Senor and Linda Lou have been in Pueblo Alamos, Sonora, Mexico for 8 years. Okay, okay, now it's been 9 years.
Every day brings a new discovery.
They are still working on the casa............Senor says, it won't be long.........but Linda Lou says, it won't be long until what..............stay tuned to find out what's next.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Good Stuff Here

The mercado (indoor market) reopened yesterday. Most of the indoor shops are open, but a few shops that open out off the sides of the mercado are not open. The meat markets are open, there are even a few new vendors in the mercado.
The alameda looks really good. There are still a few locked doors, but the streets are clean and people are milling around and sitting on the benches around the alameda.

The street food vendors are open again and the smells of carne asada and grilled onions fill the air. The bus station has returned to its original location.
There was a tour bus in town today. I did not see the people, but a huge bus was here, outside the Palacio.
The Palacio was full of families this afternoon. They were in line for something, I'm not sure what it was, but they seemed upbeat and the children seemed happy.

There are a lot of people everywhere.

This is very good stuff.
If you did not know about Norbert, you might not see anything wrong here.
However, the arroyos are still being dozed, the water is still running. The Chalaton barrio, which is several blocks behind our casa, is finally being worked on. Trucks carrying loads of debris have been coming out of the Chalaton all day long. Supplies are still being distributed. A lot of work needs to be done.
We did not do any work around here yesterday.

Instead, we went to the beach at Huatabampito.
It was very peaceful, very relaxing. We just walked along the sand, listening to the waves crash, gathering seashells, just doing our own thing....very relaxing after the craziness of the last 2 weeks.
Half of our favorite beach restaurant's (El Mirador) outdoor seating was missing, but they were serving food and we had a great lunch. Then, after walking the beach some more, we headed home to Alamos.........

Friday, October 24, 2008

Too Pooped to Post

Hola......today was my last day at DIF. When I walked out I felt like I was leaving something behind.
Things have slowed down there. Not as many people are needing hot meals. Clothing still remains to be a very popular item and it looks like there is enough clothing to open a few super Wal-Marts. Still people come by the dozens to get the clothing and I noticed this morning a huge new delivery of beautiful, warm blankets. And of course, people are still coming for packaged food and water.

There are no perishables available in town, at least not that I am aware of. The stores at the alameda remain locked. The mercado is locked.
There are few small grocery stores scattered among the barrios that are open and are carrying packaged items: lots of saltines, canned frijoles, cartoned and canned milk products that don't require refrigeration, soups, chips, lollypops.......I have not seen much.

I think alot of people, when they can, are driving to Navajoa and doing their grocery shopping, not only for themselves, but for large groups of people.
There is talk of barrios that still have no electricity and no phone service. The chalaton is still a mix of debris and mud, arroyos are still running.
Bull dozers worked all through last night, instead of stopping.
School kids have received supplies that have been generously donated. Babies have diapers, families have warm blankets.
There are still possibly families farther out in the montanas that have not been reached, but people are working hard to resolve that.

People are shoveling, still, everywhere. There are still calls for help and assistance in getting mud out of homes, and this is almost 2 weeks after Norbert. There is still major damage and round the clock clean up.
Hermosillio, the capital of Sonora, has sent alot of young men to assist in the cleanup process and the young police recruits from Sonora are here as well ( they were headed toward the alameda, carrying shovels, as I left DIF).

And, I hear that every event that has been planned for Alamos, is still planned for Alamos. There are a few upcoming photography and film workshops, Dia de la Muerte is November 1st, there are cooking classes and language classes, and classes have resumed at Casa de la Cultura, the event calendar goes on and on.....
Last night, there was a huge fiesta across the road and the music was lively and there was alot of laughter.
The tortilla and water trucks have begun to drive through the barrios again, their happy music and announcements filling the air.
Planes are still flying in supplies, a few vehicles are still detained at the border. But, even with all the work to do, faces are brighter, smiles are wider, heads are higher.

