Typhoon Haiyan (part 1)
I was in the Philippines when the typhoon hit. I was in a safe place called MoalBoal which is in south Cebu (Cebu is an island). I think we had 1 single banana fall from a tree. That was it.
It was a fun day spent with hostel mates playing cards, drinking rum, swimming, having dance parties… You know, the normal stuff you do when the power is out.
So- with that said, I thought it was a typical over-exaggeration of the news. Everything we heard/got word from was all the same: “all fine here!”
Then the texts from my friends and family came… Then twitter woke up and blew my phone up. And then we got power back and I actually looked at the news…. And was in shock.
So I headed to Cebu City Capital building to help in any way I could.
Just me- a single American tourist/now volunteer- venturing all around the Philippines carrying sacks of rice on her shoulders.
Cebu city was barely hit. Electric and Internet still flows freely- but the capital building was a buzz with hundreds of volunteers who were all busy packing canned goods (sardines….. Eww.) instant noodles, rice and water bottles to be put into bigger sacks to be shipped to other cities in need.
Hundreds of communities were hit by the typhoon. I had the privilege of meeting the vice-governor, mayors of multiple towns and other high officials* and they have told me the following:
-each district/island takes care of their own and then gives to other communities. (So, Cebu takes care of Cebu first- then other places like tacloban).
-the first 2 weeks are for food relief. Then it goes to building material relief and clean up.
-the government is going to pay the homeowners to rebuild their own houses. The home owners get free materials and a stipend (150pesos/ 3.50$ a day) and will be “checked in on” by government officials. (Personally I have no idea how they will handle the logistics of this. But that’s besides the point.)
*I’ve been told that I’m the only American here so far- combine that with being a “team strong” volunteer- makes me special and worthy of shaking hands with. (Heh.)
Besides all that- here is what I have experienced personally (because this is MY blog and it’s always about me…. Ahem.)
1) I haven’t really slept unless I take sleeping pills. I keep having crazy nightmares where zoey is stuck in a tree getting her eyes poked out by angry roosters. I’m also, for one of the first times, really homesick.
2) about 5 days ago I was napping and felt an aftershock (yes, they had an earthquake here about 4 weeks ago) and ran out of my room. “Aftershock?!?” I screamed
“No. Fat man fell out of bed! Hahahaha.” Said the cleaner.
They have weird senses of humor here.
3) being a crossfitter has made me a FreakShow. The amount of photos/newspapers that I’m in on a daily basis is just fucking embarrassing. I was told that a Crossfit *IS* opening in Cebu city next month. I hope they print out a pic of me hauling sacks of rice on my shoulder and use that as an advertising tool. (“Become strong and useful.”)
4) I have the flu. Or something like it. I should feel thankful that I’m shivering in the tropics instead of back in the states, right? I may have gotten it from a dirty child or from the free flu vaccination that they gave me. Unsure. I hope it passes soon.
5) Giving food relief to those who are hungry (or, more likely, thirsty) is like a Black Friday sale at Walmart… Or an episode of the Walking Dead. But people are barely wearing clothes and mothers have a baby attached to their breast while they reach their arms out for a plastic bag of rice/noodles/water.
6) the news here is abysmal. I learn more about what is going on via twitter and my friends than through any newspaper or local.
7) I asked the vice-governor what she would do differently- she said “we should have distributed out reserves more evenly before the storm” (as opposed to having a majority of then in Cebu city.) Cebu had a lot of damage- but not a lot of deaths. (A miracle, IMO.)
8) I’m currently sitting in a pizza joint, checking my email, writing this blog, eating an icecream and listening to shitty top-40 radio and, to be honest… I totally forgot where I was. It was really nice to just pretend like I was back home and I didn’t see piles of debris that resemble a lumber sale rather than a house. Or the starving kids that keep asking this white girl for extra money for food.
Tomorrow, once my laundry is done, I’m headed somewhere else. Goodbye electricity. Goodbye icecream. Goodbye Nickleback. Hello disaster zones.
Side note: if anyone knows anyone/any group/org that speaks English that is here, can you please email me? That’s really the only sucky part of this whole thing is being alone.