6 days after (April 22, 2016)
The sun greeted us with the same hustle and bustle that it had left us with the evening before. Large military vehicles, utility trucks, and heavy machinery hurried around with big agendas and even loftier ambitions. Volunteers from out-of-town, with shiny new trucks and spotless clothing marched expectantly through the streets. It was an odd scene and everything seemed out-of-place. Our neighborhood, as unrecognizable as it become in the last week…was now full of sights, scenes, and sounds that were unfamiliar.
We sat on a concrete wall across the street from our house and the hotel. We absorbed everything that was happening for one last time. We were waiting for our taxi driver to come pick us up and take us to our new place.
As regretful as we were, it felt like the right day to move on. We felt a tie to the community and a part of us wanted to stay and participate in the rehabilitation process. But, it was becoming more obvious with each passing moment that there just wasn’t much we could do. And there definitely wasn’t anywhere for us to “live” here. It wasn’t going to be an ideal place for children and dogs to run and play, and probably wouldn’t be for a long time now. It was time for us to start over, with the few things we had recovered. What we had wasn’t much, but it was enough. We had each other and we had a safe place to go. We believed we had enough water and rice to survive for however many more days it would take to regain electricity.
In the 10 minutes before we left, we watched a news crew arrive and set up in the street. They interviewed the owner of the hotel and took videos of the damage. We never saw this footage or the interview, but I would be curious to know if the owner was still under the impression that the hotel was safe at this point.
Carlos had chatted with him a few times over the past days about his plans for repair. The hotel was around 70 years old and the current owner had been its host for the past 50 years.
Photos below are the last shots of the damage around the house, before we left.
We loaded into the car and started the journey to our new town, about a 20 minute drive to a smaller village outside of the city. I was excited to move to a more rural area, but found it surprising how nostalgic I felt about our earthquake home and neighborhood.
We had just begun to settle in here, we were just starting to feel familiar, make friends, and beginning to plan for the future. It had been a long journey, hauling our family so far from Iowa. We had lived in 3 places over the past 8 weeks, we had been sick for over half that time.
We had made this move, primarily to be closer to my husband’s mother. She had not been well in recent years and even more so in recent months. She had not previously met myself or our two children. She had not seen Carlos in a number of years. She was not able to travel to the States. It was time. I couldn’t help but think that our “timing” had been quite terrible. I desperately hoped that our new home would be a long-term one. As we headed there, I clung to all the good moments we have had here. Meeting and knowing my mother-in-law has been irreplaceable. Seeing our children get to know her and many other members of his family was enough reward in itself. This chapter in our life has not been easy, but it has been worth it. As we arrived to our new destination, a feeling of hope washed over me and I felt more determined that ever to make this life work. We chose this and we are choosing to stick it out. We will recover here and we will continue this journey, stronger than ever.
… as we crept along the dirt road that is the path to our new home, I saw a light. Yes! A light! I had to look again, 3 or even 4 times to be sure that it wasn’t a figment of my imagination.
Just one tiny, unexposed light bulb….hanging in the doorway of a vacant home. What an incredible beacon of hope.
Hallelujah! We were arriving to electricity.. and with electricity is the guarantee of running water. And with those two simple amenities, the beginning of a return to normalcy. What a fortunate surprise!