More people are out on the streets............and so was I....... 4 days ago when I went to DIF at my usual 5:30am time, a pretty walk in the dark, beautiful stars and moon still out, the air was very cool and breezy.
Walking in the front door, I was happy to see the federales fast asleep, on pads and covered in warm wool blankets.
I went into the cocina...... there was no one else there.....I started one of the huge burners and put on the tea kettle....I made some coffee..it was bitter, so I threw it out and I made another cup....I wiped the long tile counter top......I moved a few things around and then, I moved them back....I was still all alone.
6am came and went. The tv out in the hallway is always on by now. I opened the door, tv stared blankly back at me and I noticed the federales were gone...the place was empty.....
I closed the cocina door and looked around and decided to start cooking frijoles. I lit the rest of the burners, opened the cans, put in the oil and water and hot sauce.......I cracked about 2 dozen eggs and then, I panicked........what if there is no desayuno today..no breakfast...what if I am wasting food.....maybe they are doing rolls this morning?
I became very worried..... this is not your kitchen, I told myself........you are trying not to get in the way and now, what are you doing........
Then, I thought, but what if ninos come to the gated window and I don't have any food to give them?
So then, I began to think like a Mexican would........I said, this is in God's hands now.....if I am not supposed to be doing all this preperation and cooking, then, it's not really my fault, and the food will all be saved somehow and everything will be just fine, stop worrying so much..... if this is all wrong, they can put it in the fridge for a rainy day.

So, I crack all the eggs I can get in the bowls and I begin to look for more bowls. I think...do I fry chorizo or weenies...I decide on the weenies and get them out of the refridgerator. I pick the ones that are not individually wrapped in plastic (the other day I cut about 20 pounds of these hard weenies and finally realized they were hard because they were each wrapped in plastic, one does not make that mistake twice....).

6:30am...now I am worried again because the Mexican National Anthem is always on at 6:30 and everyone stops and listens. I am still the only one here...and I think about turning on the anthem...PEOPLE! I say out loud....where are you, we have desayunos to cook here!

Looking outside to the mounds and mounds of clothing, I see the egg scrambler man. He is walking around...hey! se comida o no comida.....i ask.......he looks at me and says... cada dia es desayuno, every day, linda, we cook breakfast.......i tell him there is no one but me in the kitchen and ask if he is coming in there...he tells me he has 3 days of no work and otra persona should be in there cooking..........should i cook frijoles and i hope he says yes, since i already have them cooking...he says, se and sausage and eggs and everything.
OMG, I go back in the cocina. It is 6:40am. I go in the back room and see more eggs, so I crack more eggs, I check the frijoles, I get out the trays, the to go plates, the forks, the bags. I get everything ready I can think of and the only thing left to do is fry the weenies, throw in the eggs, put it all in the huge pots and start dishing it up.

I take a deep breath, get the matches, light the burners..............
and the door to the cocina burst open and about 8 senoras walked in, put on their masks and hair nets and said, buena dias, linda and I thought for sure I would hyperventilate and faint.

Next day, same thing......
Next day, same thing....
So, this morning I didn't go until 6am because I thought the egg scrambler would be back, nope, same thing......and I had lost 1/2 an hour, so I was scrambling to get things prepared.
It's like right before I start those weenies, BAM! the door opens.

And so, as I said, it was my last day. All of the senoras have been so warm and friendly. They have all worked 11 days straight, 8 to 10 hours. I found out today that most of them have regular jobs about town and they will all return to them on Monday.

I will miss them, but I am eager to get back into my own routine. I have not walked at the track since Norbert hit. I have a lot of glass and jewelry orders to finish so I can mail them from the states in November. I have a lot of things to do around the casa. I have my papier mache' class to attend at the casa de la Cultura.
I will continue to let you know what is happening here, how things are progressing. I think I have shown you enough photos of the hurricane damage. If you want to see more, you can search Alamos and find a lot of photos. I have seen them, they are heart wrenching.
But, while the time to heal will continue and perhaps my help will be needed somewhere else, it's time to move on...................... but first! a 2 hour nap is on my 'to do' list! adios, linda lou.....

Monday, October 20, 2008

I Love this truck.......

............and if you have read some of this blog's earlier posts, you will remember that we have a Chevy Silverado, 4 door, f150, 4 wdr, and that I hated this truck the first time I saw it. I also did not like the fact that Bill bought it while I was away on a vacation. I think he knew I would not like it.....



I envisioned going to Mexico in a cute old 1980's green truck (just like the old one we had in Santa Fe), with a cab and a back end, and of course, the u haul.



bill said...do you want to go to Mexico or Utah?....a truck like that will never make it to Mexico...i said...how will we get through those little streets in Alamos...how will we park a truck like that....we will never get that thing in our little driveway......it is too big.

