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My Town Needs Help

Contributor:
Dallas Boyd
Dallas Boyd

At first I thought “pfffht, it rains for two days and the place falls apart.” I retracted this statement when I learned just how much it has rained, because with almost 3 feet in less than a week, that’s more than New Zealand may get in a year. So much for Costa Rica having a mild rainy season.

At the beginning of the week I helped deliver food to one of the three shelters in town, where hundreds of people had been evacuated due to flooding. I walked into the damp crowded hall in my high heels, tight jeans, and belt with the cute buckle. The roof was leaking. Adults sat with the weight of the world on their shoulders, while children watched The Lion King. Scar was fighting Simba. The hyenas were laughing.

I returned the next day with clothes for children. I wore heels, a pencil skirt, and a cute pink vest. Women gathered around holding their babies, looking for something warm and dry. We talked to a young family with a typical story.  Father bounces from job to job, unable to keep one. The young mother with five children promises the baby bouncing on her hip is her last - (sadly the most obese baby I have ever seen in my life). Their house has flooded and they have nothing. A little girl stroked my long blonde hair from behind. I didn’t feel like Mother Teresa. I felt like the magnanimous Kardashian girls on the day they took a homeless man home, gave him a shower and an outfit, and dropped him back off on the street where they found him. What a good deed.

During the tragic events of this past week, I have been lucky enough to live and work in a safe location. The main road heavily collapsed just down the road from me and I have been lucky enough to avoid complete evacuation. After twenty people were buried alive and killed on Thursday night, we are taking no chances. The only other exit down the mountain and out of town (unpaved, narrow, steep and potholed) is only open intermittently. I pray there’s never an earthquake.

In a neighbouring town twenty minutes away, water was waist high. A man drowned in his car when it flipped and filled with water. An armadillo was seen clutching desperately to a log floating down a raging muddy river. A soggy dog stood forlorn in the window frame of a house all day. Meanwhile, stroppy tourists shouted at the airport. They asked me to make the rain stop. I said I would make some calls and order them more wine. When the Titanic was sinking, the band kept right on playing. Employees never stop serving the upper-crust mid-disaster - that’s not good customer service.

Leaving my house this morning so I could try and get my clients safely on a plane, an old man raking leaves in the rain stopped me and commented on my sad eyes. He invited me to a meeting for an animal conservation foundation. We’ll talk later he said - “Mucho gusto, hablamos.” My Spanish is improving. I´m part of the community now. When bad things happen to good people, sometimes they think, “Why me?” You have to ask them, “well if not you, who did you think it would happen to? Someone bad? Someone poor?” The majority of people who were flooded out of their homes and killed in landslides are/were indeed poor. And extremely humble. Why do we have an emergency response team year after year instead of a comprehensive prevention plan? Why does the government allow poor people to build their houses out of plastic and corrugated iron on river banks and flood plains year after year? (To be fair, I have known squatters to set up wherever they dam well please and then fight for their right to be there - come hell or - evidently - high water).

The bad weather pushes north, sweeping through Cuba and Haiti... more deaths, more landslides, more flood refugees. Well it happens every year. Those of us who can use our pay checks to buy supplies to support the refugees - our neighbours, colleagues and friends. Diapers, rice, beans, toilet paper, water, soap.

And we all look forward to seeing you visit in December, once the water recedes and the tourism season kicks off. The locals who wash your sheets, drive your bus and serve your drinks will need your business to ensure they have the autonomy and dignity to rebuild their lives. And they´ll smile, just for you, while they do it.
 

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