That evening we watched the shadows climb Punta Roja as the sun
set behind our westward mountains. The weather had been calm,
the air still, the sea slick as puddled oil. Somewhere during
the night major clouds, pregnant with rain and thunder and
lightening stumbled into our end of the bay, drunken and
marching irregularly in the building weather. The Internet
showed us a hurricane off the cape but it wasn't expected
to carry its influence this far north. But by morning as the
sun cast a few rays above our southern point we pretty much
figured we might be in for a storm.
The VHF channel used by most foreigners here was filling the
airwaves with chatter and projections as to just how much of a
storm we might expect. Rain began to fall, slowly at first,
then building; the lightning was close behind, then thunder. As
the sky grew darker and more forbidding we closed doors and
windows and prepared for what seemed the inevitable. Within a
few minutes the rain was absolutely pouring, pounding the roof
and walls of our house, the walls shook with the stronger gusts
of wind - 30, 40, 50 miles per hour. All life disappeared
from our surrounding desert. Rodents and spiders scattered for
holes and protection. The seabirds migrated momentarily
elsewhere during the storm, nowhere to be seen.
The storm formed. Rain was now pounding down, filling the
smaller crevices and gullies as it twisted down the tall
mountains that define the bay, rushing threatening and raw with
a form of energy all its own. The road between our house and
the village crossed mostly runoffs from the mountains. When we
had lived here in the early '70's a larger storm had
struck. It was several days before we could get to the village
and we were low on food and water, basically ill prepared for
such bad behavior on the part of Mother Nature. But she would
do as she damned well pleased and we were at her mercy once
again as the present rain grew heavier and heavier and the new
day's sky became dark like night.
Lightning flashed, seemingly only a few meters from the house.
We stood on the protected balcony and watched the sea churn in
the turmoil - whitecaps and water flying horizontally in the
wind. The house shook with each thunderbolt. Each threatening,
smashing crash shook us to our core, we were afraid. In this
unprotected environment we often seem to be pretty much on our
own. "You got here amigo, you can take care of
yourself" Nature seemed to be warning. The weather grew
worse until I couldn't imagine it more intense. The
thunder and lightning and massive rains lasted most of the day.
Via the VHF we learned of other peoples problems. At our house
the roof was leaking badly. The water was traveling hidden
between the roofline and the ceiling. Plasterboard was falling
into our kitchen and dining areas. That in itself wasn't
unmanageable, but who knew when the weather would break? How
much worse could it get?
By evening the rain and wind were lessening and we could harbor
a little hope that the storm would soon pass. We had pots and
pans scattered around the house, catching rain water. Friends
down the beach had it worse than we did but there was no major
damage, no houses threatened by flash floods, roof's blown
off, whatever. As the day ended we started the cleanup
processes. I knew the road to the village had taken some major
hits; I was anxious to see the damage first hand, to form a
concept of just how difficult it would be to get to the village
for supplies. Water was freeflowing down the south bay road,
crossing and eroding the land as it would. Several gullies were
filled with water crossing the road at the rate of thousands of
gallons a minute. I was driving the Surburban but keeping it in
2WD, high range in case I needed the extra beef. Some folks
that used the road didn't have 4WD. It took me a half-hour
to get the 3.5 miles to the village. In some ways matters were
worse there than in our remote countryside. The village had
grown on relatively flat terrain - standing water was
everywhere. Pools a foot deep were strewn about and covered
more of the open land than not. It was difficult to negotiate
the small road in the village. Most of it was under water, two
to three feet deep in the worst places.
In the village, I went to the market and gathered the supplies
we needed for a few days while the environment recovered. Other
than the copious puddles of water everywhere the village was
pretty much normal. Markets and restaurants were open and the
few tourists in town were dining and drinking as though nothing
had happened. But the weather was the subject of most if not
all tourists. The local townsfolk went about business as usual,
avoiding the rivulets and standing water. It made me think
about threats and how we deal with them.
Stateside many of us live in relatively protected and safe
communities. Our "systems" pretty much make us feel
secure. Here though, in the rural reaches of Baja
California's central desert, things are different. Here
the services are not usually provided by government,
they're provided by the folks with whom we share space with
in this tiny place. Here, it doesn't matter where your
from, on which side of a border you were born. Here we all come
together when there is a need. We look out for each other,
knowing that a government is in place but that it's remote
to this village nestled between mountains and ocean and far from
the City of Mexico.
I chew on this form of relative independence and yet greater
dependence but in a different way. Here we work together toward
a shared benefit and it seems so much more rewarding than having
a "system" that takes care of all our problems.
Somehow this leads my wallowing mind to question whet exactly is
it that I have brought to this party? What can I do to share
the efforts of a small community to recover from more rain than
has fallen at a single time then most folks can remember? And I
find ways, small ways that hopefully will help with recovery
from what the locals don't see as a problem at all.
Indeed, here folks have learned to be somewhat more self
I stand back and try to see a larger picture of this entire
situation. As an American I come south to partake in a simpler,
less expensive life style than I had Stateside. Here my days
are not filled to capacity as they were in my previous life.
Here I have time to be supportive and to receive support as well
when bad things happen. I thought about this for days and
finally had to accept less than a full answer.
I guess we serve the Mexican families in our village by buying
products and services from the villagers and thus providing a
somewhat higher income for them. Foreigners, on the other hand,
learn another, calmer lifestyle that we can accept to our
betterment, to carry back to the states with us as a reminder
that it really isn't necessary to live such a rushed
existence to enjoy life - sometimes the slower we go the
more we see and absorb.
So, while I still have still no answer as to relative social
values during times of crises, I have come to understand that I
am one very lucky fellow to have lived and learned many new
standards from my local friends and involvements. My world has
been improved simply by comprehending the values of difference.
Now I just hope I can hold up my part of the bargain.