I would not even drive it for a long time....too big.



Yesterday, outside the DIF Bill picked up a group of women and children, piled their many bags of food and clothing into the back of the truck and drove them way out beyond the airport to their home.........he ferried more people across the arroyo, and out of Navajoa, brought some workers in the back of the truck all the way to Alamos....I LOVE THIS TRUCK.



I am grateful that we have it and that we are putting it to good use. And I'm grateful that Bill got it behind my back and that it got us all the way to this beautiful little town..............



Don't think for one moment that we are the only ones using our truck for good purposes.



Good grief!
Truck driving people are carting people, they are carting trash, carting furniture, carting school kids, carting shovels, and yes, carting other trucks............. good stuff.



And everyone is still very busy here, whether in a vehicle, or in a yard or house, at the church, at the airport. It is busy EVERYWHERE!



Some of my American neighbors are busy sorting clothing that came from the US for DIF and the church. They are busy shoveling and hauling mud. Some are busy cooking and cleaning for many families they know. Some are helping out at the hotels, cleaning, gardening, and cooking. Some are just there with a kind word and a smile.

A group of foreigners is trying to find passable roads to outlying areas, in the montanas and near the beaches, to supply clothing and food, blankets and toiletries.

Mexican families are all working hard. The women at DIF kitchen are working back breaking hours. I bet none of them took today off like I did.....Mexican sons are still shoveling dirt and mud out of their homes and now trying to return to their school studies as well.
Young daughters are taking care of even younger children while they return to school and their parents return to work or seek work again.

Everyone is busy around the clock.........

........while I was busy taking photos.......
Some of them are not pretty....some of them are pretty......


But you will see some of the things happening here.
in the photo below, small, but sturdy footbridges like this one have been constructed...they might have to eventually put up some hand rails for older folks like us.......but, they work...



Bull dozers are working to remove the huge boulders that came down from the montanas. It also looks like they are widening the arroyos in some areas...............
the water is still running, which really surprises me, but Bill says there is alot of water up in the montanas.....



in the business above, they are pumping water out of the casa and into the arroyo below the stone wall.....below, school girls cross another newly constructed footbridge on their first day back to school.................

above, you can see there is still so much work to do, these homes and businesses are right on the arroyo and suffered so much damage................




the chalaton barrio remains a mixture of mud, boulders and debris, but I did notice the small grocery store (where the arroyo split in two and the waters went right around it and pushed boulders and trees into the windows) has a new uplift, with what looks like some new columns and a new paint job...you can even see the shelves are stocked inside..............
as you can see, there are people now living in very poor conditions, but there is help......
Bill is standing behind this truck, trying to help the young boy in the red shirt put planks under the back tires of the truck, so it can get across the water...............there is no foot bridge yet at the Chalaton.......from this end the mercado looks better, but the other end is still covered in alot of dirt and the mercado remains closed......the health department will keep it closed until it thoroughly cleaned and sanitized.............below, the arroyo near La Aduana is debris strewn........




It won't be long before Alamos will be even prettier than before. In fact if you don't have your reservation yet for the Dr. Alfonso Ortiz Tirado Music Festival in January, you'd better get it soon. The music and art festival, which lasts for 9 days, brings musicians and artists from around the world. We have yet to go to it, but it will be something I won't miss in January.

I'm certainly not trying to sound like a tour guide, but you can google search all the hotels you want in Alamos and maybe still find a reservation.........

below are only a handful of the many pretty things I saw today on my walk in Alamos ...............


ADIOS. Linda

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Lovely Fall Day

Today I am home early from DIF.
I am a little tired after 6 days in a row of walking down in the dark, to start beans, at 5:30am, and returning home around 2pm.

Don't misunderstand, I am just going to stay home tomorrow and do a few things I have neglected around the casa and I will return to DIF on Tuesday.
I also hope to get out later today and tomorrow and take some photos so you can actually see how things are progressing in Alamos.
And I intend to find time to answer some of the wonderful emails I have received from people that I don't know.......

I think Alamos residents are very concerned with health issues right now, but that is to be expected. Hopefully most folks will be able to follow simple hand washing routines and make efforts to clean their shoes if they walk through all of this mud. Things like that are very simple, yet very helpful.
The Dolisa water plant has been inspected and bottled water is said to be in perfect sanitary condition.

