper was deported. The volunteers she use to have help her have all left the island. I now take her phone calls. I went with her a few days ago to feed a dog in an area she was afraid of getting stuck with another flat. The house was gone. The family was gone. But the dog has been returning every day.

He was not a happy dog. We left food and water. My plan has been that if she got another flat I would take a tire off the truck and come change it for here, at any time. She finally got a tire flown over from Provo. Today, one of her tires was flat. It was not even the one we have been concerned about. The problem was that the tire mechanic did not have air to fill the tire yesterday, though lucky enough he did have a spare rim.

This morning I took this tire to get filled and took the flat so Elaine could have a spare. The flat tire had two nails in it. This has been one of the problems here. There is roofing all blown over the place. But in every piece of roofing there were several nails. They are everywhere.

There was a long line of cars needing tires. I spoke to the guy. He told me a couple minutes, then he was gone. No one knew where he went. I waited for an hour, and then left. I tried to find somewhere else to get the tire filled. But to no avail. I eventually went back to the place. And the guy told me it was my turn. Bring the tires right now. I took the tires back to Elaine and got the new tire mounted. This took four hours. It is so hot.

I spent the rest of the day getting the generator out of customs. This only took four trips.

As I was publishing this blog the next morning; I noticed that I have a flat tire.