The Astounding Travel Adventures of a Miraculous Fellow

Hurricane (but you can call me Slurricane) Adrian
June 10, 2008, 9:35 pm
Filed under: The Salvador



I’m writing this chapter from the top of a tree, which is keeping me out of fourteen feet of water.  It’s not as bad as it sounds, but the cow in the branch above me just shat on my computer. 


For those of you who did not hear, El Salvador got walloped by the first hurricane in history to come from the Pacific.  Yo Adrián!  


While there was another hurricane in 1998 that came from the Caribbean, it wasn’t quite as strong, and passed over Honduras first, and still everything in Bajo Lempa was under 7 feet of water.  When Hurricane Adrián was offshore, it was listed as a Class 4 hurricane and was headed straight for us.  So I was a little nervous. 


The big problem with our location is that we live a mile from the Rio Lempa, the largest river in El Salvador, and like poop in a greased plastic diaper, that shit has a tendency to slide right out of its banks. So, at 3pm I got the call that I was to be evacuated to the high ground of the offices of our nonprofit, La Coordinadora.  This was good, because the village I live in ended up flooding under a few feet of water.  Yikes.  The people here were incredibly organized and got evacuations going early, because a lot of people lived in areas that were guaranteed to flood — and flood they did. 


Understandably, while waiting for Adrián’s landfall everyone was a bit on edge.  So to take the nerves away I donned my water wings and ran around in the rain flapping my arms, screeching “Mira, mira, soy un pato!  Qack, qack!”  (Look, look, I’m a duck!  Quack, quack!).  Well, needless to say, after this hilarious display of jolliness, I found out that water wings aren’t machete proof.  Neither are my biceps of steel.


So we sat around most of the day playing cards and waiting for the hurricane to rear its ugly head.  Now, thanks to such cinematic masterpieces as “The Perfect Storm”, “Stormchasers” and…um…”Ernest Saves the Hurricane”, I was imagining that there would be cows flying through the air, chickens riding said cows through the air, mangoes smashing through cars, and machetes doing…what machetes do best in a hurricane…which is to say…ahem…that they usually…um…just…lay there…dormant…cough.  Anywho, it was nothing like that.


The rain started at 8am, lasted all day long, and it wasn’t until about 10pm when the wind started swirling about.  At this point I tried my Duck routine again, but my other water wing was sucked off my arm by the wind, so I ran back inside screeching like a howler monkey on PCP.  (Luckily, they had supplied PCP earlier in the day, so I know this simile is apt). Well, by the time the hurricane hit full tilt, we pretty much knew that the river was going to hold its banks.  Last time, the morons working at the dam had apparently been playing drinking games and after their fourteenth round decided to just open the dam without telling anyone, so the whole region was flooded seven feet within minutes, and most families had no clue until their living room was remodeled as a swimming pool.  The folks at La Coordinadora were prepared for these assholes to be working again, so the river was monitored the whole time, and it appeared that it would hold.  So, I did what any normal, red-blooded gringo would do in the face of a hurricane situation: I went to bed.  I was all tuckered out from all of my flapping duck impersonations, so I called it in early.  I woke up occasionally when the wind felt like it was going to huff, puff, and bury me in a heaping pile of smoking debris, but for the most part I slept like a really tired duck. 


The next day we surveyed the damage with the radio station workers who interviewed the local refugees.  Hurricane Adrián still did some serious damage without the Rio Lempa overflowing.  In my community of Salinas del Potrero, a couple of houses were under water, and most of the fields were covered as well.  These poor people had a lot of work to do.  Unfortunately, the loss of their crops was the biggest problem.  This is the main, if not only, means of income for these families, and they were all but destroyed.  But, as these people tend to do, they maintained their good attitude on life, and looked at the bright side of things: at least my family and machete are okay.


We could all learn something from the campesino farmers of El Salvador: focus on the good stuff, because the bad is going to happen anyway. 

The problem in this community is that they have this amazing system of drainage that seems to take all of the runoff water and deposit it directly into people’s homes.  If you spill a Coke near this thing, you’re guaranteed to flood someone’s radish crop.  (Mmmm…coke radishes).


There’s going to be a lot of work to do in the near future to make sure everyone has clean drinking water, access to food, and a way to clean up the mess left behind by Adrían.  But that’s what La Coordinadora (and their trusty, somewhat useless, gringo volunteer) is here to do.  And, it could have been a lot worse: the roads, the cows, or the cows’ spirits could have been damaged, and we could have had a drastic shortage in Cow Fights.


This idea terrifies me to no end.


So that’s another natural disaster I can knock off my list.  Tornado?  Check.  Earthquake?  Check.  Hurricane?   Check.  Flying mongoose attacks?  No, but maybe I’ll start monitoring the skies a little more regularly.  If I wasn’t convinced otherwise, I’d think someone up there is trying to get me.  Maybe it’s that whole constant sinning thing that I’ve been doing.  My bad, God. My bad.  That counts as repentance, right?  Cool.


Just another day in the life of a Salvadoran gringo.  All else is well, the puddles are drying, I’m mending my water wings for yet another day, and the miserable heat has come back again to make my armpits smell like dying mushrooms.  And, now there are more mosquitoes than ever.  I’ll probably have the black plague, dengue fever and malaria by the end of this sentence.  Barf.  Yep.  




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