Dozers are still going all day and well in to the night. They stop for awhile, but fortunately, they are my alarm clock around 4:30am each morning.
Bank accounts have been opened for both DIF and the Amigos de Education.

Yesterday, I made frijoles my way. I opened cans and cans of frijoles and jalapenos, instead of just regular frijoles. AND I added habanero hot sauce and extra water and oil which make them creamier and easier to stir.... of course, I added the extras when the egg scrambler was not in the room. He did see the cans and I just shrugged and said, in english...you know, a bean is a bean, is a bean......he smiled and kept scrambling his eggs. I'm sure he had no idea what I was saying. But they tasted really good.

Today, I went back to the regular bean routine and a new cook came around 7am, a woman I have not seen yet. She may be the real head cook......I don't know, there are alot of cooks in this kitchen.... she took over the beans real fast and I was sure glad I had not made any changes this morning......later I noticed that she can take a whole chicken and with one quick whack of the only sharp knife in the cocina, she can cut the chicken completely in half. I did not think that was possible, but I have seen it. I was cutting vegetables right next to her and every time she brought that cleaver down I jumped out of my skin. When she was done with about 50 chickens, she used the cleaver to chop vegies so fast she would put PBS cooks to shame. Her hands were flying and after that, she put the cleaver in her huge purse and sat down in the only chair in the cocina for about 2 minutes and then she was up and working again....

More and more federales have arrived. There are so many here, they can't all sleep on the top of the clothes out under the tents. When I went in the door this morning, the floor was just covered with them. They were sleeping right on the cement, with tiny blue, baby sized blankets covering them. I almost cried...... no pillows, not pads......nothing between them and the floor. I had to step between and over their feet just to get to the cocina.
And there are hundreds more federales, out in the montanas and who knows where they have to sleep at night.

An American man and woman came to visit DIF and after introducing myself, I asked if they lived here. He said they had just arrived for a visit. I said....what a beautiful day it is to have just arrived for a visit. He hesitated, but then shook his head and agreed...well, yes, it is a beautiful day....

and so, the days go on and it really is a lovely fall day here, a light breeze is rustling the leaves on the trees, the sun has that golden glow that it gives off in autumn, the sky is a pale blue with soft puffs of clouds and there is a subtle scent of a cooking fire burning.......... which is perhaps what you have at your home today as well.......
And at the end of your lovely fall day today, when you lay your head on your pillow and your bed is soft and comfy, and you are cozy under your wankie, right when you close your eyes, think about all the people, wherever they are, sleeping wherever they have to, because that's all they have for the moment and think wonderful thoughts for them all.....

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Busy Night and Day

Last night the city opened the Alameda to traffic.

We could clearly hear alot of car and truck noise and more than a few happy people. Alot of children were out playing last night, too. Their laughter warmed our hearts....

We also heard alot of pretty mexican music and it was the first night we have heard any music since last Saturday night, before Norbert hit.....

In the background, the sounds of the dozers continued through out most of the night.
I kept waiting to see a cloud of dust come up our street, but Bill was down yesterday morning before his trip to Navajoa and he says the Alameda is clean and tidy, except for a few shops and casas, and of course the mercado.
Evidently the front of the mercado appears clean, but the side streets, (along the length of the building) are still filled with mud and debris and the mercado itself is shut down tight. Lots of vendors in there and they have lost all of their inventory.

The first of the bush pilots have been coming, and there is alot of small jet and helicopter activity.

A warning has been issued encouraging people to not wear flip flops or other open toed shoes outside the house and to have a pair of shoes for outdoors and switch to the indoor pair as you enter your casa. Workers are sprinkling lime on the ever growing piles of mud that line many streets, especially in the centro and historic areas, and on the carreterra leaving town.
Mexican news reports state that there are 2o fatalities and over 20 missing.

The calmest, cleanest area downtown, is the Plaza de Armas, where the church, the museum, the government offices and the tourist office, and several businesses are located.
It is a very quiet place right now. The church doors are open; they are always open, but they look even more inviting, given the state of the rest of the town.

Garbage pick up did occur today, which was a very welcome sight.

