Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Water water everywhere

The morning spent in a meeting going over the finer points of our Emergency Contingency Plan, it was kind of ironic to find myself on a bus later that afternoon forging flood waters that were washing away smaller vehicles. According to the ECP, I should avoid crossing rushing water by foot or vehicle. But it is too late at this point: there’s no point in getting OUT of the bus, as I imagine all the pedestrian dangers: rabid swimming rat populations, sewage and the occasional floating car setting themselves up as obstacles. It's long, slow going, pretty much everywhere because the city hasn't got a decent drain apparently, anywhere. And the ones that do work go straight to the drainage canals, i.e. rivers, that overflow into the streets and nearby houses. Anyone who has ever visited me knows that the "river" water near the favelas where we lived isn't the sort of thing you'd ever willingly allow to come in contact with your skin. Unless maybe you had a freakish desire to see what radioactive gutter waste would do to improve your complexion.

Since the rain hadn't stopped, I became concerned as we neared the favelas. The last time it rained like this, the flooding was so severe I saw grown men walking in water up to their shoulders. So when the bus stopped in bumper to bumper to bumper traffic on the overpass and a giant lake below us, I made a command decision. I joined a throng of people who gave up on public transportation. We stepped out of our buses and went somewhere, anywhere, on foot. In my case, that was backwards. I'd seen the subway, which in this part of the city is above ground, running. That would be my goal. Get to the next subway station, bypass the floodwaters and return home. A mile later, with my shoes sopping and trying hard not to think about the itchy germs I was now carrying in my jeans (but so very, very thankful I'd decided to wear sneakers instead of flip flops when I left the house), I found myself headed home. On a hill. After seeing homes and businesses fighting off over a half-meter of water today, living on an incline felt pretty nice. Comforting.

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