Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Living the Ordinary During Extraordinary Times....Old People and Earthquakes.

A few days ago I took yet another hot dinner to the Eastern Suburbs, a place still without power and water. Then Richard and I made our way further east to check on an old lady. Our dear fiesty friend is 86 years old and lives alone.

We travelled what should have been a 5 or 10 minute trip..well to tell you the truth, I don't know how long it took us. I was too in shock to watch the clock. We couldn't really even drive 10k an hour for the dips and rises in the roads. But the broken road was only part of the difficulty. This strange earthquake phenomenon called liquification had altered the area grossly. You couldn't tell the road from the grass.

Liquification has been a bane this earthquake! It is dark grey, a fine silty sand that bubbles up out of the ground, around concrete roads, through grass, up the footpaths, and even into floors of buildings. It pours out and covers the surface of the ground or mounds into little volcanoe shapes. It is heavy and has to be cleared by sheer back breaking shoveling. And during those fine warm days after the earthquake, it dries, and blows, and chokes and covers cars, faces, hair and everything. I've never been so dry and dusty and thirsty.

We found our friend. Alone in a dark house. She refused to come home with us, wanting to stay in her familar home, but agreed to be picked up the next day to come back with us to the house of the friend where we are staying. Ric picked her. She came and had a hot meal again but this time with company and even better, she had a shower and used a real toilet. 'What luxury,' she said, 'I don't know which is better, having a shower or using a flushing toilet.'

We had four old people at dinner aged from 86 to 90 years old. Our friend, another old woman, English-born, picked up from a residential home down the south-side of the city. (Where fifty old people are sharing one Port-a-loo and still have no power and no water.) Along with the elderly parents of my hostess, who are staying in this house as well. Though these old folks had never met before, they quickly begin to chat. They talked of their friends, all old, and how the earthquake had affected them, a stroke, a heart-attack and those leaving the city to residential homes in working order or to join family. It was a said conversation.

But then the talk turned to the war years. I listened fascinated as they related their survival of those years, some of them living in Britian at the time. All of them enduring great hardship. An earthquake, it seems, is not much different. The fear, the wondering when it will all stop, the physical difficulties.

We cleaned up and got ready to take the two women back to these places where they lived, places so broken and made horrible by this Earthquake we had all endured, but still their homes and where they want to be at night. I was struck by just how resilent the human spirit is.

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