We hear there are a few trucks and cars stranded at the border with supplies, because certain aduana rules or regulations were not met, and people are working hard to resolve those issues. I understand that over 30 foreigners attended yesterday's meeting with DIF , and other officials, to learn how they can help. Schools may open again this next week and we've been told that children need writing pads and pens and pencils.

I did start my day early again at DIF and it was as rewarding as the others have been.
Today the huge deliveries from other DIF programs were fruits and vegetables, some from as far away as Northern California. So, after getting the frijoles going with the men in the morning, and cracking 400 eggs, I sorted lots and lots of fruits: bananas, pears, peaches, apples, oranges, cantaloupes, other melons and papayas and mangoes. I was a very noisy sorter as I did not want any unexpected surprises like hairy pin cushions or tarantulas crawling up my hands as I reached into numerous crates and burlap sacks. If I'd had any idea that would be my day's job, I'd have worn long sleeves and gloves.........

After sorting and bagging alot of fruit, I packaged meals and went back to sorting, stacking and labeling the steady flow of incoming boxes of tuna, rice, salt and sugar and other staples. My english speaking friend is trying to keep a room adjacent to the cocina, neatly stacked with labled boxes to enable us to be more efficient. That works until the federales bring in donations during the night and we are once again, saturated with boxes.
While I was sorting, the remainder of yesterday's liver was cooked and served. I stayed in the other room as long as I could.....

It is in another room of the DIF where food items and household items are being packaged for distribution to families.
There are hundreds and hundreds of boxes in there, baby food and formula, and diapers, powdered milk, toothpaste, boullions, bottles of water, bandaids, hairbrushes, hundreds of things you and I might take for granted....
I have never seen so many hard working young people, too. Kids as young as ten were in long lines with adults and teens, passing boxes, hand over hand, to other workers who were busy sorting the items.

Outside, under large tents, hundreds and hundreds of pieces of donated clothing have been laid on tarps.
While I was stirring the frijoles this morning I looked out the gated window over the stoves, to the piles and piles of clothing. Dawn was just breaking. Suddenly I saw people coming up from out of the mounds of clothing. It was truly a scene from a horror film..... The egg cooking man next to me said...the federales, they sleep where they can.....

So, that is it for the day. I am thankful for what we have, thankful that I can sleep in a bed, thankful that the federales, many of whom are Ian's age, just very young men, are here to help and protect us. I am thankful that I can continue to share the energy I have by going to the DIF.
Also, I am thankful for all the happy sounds of voices, laughter and music that we heard coming from the alameda last night.
And I know I am not the only thankful person in this wonderful town of Alamos....

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Days Two and Three at the DIF

Yesterday morning I went to the DIF at 5:45am.
There weren't any women there..there were 2 young men, probably in their twenties, cooking.....
I wasn't sure how it would go.
One of the men spoke a little english and he asked me to get the beans ready......of course, i said.

He showed me where the cans were and picked up an open one. With the can in one hand and a very long knife in the other he stabbed the bottom of the can and then the beans just slid right out of the can and into the pot.......be careful, he said, and he handed me the knife.
I just smiled.
Then I went looking for a spoon and did it my way.
He kept leaving the egg scrambling station, but I did not dare to move over there. So I emptied 50 cans of frijoles , which have nice little flip tabs on them that make them easy to open, (which is good because in this kitchen the men and the women open everything with a long knife).
Then I cracked around 300 eggs for him and he made the eggs.

The women came around 8am and they quickly took over for him and began setting up their assembly line. The cooks finish off the breakfast items which go into huge pots that are placed on the long tiled counter top. Then the tortillas are heated up and the food is put on the plates with a plastic fork, and into bags and onto crates. A man or lady will come in and write on a piece of paper the amount of food plates needed for a certain barrio. The crates are filled with those amounts and given to the drivers who take them to the barrios to be distributed.
Yesterday I had to keep count of the number of plates on the crates and to whom they were being sent. This was very interesting because my knowledge of mexican numbers over 20 is very limited. But I learned fast how to tell the senoras I had 58 food trays ready for this driver and 69 ready for that driver and so on and so on.... The only problem is while we are trying to meet those quotas, people are walking up to the gated window over the stoves and asking for food trays, which come out of my count....then I loose count and have to recount for the 20th time......
Before I knew it, it was 2pm and I went home so I could go back today.

