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 sufficient.
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.