“Well....shit just got real”.... the thought that goes through my head as Pete, Karin and the family we've rented this cabin from begin to board up the windows.
Two days ago, along with our friends, we were whiling our days away on a beach with not a worry in the world, when we start hearing reports of a tropical storm headed towards the Belizean coast. At first we brush it off, but as the image on the radar becomes larger and more red, we start to become concerned. Our current hosts kindly offer up the safety of their concrete restaurant, but we decline. We're mostly worried about getting our vehicles, that carry our homes and all our worldly possessions, to safety.
As we head north and inland, we hear that the tropical storm has been replaced by Hurricane Earl. Everyone we talk to seems unconcerned about the encroaching 50-70 MPH winds and flood producing rains that will most likely hit the following evening. Being from the very land-locked Tennessee, we've had little experience with hurricanes, and are less apt to dismiss them. At the end of the day we find ourselves at Mana Kai; a popular camping spot in the town of San Ignacio. We've heard great things about this town but there's no time to explore. We need to come up with a game plan. We consider renting two one-room cabins at the campground but decide we'd rather be all together and rent a place from Airbnb for the following evening and several after. The early evening is spent in a state of nervous apprehension. Luckily, Vince, a caretaker at the campground, joins us for a bit, entertaining and educating us about his country. His easy going, warm nature calms our nerves.
Our chalet-style temporary home is in the Mennonite community of Spanish Lookout.
Nervous pups picking up on our nervous energy.
We've all stocked up on food and booze, thinking that we'll make the best of the situation. The sky is clear and blue before it gradually turns from light to dark grey. It begins with light rain, then heavy.
Not long after, all the windows are boarded, the rain falls harder and the wind begins to howl.
Later we see that Ben, the owner's dog, didn't make it home. He's trembling and terrified to leave the safety of the porch. Knowing things are only going to get worse, we try to lure him inside with gentle voices, but he won't budge until turkey appears in Sunny's hand. Eventually we have him safe inside, cozied up on Malta's blanket.
Grandiose plans of having drinks and playing cards quickly fade as exhaustion sets in and we all retreat to bed, except for Pete who's too curious to sleep. Late at night the worst part of the storm hits. The most insane wind I've ever experienced shakes the house as Malta and I cuddle in bed. Eventually, unable to sleep, I get up and can't find Pete, and realize he's probably outside having a cigarette. When he returns he tells me the wind isn't so bad on the side porch, so I put on my raincoat and head outside, eager to see what it feels like to be out in a hurricane. Like little kids, we take turns stepping around the corner onto the front portion of the wrap-around porch. With the house no longer blocking it, the 60 MPH wind effortlessly holds us upright as we lean into it.
When we wake in the morning, the the power's back on and our vehicles are safe and sound. Several of the giant palm trees that surround the house didn't fare so well, and the creek that runs in front of the house is now a flooded field.
Taking advantage of the nice weather, we go for a drive to explore the Mennonite community of Spanish Lookout. Once again, the rolling hills, pastures dotted with cows, and quaint farm houses remind us of home.
There's even a fast food style restaurant that serves delicious ice cream, complete with a drive through. It reminds us of a Dairy Queen with a few remarkable differences. It's way more swanky. It's attached to a large dairy farm so the products are ridiculously fresh. Also, it seems to be the best place in town for fresh milk. We spot a Mennonite woman in line with a metal pail that she has filled and then she departs in her horse and buggy.
The more we drive the more damage we see. Mostly fallen trees and debris that people have already started to clean up and burn.
The road eventually becomes impassable because the bridge is submerged in water. Boats cart people to the other side for a small fee.
Later that evening we begin seeing pictures of the coast and the severity of the situation sinks in. Buildings have been completely destroyed. Lives lost. The simple act of getting by made harder, where poverty often made it hard enough. Along with these dismal reports come the beautiful ones where communities are coming together to support one another, clean up and promise to rebuild. As if to represent this resilience just hours after the storm we're gifted a clear, star filled sky.