Only one man was there today. We said hello and I noticed about 100 cans of frijoles on the counter and a spoon.......so I fixed the frijole pot again.

The women came today around 8am and not too long after, came about 800 donated pounds of frozen cow livers and hearts.
I became one of three liver slicers. There is only one thing worse than slicing huge frozen 10 pound cow livers...and that is slicing huge thawed 10 pound cow livers.

I sliced cow livers for 3 hours.
By now, breakfast was over and they began cooking the liver with jalapenos, onions and cayenne peppers. They fixed me a plate and I could only look at it.....

In the afternoon it became busy, as the marinas (marines) had just arrived and needed to be fed. So, we prepared over 150 plates of fried cow livers. Then several trucks from the Navajoa DIF arrived and all of the workers were fed over 50 plates of cow livers. The people here must love their cow livers because they were coming to the gated window in droves, asking for plates.
More frozen cow livers came around 2pm and by then, I had been at the DIF for 8 and 1/2 hours and it was time to go.......

Tomorrow will be very busy, the Baja Bush Pilots are flying in over 22 planeloads of supplies. There are several jets coming tomorrow and Saturday, with medicines, we hope. Huge truckloads of clothing are being collected in Phoenix, Tucson, and as far away as the Pacific Northwest. Aduana, in Nogales, has agreed to loosen certain rules to let in more quantities of items.
The DIF in Navajoa and Obregon will return tomorrow (I hope they don't bring liver).

There has been a meeting for the foreign community to find out how they can help. As you can imagine, there is a tremendous amount of support here from the foreign community; the outpouring of love and generosity is amazing. People are helping already wherever and however they can, generally just by word of mouth. Local foreign restaurant owners have been going into the barrios and cooking for familes who cannot cook. There are over 3,000 families who no longer have any cooking facilities and the compassion these restaurant owners and their staffs have is so wonderful.
While the women and men of the DIF are also cooking and serving thousands of meals every day, there is always conversation in the kitchen about how wonderful this american and that american is because they are cooking for the barrios.

The city water has been turned on, but many streets are still filled with a foot of mud. Some people are just now getting to their homes and finding rooms filled with debris and mud. They are sweeping that mud out onto the streets and some are now hosing their homes with the city water. The bulldozers are running, day and night, trying to clear the mud and debris.

Many roads, that are not filled with mud are filled with several layers of fine silt. The air is filled with dust particles and most people are wearing masks. It is very eerie to walk around and see this.

The arroyas are still running full of water. Bill took our friend back over one of the arroyas to visit his mother again. Later Bill and I crossed a different arroya, to Las Delicias, where over 50 casas were destroyed. We went there to check on another friend who lives at the very bottom of the arroyo. The road to his place was completely washed out and unaccessible, but we could see several roof tops, so it is possible one was his. Before we returned home, we ferried several groups of people back and forth across the water filled arroya.

Shop owners are still trying to clean their buildings and what merchandise they even have left. The loss of inventory, whether it be in a store, or home, is tremendous.
A few small grocery stores are open, but mostly there are canned goods or plastic wrapped items; very few perishables are even left in town. The government has banned liquor and beer sales for the time being. Tecate trucks can be seen daily, but they are carrying supplies around town and often carrying families from one place to another as well.

The roads are open to Navajoa, which is where Bill has gone today. He plans to bring back some meats and chicken and vegetables, because we have eaten all of our perishables and are getting down to a half full jar of peanut butter and a bunch of cans of olives stuffed with anchoives.

Our own personal problems are not as serious as others, but they are becoming an issue. We have no running water inside the casa, so no toilets to flush and no showers to take. We are not sure what has happened.
Bill showered last night, in the yard, with the hose that comes out of the cistern. I had planned to do that as well, until I opened the cistern hatch and looked in there. So, in Navajoa, he will be picking up some plumbing items which I sure hope will resolve this problem.....

I will tell you this, the mexicans in this town are not somber, they are smiling, they are playing with their babies, they are helping one another find places to live, they are cooking for each other and cleaning for each other, and they are hugging one another and praying with each other and they believe in their town. They have hard days ahead, there will be many funerals to attend, but they will probably hold onto each other and their strong faith and they will be fine.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The DIF

I have just returned home after volunteering at the DIF. I am not sure what DIF stands for but it is a voluntary organization that supports families in Alamos. It is housed in a large building next to the hospital and I always see alot of activity there whenever I walk by.

