Monsoon Morning, Real World Edition.

November 30, 2012

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As I blathered on yesterday about the inch-high puddles inside my house, several elderly ladies from our Mi Esperanza church were experiencing flooding up to their waists in their ramshackle abodes.

Take a minute to look around your bedroom, kitchen, and living room, and consider what would be submerged should you suddenly be inundated with water levels up to your belt buckle. That “*gulp*” is your reality check for the week.

Villa Esperanza is essentially an unwanted stretch of land that started as a squatters’ paradise and has since developed, over the last few decades, into a sort of pseudo slum. Most prominently, a murky river rambles its way through the neighborhood–the pungent odor and the dubious brown color hint rather blatantly at its contents.

The nearby meat-packing plant drains its waste into this river, feces of all types add further variety to its composition, and so much garbage has been dumped into it that the rubbish has formed a dam at one end that residents occasionally have to use hooks to unclog.

When the sky pours forth even a small offering of rain, it quickly becomes clear why the land was forsaken in the first place. Flooding is immediate and for many houses that barely merit so official a label, the damage can be devastating. After an especially hard-hitting storm like the one that struck yesterday morning, one can imagine the calamitous effects.

F took the interns and I over to spend a few hours assisting with clean-up today. Already much of the water had receded, or really, soaked into the ground creating one gigantic smelly mud pit, but the filth the water had dragged in remained strewn about. Of course, by water, I mean, reeking sewage. Not only had T and G’s homes been baptized with ungodly amounts of flooding in a matter of minutes, but their shanties has been slopped over with the cornucopia of savory bits I detailed.

I jumped into a small tiled swimming pool to begin raking out ankle-deep amounts of muddy sticks, trash, poop, and clothes enough to dress a full-grown man for winter. It smelled horrible everywhere. I was absolutely filthy within seconds. And that wasn’t even the start of it.

Glancing around, I saw dilapidated foam mattresses set out in the sun (because it was clear blue skies today) still sopping of the stinking liquid. Refrigerators were dragged out by male missionaries as torrents of dirty water came rushing out of them. And trash, so much trash, was piled, if not littered, all over.

Hours were spent sweeping, raking, mopping sewage, and collecting bags of refuse to be dragged across rickety wooden planks that unsteadily bridged over the potent canal of muck. At one point, I had to navigate my way across backwards while dragging a body bag weighing of a teenage elephant with F, and I almost fell in. There are no words to describe the petrified thoughts that flashed through my mind in that panic-stricken moment. But people had no choice but to slog through what I feared touching because it was inside their houses.

I also had the opportunity to traverse into the even more labyrinthine underwood of still more extreme poverty. Some places looked like card houses, others like ancient, worn patchwork quilts. We waded right into poo water and glerped through muddy walkways, soaking in living conditions that are so difficult to fathom amidst our standards of modern luxuries. I saw dish racks of mud-covered plates and silverware. I saw soggy cardboard forming outside walls. I saw the triviality of laptop chargers and planners and damp sweaters I’ve only worn once in my life.

One woman told us she had six bags of cement stacked outside her front door and still the sewage floods submerged her home. Another, who was eight months pregnant, spent the entire day shoveling mud and debris out of her bedroom (and I thought my back was sore this morning?). And still others hold countless untold stories of their version of thunderstorm travesty.

It really puts things into perspective.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe sewage canal flowing into the main road. You can also see the part of the wall that collapsed from the monumental flooding yesterday causing poo water to rush into T and G’s homes.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis was a pond yesterday with water levels nearly reaching the volleyball net.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA wooden bench that washed in.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMattresses that got completely soaked in sewage.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou can see from the coloring on the walls where water levels reached.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe cleaned out swimming pool.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAClearing out trash with little helpers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADon’t be deceived by the serene, glassy appearance.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe notorious bridge (and trash clog).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABankside efforts to remove debris.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA glimpse at some of the rubbish collected.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWalking towards uncharted territory.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA feeble barricade.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAgain check the wall stains.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAn attempt at pitting a junk wall against heavy flooding.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATell me how such a residence withstands storms of any kind?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnother world.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASomebody’s kitchen.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASchlepping the trash out to the dumpster to be burned.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAChildren fishing in the sewage with cut-off soda bottles attached to sticks.

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2 Responses to “Monsoon Morning, Real World Edition.”

  1. grace Says:

    wowee… that’s crazy. reality check indeed! thanks for posting

  2. Rosa Wan Says:

    So sad to see such devastation. May God be with you all.


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