Friday, November 02, 2007

Nicaragua: flooding by my house

One Sunday afternoon in late August or early September, a young woman about my age in my church invited me over to do my nails. While she was giving me a home-done French manicure (!), it started to rain. By the time she was done, not only was it raining hard, but the neighborhood dirt paths outside her house were filling with puddles. The family suggested I stay until the water went down, and having spent several months in Nicaragua by that point, I took their advice without quite understanding why. In the United States, a few puddles wouldn't stop anyone from walking home.

When Nanieska and I finally did walk back to the church/my host family's house, I saw why we had waited. The street in front of my house had flooded to knee level and was flowing in a strong current. A neighbor let us cut through her backyard so we wouldn't have to wade home through the current.

When I had picked my way home, being careful not to ruin Nanieska's work on my feet, I learned that the church had flooded. This turned out to mean that a passing truck had caused water to splash through the gate and sweep across the tiled floor of the church, all the way to the altar. Lots of youth in the church were helping move pews and sweep or mop the water out. Norvin posed in front of the make-shift barricades that had been placed instead of sandbags in front of the gate. In addition to mopping and sweeping, they were sliding on their knees across the slick floor, and as you can see, dog-piling.

In order to cross the 20 feet from house to church, we had to go all the way around on a little bridge of higher ground. Worship was canceled, but there were tacos already prepared for the after-church youth fundraiser dinner (an almost every Sunday event). When my host sister told me that sometimes they stayed up all night to make sure the house didn't flood, I got nervous. Her grandmother was fretting over her two sons who were out in their trucks. We called them to tell them not to drive home by the front road. Some kids were caught on the other side of the rushing water, so some of our youth waded across and carried them over. A man in an ox-cart pulled up on the opposite bank to wait for the water to go down. A car floated by, maybe touching its wheels down every so often. Our neighbors sent coffee and food across to the ox-cart driver. "He drives by every afternoon," they said to me.

Thanks be to God, the rain stopped and the water went down. The ox-cart driver passed by, my grandmother's sons came home safely (albeit not by the road), and we were able to go to sleep.

PS Another time, a lightning and rain storm came up during a Sunday evening church. The power came on and off, the sermon was occasionally drowned out by thunder... and my awe at the storm was colored by my knowledge that flooding was a real possibility. Much to my own relief, the water never reached ankle level.

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