As you know our emotions have been very strong for the past two days. As we wander through town, we keep asking ourselves..what can we do?.....what can we do?

A mexican friend came to Bill and asked if he could drive him across the arroya to see his mother. Of course we would do that.
We gave another mexican friend a small $ loan so he could get to Obregon for an emergency.
We had heard that two people we knew slightly were missing and their house was gone. We went to their house, which was covered with mud and debris, saw signs they had been there and learned from neighbors they were in a local shelter. We left our phone number on a plastic jug outside their door. At the shelter, we were told they had left after one night.
We asked a shop owner we know.....what can we do..but she has a large family and all of the help she needs.
And that is how it is. So many families are so large that they are just helping one another.

We don't want to get in the way, yet, still, we know there is a way to help more.

So, I went to the DIF at 6:30am. Mande..they said...nessicitas aqua...comida?
No, no, ayudar....tu.....I point to myself and then them, and try to explain that I want to help, if they need help.
Finally a man comes who speaks a little english and he ushers me in to the cocina, which is filled with mexican women.
They put me to work stirring a pot of beans that is so big I have to stand on my tip toes. After an hour I know my arm is going to fall off. There are huge stoves there, and after awhile I notice the lady cooking about 50 eggs at once keeps leaving her post, so I scoot over to the egg scrambling station, fully ready to move back to the beans, but she doesn't return.
I keep moving back to the beans and looking over my shoulder, ready to keep stirring if she returns, but she doesn't.
So I become the egg scrambler......
I break about 200 eggs, stir them and keep scrambling eggs. Whenever a senora comes and takes off my finished pan of eggs, they bring me a new pan and I just keep scrambling.

Suddenly we are done with egg scrambling and someone brings me a new huge pan that sets very wobbly on top of all four burners I have in front of me. Someone piles a ton of chorizo in the pan and I start scrambling sausage. When that huge pot is done, I scramble another.
When that one is done they don't bring me anything else.

I am starting to feel in the way, so I lean against the wall, but I am ready at a moments notice.
Linda...calls one senora....aqui...... I am now at the end of an assembly line and I am in charge of putting four tortillas on top of the plastic plates filled with food, adding a fork, putting the plate in to a plastic bag and handing it to an english speaking woman who has just arrived in the kitchen. I notice quickly that she knows what she is doing and she knows her way around the DIF kitchen. I learn that she has been volunteering at the DIF and many aid relief places in Latin America for many years. She lives in Alamos and her spanish is very good.
Soon, the food plates are loaded into a box and taken away with many other boxes that we have packed and distributed.

Then, I am back stirring beans. Things are chattier, I feel more accepted. I open about 50 cans of frijoles. Then I slice and cube about 20 pounds of bolgna.
Back at the stove, I get the pan and I get the bologna and after I fry the bologna, I get more eggs.
After awhile, there is a lull and the english speaking lady, who is very well respected in the kitchen suggests that we all go out and get our shots.....
Our shots?....what shots, i ask her......oh, tetanus and hepatitus, very important now with all that has happened to be safe and get your shots......of course, now I am just a little nervous......

The shots are being given out at a table by the street, there are lots of people in line, but because we have been working in the DIF we get to go to the front of the line.
The nurses ask alot of questions and my friend helps interpret and when the nurse asks my date of birth, I say...hoy..quitorse de Octobre.....and then the year, which you don't need to know...
My co workers from the cocina, yell....compleanos! they tell everyone it is my birthday.
After the shots, one in each arm, I get a paper that says I need the rest of the series and come back in a month to the hospital to get the next one and the nurse says I might get a fever......

Back in the cocina, I realize I have been there for five hours. Another woman and I take turns stirring the beans, joking, but not really understanding each other, that our arms hurt from the shots....pointing to the pot of beans and the spoon and our arms, groaning and laughing....

I am pointed to the long table where I start peeling potatoes, and after four of us have peeled and diced about 50 pounds of potatoes, I think it is time for me to go home so I will have the energy to return tomorrow.

Suddenly, my english speaking friend starts singing the spanish version of a happy birthday song. All of the women join in and I will say it was very, very moving, especially when they all hugged me goodbye and said hasta manana...............
I cannot begin to tell you how good I feel.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Day of Many Emotions





This has truly been a day of so many mixed emotions. We are amazed at the recovery that is taking place in Alamos.

Helicopters and planes have been coming in every 10 minutes all day, CFE (the electrical company) trucks have been on the move, working diligently, OOMPAAS water vehicles are working hard to restore city water. Shelters have been organized, the federales are distributing food.

Bulldozers worked through last night and all day, and are working as I write, to clear streets of water, mud and debris. Families are sweeping mud from their casas, small children are carrying buckets of water to help.
This is a very, very active town.

People say that the governor was here several times and the federales are here as well. The press is here; alot of official folks, both men and women, are walking (not driving) around in the mud and debris.

One of the arroyas has been filled in enough that vehicles can now leave some isolated areas and seek shelter with families and friends in town. The road to Navajoa is said to now be passable if people should need to leave.
There is, however, alot of water still running in all of the arroyas.

Sadly, though, there is alot that we learn that we wish we did not have to learn.
It is the story of a friend whose mother and 3 sisters lost their casas and everything they owned, up in the Chalaton. It is the news that possibly over 5o homes were lost in the Delicias.
It is a sadness to see the home of some friends, covered in 5 feet of mud and debris. It is a sad thing to see that some of the alameda businesses are still gated, filled with mud and debris, and to think that someone has not been able to begin clean up, for what reasons we don't know.
And it is a sadness for us today, as a man came to our casa this morning to tell Umbierto that his son had been killed in a car accident in Phoenix.

Sadness travels a long distance.

But everyone here seems to also have a spirit.

I haven't lived here long, but I think that I already know that spirit.

I saw it today in the eyes of the old senora who looked frozen, leaning on her cane, staring at the rushing arroya.......but suddenly, she turned and looked at me, she smiled...adios (go with god), she said........

Sunday, October 12, 2008

I haven't posted for awhile......

....as we only recently received phone and internet service here and I've been muy busy with projects around the house; in spite of having numerous urgings to post some humerous responses to mi esposa's posts.

Today everything has changed.

I feel compelled to post. The situation in Alamos as a result of "Norbert" (does it matter if it is 'officially' a hurricane vs. storm, or what catagory it is classified as?) is very tragic in the pure Greek sense of the word. I just re-read Linda's earlier post written before the storm, and am now comparong it to what happened last night and seen for the first time today. Tragedy.

I spent several days preparing for this storm, my first "hurricane". I was tempted to post yesterday before it landed about 'gringo's paranoia'. Last night the wind (my worst fear) howled and the rain battered the windows. In the morning, Linda went for her usual 6 am walk. i arose a few minutes later, anxious to inspect any damage to our casa, which was untouched, when Linda came baxk and said " Oh my God, you believe what happened in town...you have got to come with me!"

I can not do justice in attempting to describe what we saw as we walked for hours surveying the town. The pictures posted are simply that. One would have to be here to witness the true damage. The empty spaces where casas used to stand. Shoulder high boulders that were swept into town (a Mexican friend said he heard them around midnight after the power had gone out). The short-bed pickup truck this morning with a small coffin in the back......

As I introduced this post, I felt compelled. I am now exhausted, feel lucky to be unscathed, and grieve for so many who have lost so much.

Alamos Takes a Devastating Hit from Norbert

This has been a poignant and very sad day here in Alamos.......

While our casa sustained no damage, Hurricane Norbert has left its mark on our town and the homes and lives of its people.

During the night heavy mud and landslides sent huge boulders down from the montanas and into the arroyos, spreading the waters and destroying whatever lay in its path. There are reports that the water broke through several containment dams, adding more volume to an already destructive means. Casas have been washed away, foot and car bridges have been demolished, leaving families stranded. Lives have been lost.

The businesses along the alameda have been severely damaged by mud flow and the historic district remains in the dark this evening. The main road out of town is currently closed, due to damage, and food and other necessities have already become limited.

Throughout the day helicopters have been landing at the soccer field and officials have been seen walking the town, assessing damages.

Alamos is a much loved town, its history reaches far back into the years that we cannot remember, but only read or hear about.
It is said that the governor of the state of Sonora has a very deep commitment to this small colonial town in the mountains. We can only hope that this love for Alamos will bring about a very quick reconstruction.